I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to write about food in Sudan, but there’s been so much else to say…
The first thing I should say is that the food is healthy and delicious. Sudanese usually have a very light snack when they get up, and then a serious meal called “breakfast” (futur) at 10 or so. The featured item at futur is usually fuul, or fava beans, that have been stewed, sometimes with spices, sometimes mixed with egg, or sprinkled with a dry piquant cheese like feta. Depending on how elaborate the meal is, there may be other side dishes.
We’ve hired a family in the village to cook breakfast for us this season, and today, the side dishes included fresh tomatoes also sprinkled with cheese, a dish of fresh sprigs of arugula, a really delicious plate of fried eggplant with a dressing of tahini, peanut butter, and lime (the dish is called salatat aswad—black salad; I’m not usually a big promoter of eggplant, but this is my favorite dish here).
The whole thing is eaten with a kind of hearty pita bread…and without forks, spoons, or knives. Using only your right hand, you tear off small pieces of bread, take bits of the various dishes, and pop it in your mouth. I try not to have the area around me be a complete mess when I’m done, but I haven’t mastered the whole thing yet.
Another delicious breakfast dish is called gurasa, which means pancakes—thick wheat pancakes drenched in a sauce that is made with a base of dried okra. I generally feel about okra what I do about eggplant…but this is delicious. And particularly deadly as far as dripping sauce all over yourself is concerned.
I won’t dwell on other meals—we haven’t had the good fortune to have home cooking at lunch or dinner to the same extent, and restaurant meals here are a very poor substitute. But I should mention finally the Sudanese version of coffee, called jebena after the name of the pot it’s made in. The best cups I’ve had have been spicy with ginger or cloves…and completely delicious.