Monday, April 21, 2014

Eating in Cotonou

So I am finally heading back to post.. after spending 10 nights in Cotonou with a cough. (Just a cough no worries). After so many days in the medical-unit - you start to feel a little stir crazy, if you are lucky enough you have great friends who will deliver you food, cook with you, and or accompany you out to dinner. Since Cotonou is the city, and it is where the ex-pats live - you end up spending a lot of money. I COULD NOT eat like this every day on a Peace Corps budget... we do get a per-diem when we are sick and stuck in the city. So, I will be reimbursed, but generally speaking one of these meals costs about the same as 3-5 days of food at post - and I am really glad we get "paid" next week - because I am out of money.

That being said, I spent most of my week doing pretty close to nothing and boring work on the computer. I don't have much news to bring, instead we will talk about food.

Here are some things that I ate this week Cotonou. 
Yes you can get all of these things in Benin and much more -- 
if you have the Money and you are in Cotonou. 

Karim 24

One of the local Cotonou schwarma places (all of the cities in Benin have schwarma - due to the high population of Lebanese ex-pats). Volunteers like to debate where you can find the best schwarma. Most places have a vegetarian version, meat version, and chicken version. Vegetarian generally means they put french fries in your sandwich instead of meat. OK, why not. I personally am a fan of Karim 24 because if I ask nicely they will make me a schwarma without the non-vegan mayonnaise sauce AND I can also have hummus added which is a huge perk. They also have a hummus plate with veggies and bread that you can order. Not to mention they are centrally located and fast, so even though they don't deliver to the bureau, you can usually find a volunteer who will be passing Karim and will be willing to stop for you. 

Asian Food

This week I had Thai food, Chinese Food, AND Japanese food. Woah! There is a Japanese restaurant called Daruma (very expensive but also very delicious) where I was able to mange a "tofu steak with mushroom sauce" that was absolutely delicious, and sample some avocado rolls from my friends sushi platter (apparently I have friends who don't like avocados). -- I had Vegetarian Pad Thai at the Thai restaurant around the corner, Bangkok Terrasse, which is one of my favorite Cotonou meals. -- Via volunteer delivery I had eggplant beignets and a tofu and mixed vegetable dish from our favorite Chinese restaurant Hai King. -- Normally when in Cotonou I eat almost entirely Indian food (and had none this week) -- so that was an interesting change! Thanks to others being adventurous I had a really fun week of food. 

Pizza (sometimes delivery)

Pizza is self explanatory. So far I have had great success getting two restaurants to make a cheese-free veggie pie for me. Bon Appetit (pictured) and also New Livingstones. Both of these restaurants are volunteer favorites -- Bon Appetit delivers to the bureau, and we make it worth their while for sure. New Livingstones is the closest thing you will find in this country to an American sports bar - and they have a really great happy hour. 

Chicken Land (usually delivery)

Yea I know everyone is probably thinking, "Really Zoe? A place called Chicken Land?" -- But Chicken Land is a really friendly little restaurant down the street from our office - they will deliver to us and even have been known to take special requests for sodas (that they will search for us) and things like "please bring extra ketchup." They have a reasonable priced salad and fries (the only things they serve are fries salad and grilled chicken) -- and they are incredibly friendly to Peace Corps volunteers. The other day I was there having salad and had asked them to slice up a mango for me (that I had bought on the way) and they even offered to put it in my salad!!! They are really great. 

Cooking at the Bureau

The most cost effective way of eating is Cotonou is to cook your own food. Unfortunately when you are sick, you don't always have the energy for that. So, while usually I do most of my cooking when I am down here, this week I actually cooked very few meals - most of which were just plain pasta (or pasta with a tomato cream sauce made using soy milk someone picked up for me). We did have one really exciting night of making a veggie pot pie -- and of course in the bureau I am generally known for my chocolate cake and the occasional cookie pie. So it wouldn't be a week in the bureau without a little bit of chocolate cake. Of course, I was sick, so single serving vegan chocolate peanut chew cake in the microwave is just what had to happen.


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