Throughout this November, I am challenging myself to eat 30 dishes from 30 countries over the course of 30 consecutive days.
Cameroon is the 1st country.
Every year, Ajou University throws a festival celebrating the cultures of our international students. The main attraction is a series of booths set up in a grassy plaza, adjacent to the medical school and hospital, each booth showcasing various cultural highlights for a country/region, especially the food. Due to logistical issues, the dishes offered tend to be very simple, usually prepared in a frying pan over a portable burner – a lot of national pancakes, for example. Most dishes are 500 to 1,000 won for a small portion. A good time for everyone. By pure and happy coincidence, this year’s festival happens to start on the same day that I am launching 30/30/30.
Unfortunately, I had lectures all afternoon, so I could only drop by for a few minutes in between classes, leaving me with time for just one booth due to the long lines. Late in the day, many booths had already closed, having run out of ingredients. With the project in mind, I selected the booth for Cameroon among those still open, figuring that I wouldn’t have access to Cameroonian cuisine elsewhere, certainly not for the next 30 days. It was also somewhat reassuring that the food was being prepared by dark-skinned women whom I assumed to be Cameroonians (I hope that’s not racist), or at least Africans, for whatever that was worth.
The dish that I got was okay. The “puff-puff” turned out to be a pair of deep-fried sweetish pastry balls, similar to an American donut. The “beans” were kidney beans sautéed with bell peppers and onions in a spice melange, similar to a Tex-Mex chili. Together, they made for a pleasant if predictable snack. Beer would’ve been nice. Certainly not an entire meal, more like an appetizer. Knowing what I know about a typical college student’s cooking capacities, particularly in a foreign environment where certain ingredients may be difficult to come by, I have little confidence that the dish was an accurate representation of Cameroonian cuisine, but anyway.