I expected an array of colorful traditional outfits. I expected to hear foreign indigenous dialects. I expected music and dancing. I got none of the above. None-the-less I was not disappointed.
The workshop consisted of 3 chefs from Senegal, Kenya and Morocco. Two men, one woman… all wearing white. The first thing I noticed was some strange syrup like liquids in my collection of wine glasses. Once the workshop started these were promptly watered down by a waiter, turning them into beverages. I decided to see if I could figure out what the drinks were prior to the explanation… I got 3 out of 4 right! Tamarindo, Hibiscus (which in parts of Africa is called Bissap) and Ginger. The last one was green, a bit grainy and quite heavy; it kept separating from the water. It displayed a musty herbal aroma, but had a citrusy first note. I learned later it was a beverage made from a plant called Ditax. Very different; very interesting.
The chefs spoke of their homelands and how their culinary traditions were formed. The dishes served were rich and meaty. I loved savoring the homely ingredients that I was used to but in a new way with completely different flavor profiles. The presentations ranged from home style to posh restaurant plating. My favorite part of the entire workshop was noticing that the African chefs seemed not to quite grasp the meaning of sample dishes. The other workshops offered fair sized samples of the dishes the chefs cooked. The African chefs filled our stomachs to the brim.
The workshop ended with a lovely show of brotherhood between African nations leaving a tear in our translator’s eye. The food was great, but the cultural significance behind it all, was that much greater.