Dining out Mandritsara-style

July 29, 2012 at 5:27 pm | Posted in madagascar, savoury | Leave a comment

One of my favourite meals to have out is steak-frites (sounds slightly more sophisticated in French!) and while I was in Mandritsara I had the opportunity to dine out at the restaurant in town. There were a few significant differences between dining out in London and Mandritsara…

The first one being that we had to go to the restaurant in the morning not just to reserve the table, but also to pre-order the food so that it could be bought! This somewhat simplified the process of making the decisions as to what to eat – it was steak-frites all round!

When we arrived at the restaurant to eat in the evening, it was clear that such a large gathering of “white” people was the amusement for the local children. Although we were in the “private dining room” the door to the outside world was curtain, so a number of local children kept running in and out of the doorway and laughing at us!

The delivery of food was delayed because of a power-cut. Short interruptions in the electricity supply are quite normal (and the power is off during the night) but it was quite strange to be sitting waiting in the dark for food! Fortunately we had a few torches with us, so it wasn’t total darkness!

But when the food came, it was served on big platters. It was a little greasy, but tasted good!

Normally I would have a glass of red wine along side my steak, but to complete the Madagascar experience, I instead washed it down with pineapple Fanta, which tasted a little like Lilt.

But, despite those differences, it was lovely to eat out relaxing in good company, and enjoy the food knowing that there was no washing up to do later!


The French legacy: the food angle

July 29, 2012 at 4:38 pm | Posted in madagascar, musings | Leave a comment
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Madagascar was a French colony between 1896 and 1960, and I am sure that many people have written eloquent, informed and intelligent articles about the legacy of French rule. I, however, am much more concerned about the practical legacy, which was clearly visible to me on my visit, in the food. In Anatanarivo and Mandritsara baguettes were sold in the street markets: basically the only bread that was for sale. Peter bought some delicious bread that had been baked in a wood-fired oven. But becasue the electicity in Mandritasara is turned off between 11pm and 8am the boulangerie opened in the afternoon not the morning.

My stay in Mandritsara also provided the excuse for Clairelise to order some croissants and pain au chocolat from a lady in the town who makes them at her home.  A vast quantity were stashed in the freezer for future treats, but we were allowed some for breakfast on the Saturday. While they were not perfect croissants, they were comparable to a UK supermImagearket quality!

p.s. There is also a sporting legacy. I was delighted to see teenagers playing rugby when i was in the capital. Petanque is a big deal in Madagascar: Madagascar beat France in the final of the recent Petanque Confederations Cup.


Madagascar National Day

July 16, 2012 at 10:25 pm | Posted in madagascar, musings, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The long pause since my last post was not an indication that it had all gone wrong… instead I moved “up country” to stay with my friends Peter and Clairelise who work in the Good News Hospital in Mandritsara. Rural Madagascar doesn’t have wifi and then while I was in the rain forest, I was too chilled out to write! I am now safely back in London, adjusting to the UK summer (which is colder than the Madagascan winter!) and getting back into the swing of things at work. But i did promise that I would share some more views on my time in Madagascar – so here is the first of a couple of post-holiday round ups (all with a food theme!)

The plan for my time in Mandritsara was pretty simple – I would hang out with the family, and do a bit of looking after the girls when they were both at work  and generally share in their world. There was no major pre-planned entertainment other than Madagascar’s National Day which celebrates Madagascar’s independence from France.

National Day is celebrated on 26 June, and is generally referred to by the date “vingt-six”. It was a privilege to join in the celebrations and feel a little bit part of the party! On the Monday evening there was a procession through the town with lanterns with a chant in Malagasy which was all about the lanterns burning. But thanks to modern progress, the chant now has a new verse about non-burning lanterns, which were slightly safer Chinese manufactured light-up toys. I am not entirely sure of the background of the march, but it felt a little like a rolling Bonfire Night without many fireworks (and a lot warmer!)Image

On National Day itself, we (with a number of the other Europeans working at the hospital) were invited to a Malagasy home to join in their celebrations.  At the centre of the celebrations was the food! It was great spread. Most notable would be the salad laid out like the Madagascar flag. The staple carbohydrate in Madagascar, served at all meals, is rice, so we obviously ate lots of that.  We also contributed to the feast by bringing some cakes, which we had decorated with mini Madagascar flImageags.

It was a lovely day. The sun shone. We all enjoyed the food, and also discussion around the nature of national celebrations in different countries. I attempted to explain the recent Diamond Jubilee celebrations and what a “street party” is. After lunch we were entertained by some traditional singing and dancing. We were encouraged to join in…. but the less said about that the better!

Vingt-six was definitely a highlight of the trip, and I am grateful that I was able to share in the celebrations. I also think that it is brilliant that food sits at the heart of the celebration worldwide!

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