Benin is a small country on the West coast of Africa that is about the size of Ohio. Ohio is 44,825 mi² with a population of 11.75 million while Benin is 44,310 mi² population 12.47 million. It is said Benin was the birthplace of Vudon (voodoo) which is still practiced but the largest religious group is Roman Catholicism. The official language is French but Beninese also speak indigenous languages such as Fon, Bariba, Yoruba and Dendi. There are 42 tribal ethnic groups the largest being the Fon. Benin was known as Dahomey after the Fon-dominated Kingdom of Dahomey until 1975. It was renamed because Benin is considered more politically neutral for all ethnic groups.
Our Benin meal was Chicken Meatballs with Red Sauce, Pureed Black-eyed Peas, Coconut Rice and Bananas in Orange Sauce with ice cream. The red sauce on the chicken meatballs was a mixture of red palm oil, tomatoes, onion, habanero pepper and peanut butter. The meatballs had a great flavor and were tender. The black-eyed peas were pureed with a stick of butter so of course I loved them. The recipe called for pealing the black-eyed peas, very tedious. We lasted about 10 minutes and then decided we should leave the skins on the rest of the peas because it is probably the healthiest part, right? We were totally making this up but it made us feel better about our decision. The coconut rice used half coconut milk and half water. This recipe was added to our favorites. The bananas were cooked in an orange juice and brown sugar mixture, they were delicious topped with ice cream.
I read travel writer Annie Caulfield’s “Show me the magic. Travels Round Benin by Taxi”. It is the story of Annie’s travels through Benin as she meets kings, learns about Vudon and Benin’s history while forming a special friendship with her taxi driver Isidor. Annie has a great sense of humor and gives great insight into a completely different life style than what we are familiar with.
While cooking we listened to music by Angelique Kidjo, a Beninese singer-songwriter, actress, and activist. She sings a beautiful rendition of Summertime.
I included some pictures Ganvie which is a village in Benin built on stilts in the middle of Lake Nokoué. It was founded by the Tofinu people 400 years ago to escape Fon soldiers who were capturing people and selling them as slaves to Portuguese traders. The Fon believed a terrible demon lived in Lake Nokoué and were so terrified that they left the Tofinu alone.