1) Look through cook books for inspiration:
A. Fannie Farmer
B. Joy of Cooking
C. Cookin’ in Benin
Settle on Fannie Farmers’ Cream of Tomato soup.
2) Make shopping list, close up shop, check bike tire that seems to get low quickly (remind self, again, to fix it later), head to marché.
3) Say hello to everyone along the way, and laugh at the mayor’s secretary’s “joke” of following you to the marché, just to spend time with you. Ugh. Continue to marché.
4) Stop at friendly woman’s stand to buy tomatoes, onions, ginger, bay leaf, chicken bouillon cubes, and powdered piment. Just like a grocery store, all in one stop.
5) Yet, continue to familiar boutique to buy eggs and toilet paper and margarine.
6) Continue to carre-four friendly bread lady and buy bread. Speak Mina. Make everyone happy! Turn back for home. The evening is breezy and calm, the people all saying hello, and you kind of want to just sit and watch the world go by. But, you’re also hungry. Continue.
7) Remember that you want to buy a cell phone recharge. This is your fist time to do such a thing, so you are kind of impatient and hesitant to give your phone number to the man selling the recharge. This man is also a familiar face, so you do as he says. Oh, woops, he needs your phone number to do the recharge thing. Check. Swallow foot, which was placed in your mouth.
8) Again on the bike, pass the post office, one of the most beautiful buildings in Athieme, because for the third time in three days the group in front of the PTT hails you down to receive a letter (thanks Grandma Stuart!).
9) Interrupted. Must read letter at once, after opening up the home (careful, there are eggs). Enjoy the breeze while sitting on the porch railing and writing Grandma a letter until dark.
10) Put on music. Start cooking:
(Chunky!) Cream of Tomato Soup (Kind of like Fannie Farmer says to do…)
Chop: ginger root, onion, and garlic. Sauté in margarine until onion is soft.
Add a couple teaspoon-like measurements of flour, cook for a minute or two.
Add (hot) water, a couple tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk, and spices: chicken bouillon, piment, salt, black pepper, a parsley mixture of things you already have in the soup, but you want the parsley, a bay leaf, and the mystery red powder you bought in the marché, thinking it was piment. Pretty sure it is dried tomato.
Let this mixture heat while chopping skinned tomatoes.
Add a bit of baking soda to keep milk mixture from curdling, or so Ms. Farmer suggests. Let entire concoction heat just until simmering, and then remove from heat. Taste.
If not using sweetened condensed milk, Ms. Farmer suggests adding a bit of sugar to help tomatoes. She also says to strain the chunks from the soup, but I haven’t been doing exactly as she says all along, so why waste the chunks?
11) Eat, with bread. Be grateful invited friend was not able to come because you want to eat all the bread soaked in the broth, though some goes to Derique. Also say to yourself, “Quantities, shmantities. I cooked for one, ate for two, and there is still left over.”
12) Be inspired to write about cooking, while listening to the crazy man sing to himself in the back yard.
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