Couscous from Land and Sea

The small Senegalese shell-island of Fadiouth, 150 kilometers from Dakar, serves as an entryway to the beaches of the Petite Côte. Connected to the mainland town of Joal by a narrow wooden pedestrian bridge, it is actually composed of three islands featuring many mangroves areas and small islets and which house a town and millet granaries. Christians and Muslims from the Serer ethnic group have been making a living from farming and fishing here for generations, and one of their most traditional crops is sunnà millet, grown in the island’s interior.

Salted couscous, one of the area’s most interesting specialties, is the result of mixing this millet with the seawater in a laborious production technique unique to the island. In the evening, after finishing their household chores, the women come together and begin preparing the millet. They husk the grains in wooden mortars, sieve them and wash them in the sea. The millet is ground into flour using electric or manual mills. The flour is then wetted and worked with the hands into little balls. These are covered with dry flour to keep them separate, then sieved. This process continues until all the flour has been turned into tiny pellets of couscous. At this point the product is placed into traditional gourds, covered with a cloth and left to ferment overnight. In the morning the women add a powder ground from dried baobab leaves (used as a binder) and proceed with the cooking. The couscous is traditionally eaten with a sauce made from mangrove flowers, peanuts and meat or shellfish.

Salted millet couscous from Fadiouth island, now a Slow Food Presidium, was selected followed the traditional-food-mapping carried out by the Slow Food Foundation in collaboration with the FAO. In addition to couscous, many wild fruits, plant species and animal breeds were also identified. The Presidium’s aim is to preserve a traditional production process and encourage the local cultivation and consumption of sunnà millet, which has declined considerably in recent years.

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