In 2017, I spent the summer in Abidjan, Ivory Coast’s economic capital. I was doing an internship at a small university, helping out with administrative tasks, planning a few events for the next school year and teaching some English. It was a very rewarding experience overall: I was able to create projects, learned a lot from my co-workers, got to practice and improve my French, and of course, I traveled a bit in Ivory Coast and Northern Africa.
When I am abroad, I sometimes keep a travel diary where I jot down what I did or ate. Here are a few diary entries while I was in Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) for two months and also while I was in Accra (Ghana) for four days right beforehand.
June 30 2017
Settling into Subsaharan Africa. How? With a morning run close to my small hotel in Accra, Ghana, followed by a fresh fruit breakfast, a full day of exploring, and the highlight of the day: dinner. Roasted vegetables and yucca fries plus the yucca fries my tour guide could not finish. And for dessert, of course, a sweet banana.
July 2, 2017
Just arrived in my small flat that will be my home for the next two months in Abidjan. While flying over from Accra, I ate my leftover stir-fry rice with veggies. WhenI was in the taxi from the airport to my flat, I spotted a few women along the street to my building selling fruits and plantain chips. I will have to go find them tomorrow and buy some of their goodies.
July 3, 2017
Yesterday, I did go up to the women, chatted a bit with them and bought some guavas and gigantic avocados (all bulk—YES, not plastic) and plantain chips (in plastic—too bad). Afterwards, I went to the grocery store and bought some locally-made peanut butter and some imported organic soy milk and tofu from France (sorry—not local, but I love tofu and soy milk too much).
July 6, 2018
Cote d’Ivoire, was, as you may have guessed based on the name, a French colony from 1886 to 1958. As with pretty much any country that was once a colony, some traditions and cultural elements from the colonizing country still remain here today. I am not talking about the imported soy milk and tofu I bought a few days ago. I mean traditions that most Ivorians incorporate into their daily lives without giving too much thought. One of those habits, if so to say, is the morning baguette, found at every “patisserie,” i.e. pasty and bakery in Abidjan. Though I have been familiar with baguettes probably since the time I lived in France when I was a toddler, I still want to immerse myself in this culture, so I had my first baguette from the patisserie around the corner from my flat and some margarine at the grocery store to go with it. I know people say that margarine is not healthy, but technically you can find so many contradictory articles on any type of food, so at this point in time, it is sometimes quite hard to know what is “good” and “bad” food. Plus margarine comes from plants vs. butter that comes from suffering cows! So I will enjoy my baguette with margarine!
July 11, 2018
Bought my first attiéké today, which is like couscous but made of cassava rather than wheat semolina, which is used for couscous. I think I will take some attiéké to work tomorrow, add some hot water in the office, let it sit for a few minutes and add some fresh tomatoes to it—lunch could not be made easier.
July 15, 2108
As a good quarter-Lebanese girl, I was so happy to find halva and date paste from Lebanon in the store today. Ivory Coast has many Lebanese immigrants who run large companies, so I guess it makes sense to find imported Middle Eastern foods here.
July 28, 2018
Abidjan also had many Vietnamese immigrants. Consequence: I have been going out for vegan spring rolls with friends for dinner and I was able to find some bulk tofu in an Asian store—no more French tofu for now.
July 31, 2018
Cheap French red wine, an orange, and some dark chocolate grown and PROCESSED in Ivory Coast for a small dinner today. Note, the highlight is on “processed” because though Cote d’Ivoire is the number one cacao producer in the world, almost all cacao beans are sold quite cheap, exported and processed mostly in Europe and then imported and sold as expensive fine (mainly) Belgian or French chocolate to Ivorians. It is hard to find artisanal chocolate bars here, so I like supporting Ivorians who want to support their own country.
So, when you are in Ivory Coast, do not fear, there will be enough plant-based options available for you. Spread the word and start planning your next trip.