Marie-Victoire Carvalho Sow is busy in the annex to her kitchen in Dakar, dishing out giant ladles full of a traditional Senegalese Easter treat.
It’s called ngalakh – a delectable mix of millet, groundnut (peanut) paste, bouye (the fruit of the baobab tree, which is also known locally as pain de singe or monkey bread), sugar, vanilla essence and orange blossom.
She says every year, Catholics make this special food for Good Friday and it’s savored over Easter weekend.
Sow Carvalho says she’s been enjoying the sweet porridge since she was a child and preparing ngalakh herself for decades.
It’s sweaty work, staying up late, mixing the ingredients together. But the slog doesn’t end there – part of this Easter tradition involves pouring the sweet golden-brown goodness into containers and delivering them all day Friday to family, friends and neighbors. After the Catholic Stations of the Cross mass on Good Friday, everyone breaks their fast with ngalakh.
But this dish isn’t consumed just by Catholics in Senegal. It’s a dish they share with their Muslim friends and family, too. Senegal is a majority Muslim country, with a small Christian minority. And the two communities celebrate their holy days together and share each other’s foods.
After the month-long Ramadan fast, Muslims and Christians celebrate Korite (Eid al-Fitr) together with special dishes. And during Tabaski (the feast of Eid al-Adha), Muslims distribute roast lamb to their Christian friends during their annual feast.
Sow Carvalho says she has both Catholics and Muslims in her family – and that’s the Senegalese way, religious harmony and togetherness, made tastier by the sharing of foods.