When I talk with other meat-eating volunteers the same topic often seems to come up. Whenever we see a goat, sheep, pig, or cow (sometimes even other types of animals, but never dogs or cats because we still view them to be domestic animals) we think about how delicious it would be to kill it and eat it. This is definitely not the way I viewed animals before coming to Benin. Dinner was always neatly wrapped sitting on the refrigerated shelves in an air-conditioned supermarket. Also, the cuts we buy in grocery stores in the U.S. are incomparable to the parts of animals we eat here. The tough skin of cows and pigs is a delicacy here. You are very lucky to find more meat than fat or bones on a cut of meat here. This is likely caused by the malnourished animals you are eating, but hey at least they aren’t given all those hormones like in the great US of A.
Finding meat in Benin is all relative to where you live. Each region is different. Luckily I have plenty of Fulani people in my area who raise cows and sheep and then sell the meat on the main road through my village. Each night they cook up the meat over charcoal and sell thinly cut pieces to those who have the taste for flesh. There are also a few places in and near my village where a pig is butchered every day and you can get fresh pig meat (no bacon though). I don’t want to leave out what is slowly becoming my new favorite meat, chicken. Chicken are abundant in village many of them wander about aimlessly pecking at the ground looking for insects or anything edible they can find. You ask… “How do people know what chicken belongs to who?” Each chicken either has some sort of tissue or ribbon tied around their legs or wings so people know whose chicken is whose. The communal lifestyle relies on trust, so it is not likely that your neighbors will steal your chickens. Another popular bird to eat is guinea fowl. It is an ugly looking bird that also meanders about the village.
On top of these meats that we deem pretty normal to eat, there are also a few exceptions here in Benin. Slowly surpassing my love for chicken is rabbit. I cannot believe that rabbit is not more popular in the states. It is absolutely wonderful! It is definitely the other white meat. If you cook it right, it can be so tender. I have rabbit at least once a week. Finally, here comes the weird stuff. Bush rat, is very popular especially in village. It is slightly sweet and somewhat like rabbit. I have had guinea pig when I was in Peru, and it is much better than that. There is more meat and it is not very gamey like guinea pig. Some meats that I haven’t tried that other volunteers have told me about are snake, antelope (which I will definitely try when I go to visit other volunteers in the north), and some volunteers in the north have eaten dog. The dog eating came as a surprise to them. They did not seek it out. They were given a plate of sauce and mystery meat and asked how it was, afterwards they were told it was dog. I’m not planning on eating any dog while I am in Africa, but I guess I need to be sure I know what I am eating before I begin. Fish: I have only had fish once when I was near the ocean and it was awesome. Most of this fish here is dried and makes me gag so I really do my best to avoid it at all costs. So, I hope you now have a little idea of what I am eating here in Benin. Cheers!