As the weather is getting very roasty-toasty it’s more and more important to think about what food you’re eating. So here’s your Malagasy food blog to get all the information about what’s yum and what’s dumb. From fermenty melon to condensed milk sandwiches, there’s absolutely everything.
The primary food we’ve been eating is rice – it’s large in both quantity and variety! You get rice with water, you get rice tea, you get rice cakes, you get rice the colour of sunburn. After the initial adjustment, the rice is incredibly palatable. One particular favourite of mine was a banana and rice cake, wrapped in banana leaf – not too disimiliar to a koogul.
For the Malagasy bread, it has many commonality with the Malagasy bricks, in that it’s cheap, crumbly and there’s not a lot to it. It has become a necessity to apply condiments to the outside of the bread, to maintain baguette integrity. The condiments for this bread have some variety, there is incredibly soft margarine, and ridiculously sweet marmalade (most marmalade I have encountered has a clear deficiency of bits although on one occasion there was some thinly sliced orange)*.
After conversing with a Malagasy gentleman, I discovered that it was traditional to only salt the non-rice portion of the food, known as lota. This custom has resulted in some extraordinarily salty potatoes. Now, by all means, these fried potatoes were exquisite and contained some vital slow-burning calories, although the rice was very necessary to soak up the excess salt. It’s interesting to see the unmistakably French influences that colonialism has had on Malagasy cuisine. On more than one occasion, I’ve eaten brioche and pain au chocolat and some foods have acquired their French name in everyday parlance.
I was quite interested by the variety of opinions regarding the French language and colonialism. The reactions ranged from a general indifference and acceptance of the French language, to a distinctive anger and adamancy that due to Madagascar’s high levels of debt towards the French government, that they were not truly independent. Yet this did not stop the Independence Day celebrations as we arrived into the country.
Regarding the drinks of Madagascar, most fruit or fizzy juices were almost intolerably sweet. One particular example of this is the local Bonbon Anglais, which was in someways more similar to icing than juice. It seems that Madagascar has not quite adopted the same sugar tax as the UK. To a large extent this is likely to act as a sterilisation for the subpar water quality.
The coffee, primarily drank by the vozaha (foreigners) and the elderly was very, very good. It was sufficiently strong and the chicory notes are most pleasant, although I have observed most of the Malagasy adding a sacriligrous quantity of sugar and condensed milk. On a similar note, many of the Magsaysay will produce a drink where they will allow a green tea bag to gently sniff the water before several teaspoons of condensed milk. Upon trying this homoeopathic tea, I discovered that it was drinkable yet somewhat acquired.
After experiencing the depth and variety of Malagasy cuisine I am both surprised and gladdened by the flexibility of the human digestive system and I’m looking forward to discovering new treats.
*NB, this controversial viewpoint is a personal opinion of Sam, and is not reflective of the stance of the rest of the expedition, who know that no bits is a far superior form of marmalade.