Yet more about food

This time last year I was so overwhelmed by mangoes that I was prompted to investigate how to make mango jam. This year, however there have not been nearly so many. Now I know why.

This was taken at nearly 19:00h when the light had started to fade, hence the graininess of the photo, but in fact several of these rose-ringed parakeets now seem to spend most of their day in my mango tree. They squawk extremely loudly, they drop bits of mango all over the ground, and they don't leave enough for me - but I'm not complaining. It is a pleasure to see them there!

It does mean though that I have to walk around the edge of my courtyard, avoiding the area under the mango tree, as currently around four partially eaten mangos crash down onto the ground every day.

I have just discovered a new place to go in Dakar. An urban park, visited by Senegalese mostly for its zoo, but also containing a lake and a large area of swampy woodland all around the edge of the lake. It is full of pelicans, cormorants, herons and kingfishers, and I also saw hornbills and vultures, and a large monitor lizard running through the undergrowth and into the water. I have been there a couple of times now, and this weekend I decided to explore the area near it. The map showed a beach nearby with a picture of a fishing boat, and sure enough when I eventually found a little alleyway heading down to the beach, I started to smell fish.

Several fishing boats had just come in, and the catch was being distributed to the traders at the little fish market there. Suddenly a group of boys rushed in my direction with something large carried above their heads. It was a swordfish! I moved out of their way and found a Senegalese lady grabbing my hand and pulling me along behind them. She was, she told me, Madame Ndiaye (aka Mama Seck), and although she spoke only Wolof it was clear that she was a fish seller and she had identified me as a likely customer.

We followed the fish down another alleyway, where it was slapped onto a big wooden log. A man waiting there cut off the fins, scraped away all the scales with a sickle, gutted and beheaded it. He shook his head when he saw I had taken my camera out, so I smiled and put it back in my bag - but fortunately by then had already sneaked one quick shot.

I had absolutely no idea how much fresh swordfish would cost, so I offered around £5, and he cut off an enormous chunk of fish. Madame Ndiaye took it over to what must have been her stall, and chopped it into pieces for me. So I now have seven swordfish steaks to work out how to cook!

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