Christmas Eve dinner was spent at our Country Director’s house, but it wasn’t his normal Sunday night football affair with spaghetti. He had cooked us a beef bourgognais, which he had spent days making. Upon finishing the first round of salad, we queued up for the main course. Steve noticed we still had some dressing at the bottoms of our bowls. "You guys can rinse out your bowls if you want," he said. A few people heard and kind of shrugged off his suggestion. "No, you're gonna fuck up my sauce," he semi-jokingly clarified. I suppose after putting so much work into a delicate dish for a gaggle of uncouth Peace Corps volunteers, I would have felt similarly. It was pretty funny. We all realized how unrefined we have become!
After that, Reid and I were exhausted, so we decided to head home. By the time we got home and showered, it was eleven o'clock, so we put on the Motown Christmas CD we borrowed from a friend, opened the bottle of white wine (you know it's a special occasion when I write bottle rather than box), set the alarm clock for midnight, and sat in front of the fan on the couch sipping away. The alarm went off, and we kissed and danced around the living room to Marvin Gaye singing "Purple Snowflake". It was simple and romantic. We wished each other a Merry Christmas, felt lucky to be with each other, and went to bed.
On Christmas morning, I forced Reid to wake up around 8 (he did so begrudgingly), so I could open my presents. Each present from him was wrapped individually and put into a cute stocking. He got me nail polish, good soap, a planner, chocolate, earrings, and drumroll….. A CAN OF HOEGAARDEN BEER! You guys know how much I love that stuff! And he found it here in this country and spent a small fortune on the one can. What an amazing boyfriend, huh?
The rest of the day was spent shopping and cooking. All of our friends were heading to the islands for the day, but Reid and I stayed around, wanting to treat our closest friends to a special holiday dinner. We heard a rumor about a man who raised pigs for the ham-hungry Christian minority, so we got his number and tried to call all day, but of course, the call didn't go through. The plan foiled, and we had to go with plan b: steaks. We found the one grocery store open (We thought no Guineans would close down for a Christian holiday, but, alas, they did.), and we bought the foreign ingredients we needed that are unavailable in local markets here, like Gouda cheese. Then we got in a cab and headed over to the African open-air market by the Peace Corps house. We bought four kilos of meat cut right off the cow. The butcher was so hard at work, I to turn away to avoid catching a bone shard in my eye. He gladly plopped our nearly nine pounds of fresh flesh into a bag, and we continued back to the PC house to start working.
We had the most delectable Christmas dinner. We seared pepper coated, several-inches-thick steaks freshly cut off the still identifiable skinned cow at the market. Then we put them atop sautéed mushrooms and onions that soaked at the bottom of the pan in a red wine marinade. As they cooked, the steaks kept their moisture, became perfectly pink in the middle, and caramelized the onions and mushrooms, while turning the marinade into a yummy gravy perfect for our roasted garlic mashed potatoes whipped with real butter (Real butter may sound like a negligible item to note, but it is a real treat in Guinea where refrigeration is hard to come by). To complement such deliciousness, we steamed julienned green beans and carrots mixed in crushed cashews and butter sauce and mulled red wine with whole cloves, cinnamon, and oranges. We finished off our Peace Corps Christmas feast with a round of savory baked apples cored and stuffed with a melange of Gouda cheese, dates, raisins, butter, then sprinkled with cinnamon. The best part was that dessert had yet to come. Caron and Eldon made a chocolate peanut butter fondue in which we dunked apple, banana, coconut, and pineapple. The whole meal was so delicious, I could barely move afterwards. But the best part was sitting around a table with some of my favorite people, enjoying their company and sharing a special meal together. That’s what the holidays are all about, right? What an amazing Christmas! (and we didn’t have to do dishes!)
Christmas Dinner At the Cky House
I hope you all had an equally enjoyable Christmas, spent enjoying good company, good food, and some surprise presents. Although it’s sad not to be home, I truly do love being here and the holidays have not been as painful as I had expected.
Now, I am going to remain in Conakry for the next couple of weeks to start research on my graduate school paper and work on my projects that need internet. But on January 8th, my mom arrives in country to spend a month with me here in Guinea! I can’t wait – that’s truly the best present ever (sorry, honey, it is even better than a can of Hoegaarden). But I will be around, so please email or call if you get a chance!
ps - thanks, Reid, for helping me write all of this blog entry!