Eating In The Embassy: Guinean Embassy Brings West African Food To Washington (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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Eating In The Embassy: Guinean Embassy Brings West African Food To Washington

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:05
Welcome back to "Metro Connection." I'm Rebecca Sheir and today we're getting a little bit wild and going theme free as we bring you one of our this and that, hither and nether, come what may wild cards shows. In just a bit, we're going to hear a brand-new addition of our monthly series "Bookend," where we chat with local authors about all things literary.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:26
And then we're going to meet an artist who's been painting portraits of random, unassuming strangers with hopes reuniting her paintings and her subjects. But before we get to all of that let's have a little snack break. But not just any snack break. This one's a little bit more, how shall we say, exotic.

CHEF NESTOR LAMAH

00:00:44
Okay. This is cassava leaves and this is (unintelligible) and this is Konkoé sauce here.

AMBASSADOR BLAISE CHERIF

00:00:52
With fish.

LAMAH

00:00:52
Yes, smoked fish. And we have...

CHERIF

00:00:55
Peanut butter.

LAMAH

00:00:56
...peanut butter with okra sauce here you can eat with rice.

SHEIR

00:01:01
For this month's installment of "Eating in the Embassy," our partnership with the blog "Eater D.C.," we take you to the residence of Blaise Cherif, the ambassador of the Republic of Guinea, where he and his chef, Nestor Lamah, our presenting a table loaded with traditional Guinean dishes.

CHERIF

00:01:17
Yes, this is our food and welcome.

SHEIR

00:01:20
Thank you.

SHEIR

00:01:21
"Eating in the Embassy" is all about exploring cuisines of nations around the world. And as Ambassador Chérif points out as we sit around the family table, his country's cuisine actually varies by region, mid-Guinea, upper-Guinea, the coast and the forest.

CHERIF

00:01:36
I belong to the forest of Guinea, which food is a bit different from the one from the coast, the Conakry area, the capital area. So, I mean, the basis of the food in Guinea is rice, whatever region you are in. But now the sauce differs from region to another region.

CHERIF

00:01:57
And when you are in the rural area, like in my village, we don't have individual plates. We put food in a big plate and everybody eats with their hands. We don't use forks, we don't use a spoon, in the traditional manner.

SHEIR

00:02:15
So I'm noticing forks and knives on the table. We don't have to use them.

CHERIF

00:02:20
But you don't know how to eat with your fingers is the problem. We are used to it.

SHEIR

00:02:28
That's a good point.

CHERIF

00:02:32
I could add that traditionally when we eat, people are sitting outside and whoever is passing we will call to him and invite him to come and eat. If you are passing, we don't know your name, we don't know where you are from. We are eating. We just invite you to come and sit and eat with us. This is the traditional way of life in Guinea.

SHEIR

00:02:55
So very, very welcoming, very open?

CHERIF

00:02:57
Yes, very, very. This is -- I mean, we live collectively. Not only the family, but in the village, the region. And whoever is passing our tradition is to invite that person to come and eat with us.

SHEIR

00:03:13
Are there any restaurants anywhere in the Washington region where you can find anything close to what you ate back in Guinea?

CHERIF

00:03:19
There are some in New York, but I didn't see any Guinean restaurants in Washington D.C. Maybe it's a good idea to think about it. Once I leave my job as ambassador, maybe I could get involved in business.

SHEIR

00:03:38
So I have to ask, is this your daughter?

CHERIF

00:03:41
My granddaughter, yes. She just came back from Paris so she doesn't really -- she's learning English now. She just speaks French.

SHEIR

00:03:50
Are there other certain foods she enjoys?

CHERIF

00:03:52
Yes, she likes what we call To. To is a kind of pastry with okra sauce. So she likes, we call it Fou Fou also. It's Fou Fou, F-O-U F-O-U.

SHEIR

00:04:09
So it's a pastry, but it's not a dessert pastry?

CHERIF

00:04:11
No, no, no, it's not a -- no, no.

SHEIR

00:04:14
I was going to say, okra.

CHERIF

00:04:16
A main dish. For instance, this afternoon, it's what I ate when I came from the office.

SHEIR

00:04:23
Are there certain sweets or desserts that are traditional from Guinea? Another traditional food in Guinea, and one of the Ambassador's favorites, is To, or Fou Fou. It's a kind of savory pastry with okra sauce.

CHERIF

00:04:27
Traditionally, there is no dessert in Africa. We have the main dish, rice or cassava. We eat it.

SHEIR

00:04:36
What about beverages? Are there certain juices or, you know, are there certain things you like to drink?

CHERIF

00:04:44
In Guinea, that also depends on the region because in my region, we are not Muslim. So we are allowed to drink wine, to drink alcohol. So in my region, we mainly drink palm wine.

SHEIR

00:04:59
Wine made from palm?

CHERIF

00:05:00
From the palm tree. Yes, this is what we have in our region, palm wine. Maybe I will find some for you one of these days.

SHEIR

00:05:11
That sounds delicious and different.

CHERIF

00:05:14
Yes, it's really, really delicious.

SHEIR

00:05:18
I'm getting really hungry. We're sitting around this table just watching the food, talking about the food. I'd love to taste some food.

LAMAH

00:05:29
Bon appétit.

SHEIR

00:05:29
Thank you.

SHEIR

00:05:31
That was Blaise Cherif, ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the Republic of Guinea to the United States of America, whom we thank for such a kind and generous invitation to his lovely home. For more on the cuisine of Guinea and to read "Eater D.C's" write up of our culinary adventure, visit our website, metroconnection.org.

SHEIR

00:05:53
If you'd like to sample some Guinean cuisine yourself, the Republic of Guinea is celebrating its 54th anniversary next month with a gala, a barbeque and a whole bunch of other events. You can find more information on metroconnection.org too and finally, if there's an embassy you think we should visit or an international cuisine you'd like to learn more about, we're all ears. Our email address is metro@wamu.org.
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