Paulina has been working as my housekeeper and cook since my arrival in Niger and has been an invaluable source of information for all things concerning West Africa. Originally from Togo, she and her family have been living in Niamey for some time. She has worked for French, German, Canadian, Lebanese, and American expats living in the area, and her cooking reflects this varied list of employers. Her culinary repertoire includes schnitzl, egg rolls, and stuffed eggplants.
Like many people, Paulina learned to cook her favorite Togolese dishes by watching and helping her mother every day as she was growing up. She has since added a few Nigerien dishes to her stock of recipes by cooking with her neighbors and asking people in the market about methods of preparation. Several years ago, she studied western cooking with her brother-in-law who is formally trained and certified as a chef.
The following are taken from some of our conversations around a simmering sauce pot:
She speaks French, Zarma (local nigerien language), Meena (Togolese language), and Akebu (regional Togolese language).
Her favorite kitchen utensil is the knife because, without a knife, you can't make anything. The spatula comes in a close second.
As a child, her favorite food was fufu, but now she prefers akomé (a type of dough made from corn flour).
When she was a kid, she wanted to go to school and become a cop. However, she was always sick, so she was not able to finish her education.
Her dream is to be able to travel, especially to Europe.