Food is one of the great narratives of my life, and yet I am still surprised at how much the taste and lingering delight of a good meal can dictate the texture of my day and orchestrate the flavor of my mood.

Food. More than sustenance and survival, for me it is tantamount to joy. And so despite having no plans for what I might do for my birthday, I knew what I would eat.

French toast. A simple enough dish back home, is a little more involved here. For one thing, with no current during the day, I was forced to cook it outside on the coal pot. I can’t lie – little things like that- in moderation – bring me a certain silly pleasure. Pumping water from the well is one…of course when the water table dropped and it took so much longer to get the water to flow it became less cute and more pain in my…well…let’s just say it is only cute in small doses.

Because I’m lazy I don’t drag the coal pot out much. It is a tiny little thing, simple in its construction and use (especially since I can light it with one match!!!) but it involves fire for goodness sake…and it is hot…and it involves fire…and it is hot…I think you get the drift.

At any rate, my decision to make myself French toast butted up against a conversation I had with Gutz about American breakfasts…we were both reminiscing about our favorite ways to start the day. It seemed a great fit – he would enjoy it as much as me and I’d celebrate with a friend. From there it morphed. I called Emme and invited her and her honey. Then the Patron Saint of Peace Corps Volunteers and R (she couldn’t make it), Sierre Leone and Amarula.

It was a full house. And so I listened to laughter filtering out through the screen as I dodged ash and maneuvered soaked slices of bread across hot oil and real butter (compliments of the Patron Saint). Slice after slice came off the pot and was devoured in pieces or in its entirety by the group – some more enthusiastic than others.

Oddly, all that hot work was a delight. A delight to do for my friends who are always so generous with me, to share my day and prevent it from simply merging into every other day.

As we laughed and joked, one of Wine’s sons came to the door bearing her gift to me…palm butter (the son dropping it off actually cooked it) with fresh bush meat and fufu(pounded and fermented cassava) . Delicious!

I visited with Wine, played cards with friends, made falafel and sipped fresh passionfruit juice. There was laughter and more laughter and it was – at its core – a happy birthday.

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