The first cereals destined for human consumption were harvested on the African savannah, the most likely birthplace of man. Still today, more than sixty varieties of wild cereals are harvested and consumed as well as many domesticated cereals such as rice, millet and fonio.
Salted millet couscous from Fadiouth Island is the result of bringing together traditional cereals, cultivated since time immemorial on the inland areas, and the sea. Situated just off the mainland, Fadiouth village sits on this island covered in seashells and is accessible from Joal (150km south of Dakar) via a long narrow wooden pedestrian bridge.
The seerer, the Indigenous people who live here, have always been the main producers of sunnà millet and make their living from agriculture and fishing in the sea and lagoons.
The local preparation of salted couscous is long and laborious, requiring at least two days to obtain a quality product. After finishing their domestic chores, the women come together towards the evening to prepare the millet to make the flour: the grain is husked in a wooden mortar and pestle, sifted and washed in the sea.
It is then ground (using electric mills or by hand) and the resulting semolina is wet with seawater and worked by hand to transform it into tiny couscous pellets (covered with the dry semolina to keep them from sticking) that are then sifted.
This process continues until all of the semolina has been transformed into tiny couscous beads. At this point, the product is stored in traditional gourd containers, covered with a cloth and left to ferment overnight. In the morning the women add powdered leaves of baobab - used as a thickener - and start cooking.
Currently, Fadiouth couscous is only consumed or sold locally, mainly for reasons of freshness. The most typical dish of the town is salted couscous with a sauce of mangrove flowers, peanuts and meat or shellfish.
In 2011 Slow Food launched a Presidium aimed at promoting a revival of the cultivation and consumption of the local sunnà millet, which has been dropping rapidly in recent years, and increase awareness among local residents of why it is important to keep marine waters and beaches clean and unpolluted. These efforts to improve the hygeine conditions of processing and conserving the couscous and the restoration of the building have enabled the Presidium producers to obtain the authorization of the Ministry of Commerce to sell the product on the local and international market.
What is a Slow Food Presidia?
The Slow Food Presidia are projects sustaining quality production at risk of extinction, protecting unique regions and ecosystems, recovering traditional processing methods, safeguarding native breeds and local plant varieties.
Check out our website: http://www.slowfoodfoundation.com/presidia
Photos — Paola Viesi