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Communal Eating in Gambia
Culture & Traditions    Food Etiquette    Cooking        
The Food Bowl:
Refers to the large bowl of food shared by Gambians at meal times (usually at lunchtime), accompanied by a set of table manners you might be considered rude for disobeying. Though toubabs are most often handed a spoon and chair, Gambians squat around their food bowl and eat with their right hand—and only their right hand, as the left hand is used for rather unclean purposes. You are encouraged to eat the Gambian way, as long as you wash your hands first like everyone else.

The method of eating takes practice—grabbing a handful of rice, closing your palm to squeeze it into a ball, and then letting it fall forward towards your fingers to lift it towards an open mouth. When you are called to eat someone might say let us come and "chop".

Never do a full scale finger licking until the meal is complete. Also, you should attempt to eat only from your part of the bowl that is in front of you, as it is rather impolite to eat from another’s portion. If you want to take a piece of meat or fish from the centre of the bowl, tear a piece of it off with your fingers and set it down in front of you first—never pop it directly into your mouth. Most often, the host will break the meat or fish for you and distribute it evenly. With food bowls, first come, first serve—if you wait too long for the food to be comfortably cool to handle, you are likely to miss out on the chow. Conversation is usually kept to a minimum while eating.

Communal eating bowls are usually made from decorated or plain enamelled metal which are about 1.5 feet across.




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