Thursday, April 15, 2010

The African Diet

After trekking around for a while, you can't help but notice something remarkably different here versus back home.  I’m not talking about lack of infrastructure, no internet connection, or impenetrable jungle and forest elephants, but…Why are there no Fat Gabonese people?

Quite simply, there are no processed foods here.  Putting socio economic issues aside (and not everyone here is poor), sometimes lack of availability is a good thing.  I’m not talking about “fast food”, that doesn’t exist, in fact, nothing is fast here:).  I’m talking about everyday, store-bought, packaged items that we think of as necessities back home.  Take bread for example.  Bread is baked fresh here everyday and whenever you visit a supermarket or a boulangerie, you see people with loaves of it under their arm waiting to check out.  That’s because bread products, including pastries & muffins, aren’t supposed to last 10 days.  The reason they last so long back home is because they have shit inside them other than flour and egg.

Chips, cookies & crackers just don’t exist here.  Back home, they are prevalent.  Everyone has them stacked in their cupboard…even if you don’t eat them, you don’t need to throw them out because they last for 12 years.

The other comparative issue is portion size.  One size fits all here.  There is no extra large anything.  In fact, the only portion variable that I have noticed is at the coffee house…if you don’t want a regular sized coffee, you order un petite café.  Imagine that, going down in size, versus up.  Pizza? Smaller pies, and they use real cheese.  Yogurt? Smaller, and more plain than flavored.  Coca-cola?  Not consumed, considered a luxury. 

The other thing I could mention is the fact that people here eat fruit.  If the mangoes are ripe on the compound where we live, you have to pick them fast; otherwise, the guards and the garden staff will get them during the day and eat them as their snack.  I’m afraid to suggest eating fruit at home because here you pull it off of a tree, back home it’s been fertilized with chemicals, sprayed with pesticides and then waxed so it looks pretty.

OK, preaching is over, just pay attention to what you eat…we have a lot to learn from those ‘less fortunate’ than us.


  1. Hi Bret,
    my name is Alessandro and I am writing 100 Km far from Venice Italy.
    I am planning to spend 2 years working in Libreville as a electronic technician and so I would like to discuss with you about the cost living in Libreville.
    I am 32 years old and working out from Europe seems to me to be the only chance to buy my first house without being "helped" by banks and fastly.
    It would be a nice idea to discuss here by this blog or better by email.
    I will wait here for your answer.
    Bye Bye Bret and good work

  2. Alessandro, email me at

  3. Hey Bret,
    It's your fellow blogsherpie Jason (AlpacaSuitcse). Nice post on 3rd world diet and the lack of processed foods. I noticed the same thing when I worked for an NGO in Cusco, Peru. Even a trip to the supermarket was interesting - mainly produce, fruit and maybe corn flakes.
    Keep it up!