Meals typically consist of meat or fish served with stewed vegetables and a sauce, generally sporting very hot chilli flavours. Having maintained strong links with France since independence, French staples such as croissants and baguettes can be found in the cities.
In more rural areas of the country, dishes tend to be simpler, relying on cassava, rice or yams. Bush meat such as monkey and antelope has been a traditional part of the Gabonese diet.
Food in Daily Life
The staples vary little among the groups in Gabon. The groups share a landscape and climate, and thus are able to produce the same kinds of things. Bananas, papayas, pineapples, guavas, mangoes, bushbutter, avocado, and coconuts are the fruits. Eggplants, bitter eggplants, feed corn, sugarcane, peanuts, plantains, and tomatoes are also found. Cassava is the main starch. It is a tuber with little nutritional value, but fills the stomach. Its young leaves are picked and used as a vegetable. Protein comes from the sea and rivers, as well as from bush meat hunted by the men.
Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions
Wines are made from palm trees and sugarcane. The palm wine, in conjunction with a hallucinogenic root called eboga, is used during ceremonies for death, healing, and initiation. In small doses, eboga acts as a stimulant, making it useful for all-night ceremonies. In larger quantities, it is hallucinogenic, allowing participants to “see their ancestors.” Food and wine are offered to the ancestors during the ceremonies, and both men and women partake in these rituals, which are full of drumming, singing and dancing.
Common Foods and Dishes
|Braised fish||Bass or red fish braised with chilli flavours and served with rice or French fries.|
|Brochette||Meat skewered and slow-roasted over an open fire.|
|Nyembwé||Chicken in a sauce made from the pulp of palm nuts.|
|Manioc leaves||Served wilted in place of spinach, the leaves are a common addition to sauces and stews.|
|Atanga||Also called “bush butter”, the hard atanga fruit is boiled and the flesh spread on baguettes.|
|Mustard chicken||Cooked with onion, garlic and lemon juice.|
|Bouillon de poisson||Fish stew.|
|Beignet||Deep-fried doughnut, the best are liberally covered in sugar.|
|Régab||Recognised throughout the country as the best local lager.|
|Plantain fritters||Deep-fried slices of plantain|
Location and Geography. Gabon covers 103,347 square miles (267,667 square kilometres). It is slightly smaller than the state of Colorado. Gabon is on the west coast of Africa, centered on the equator. It borders Equatorial Guinea and Cameroon to the north, and the Republic of Congo to the east and south. The capital, Libreville, is on the west coast in the north. It is in Fang territory, though it was not chosen for this reason. Libreville (“free town”) was the landing place for a ship of freed slaves in the 1800s, and later became the capital. Over 80 percent of Gabon is tropical rain forest, with a plateau region in the south. There are nine provinces named after the rivers that separate them.