I need to share a secret publicly today: something that real foodies never do, I realize. But I am feeling magnanimous right now, and I believe that some information just needs to be divulged.
There’s a lovely little shack, lost somewhere in the Pointe des Almadies, in the westernmost point of the African Continent, thirty minutes by taxi from downtown Dakar, Senegal’s capital city, where Sunday lunches stretch into unhurried afternoons, proxies for observing the world, chances for lungs breathing salty air and toes playing with coarse warm sand. It’s a lovely little shack where seafood aficionados will only find one thing on offer when in season: huge platters brimming with awkward sea urchins, the most irreverent, disdainful, unfortunate-looking seafood of all.
For those adventurous enough to be willing to brave its black and hirsute carapace, sea urchins offer a world of culinary ecstasy, showcasing mysterious rainbows of orangey hues and lustful pillows of sweet plumpness once cracked open.
In Dakar, at the Pointe des Almadies, they magically transform inconspicuous portions of unassuming French baguette into delectable, slightly smoky, melt-in-your mouth bites. Just one mouthful, and one’s mind is transported towards tales of deep oceans and weird creatures, stories of sub-marine wonders and inscrutable enigmas.
In Dakar, at the Pointe des Almadies, sea urchins are gigantic, scary creatures, much bigger than all other sea urchins I have seen or tasted in my life. Plates shouldn’t be finished in a hurry: instead, they should be eaten languidly, almost nonchalantly, fragrant juices dripping down one’s chin and always accompanied by a perfectly chilled Flagette, a small bottle of the refreshing local brew.
In Dakar, at the Pointe des Almadies, eating sea urchins is almost a religion: it’s about seizing the day and living in the moment, focusing on the smells of the sea, the thickness of the bread, people chatting and going by, women selling curios, old men lingering on with their small cups of strong mint tea. Africa at its best, with its mysteries and its people.