Sunday, September 30, 2007

A Field Guide to Gambian Bread

There are two major types of bread in The Gambia: sen-furr and taapa-laapa. Whilst it is easy for people who have lived in the country long enough to distinguish between them on sight, it is a much more difficult task for guests, peace corps volunteers, and people who have lived here less than ten years to do so. It is in sympathy with these people that this guide has been published, in the interests of creating a better understanding of Gambian bread. Why? Because, as they say, to understand and truly appreciate a country and its culture you must first know its bread.

The ID process itself has been split into a number of steps, to facilitate the process: no one wants to stand around hungry with an unidentified loaf of bread in one hand and "The Rough Guide to Gambian Bread" in the other, trying to work out whether one is holding a taapa-laapa or a sen-furr. So this guide is short and sweet.

To use it, simply:

1) Hold the unidentified loaf (henceforth referred to as the UL in one hand, above a preferably clean, empty surface).
2) Go through the steps below, one after the other. Once you have positively ID'ed the UL, stop.

Note: You may want to inform a friend first what you are doing, in case anything happens. Some of the following steps could result in injury, and you may need someone to administer first aid and/or call an ambulance.

Happy bread ID-ing.


* Wrap your fist around it and press hard, as if to crush it. Does it yield easily? If so, it's Sen-furr. If it breaks your finger-bones it's probably taapa-laapa.

* Find a willing friend (or an unwilling one caught unawares) and hit them around the head with it. Do they fall to the floor unconscious? If so it's taapa-laapa. If they only give you a funny look and walk away it's probably sen-furr. (This is also useful for measuring the age of taapa-laapa, i.e. if your friend falls into a six-month-long coma, the taapa-laapa is only three days old, if they turn into a vegetable the taapa-laapa is at least a month old, if you bash their brains in, three months, and so on)

* Get a small bread knife and slice it into pieces. Examine each of these pieces carefully. If you find a cockroach, half a razor, and suspicious-looking black spots baked in, then it's probably taapa-laapa. If just the spots, then it's sen-furr.

* Get another loaf like the first and hit them against each other. If they produce a large cloud of floury dust which engulfs you and makes you cough, then it's taapa-laapa. Otherwise it's sen-furr.

* Wet the middle with water to weaken it. Then put it on a table and, raising your hand high above your head, bring it down in a karate chop (shout 'Hi-ya!' for maximum effect). If your arm breaks, it's definitely taapa-laapa. If the bread dissolves into a soggy pile then it's sen-furr.

* Leave it overnight on the kitchen counter. Next morning, take a large, enthusiastic bite into it. If your teeth fall out, it's taapa-laapa. If your teeth just crack, it's sen-furr.

* Ask the shopkeeper who sold you the bread which bakery he bought it from and pay them a visit. If the bakers are a bunch of sweaty, half-naked men running around in a room which is barely furnished except for a giant clay kiln which emits heat like there's no hell, then it's definitely taapa-laapa. Otherwise it's sen-furr.


  1. Funny post. I like tapa lapa though. You forgot to mention one of the easiest ID steps..

    *Eat 1/4 of a loaf. If you feel full, its tapa lapa, if you feel like eating the other 3/4 of the load, its sen fur

  2. Yeah funny post. The other one check:
    if it's the only thing left at the bitik, it's sen furr otherwise it's tapaa laapa.

    Or, if there are finger marks all from little kids, women, picky eaters, posh city dwellers who think they're better than everyone else, it's tapaa laapa.

  3. Funny Amdouran, keep up the good and entertaining work.

  4. haha great post.

    i must say i had times when i prefered tapaa laapa and other times i prefered sen furr.

    if you can sword fight with a mate for more than 30 seconds it's probably tapaa laapa

  5. My Grandpa made taapa laapa although he was fully dressed!lol..Or so I'd love to think!jajaja.. Great laughs :)