colette beignet + beninese beignet

colettebeignetbeninesebeignet58The Colette Beignet climbs a ladder in Benin. You work with what you have here… and why ever would you spend money on a “real” ladder when you can make one yourself? I don’t want to know the statistics on construction related injuries and death, but I can only imagine it is high when the standards are so different from the USA’s. Ok, back to the Beignet skirt!

colettebeignetbeninesebeignet02I lied. Story time first. Scroll to the end for the Colette Beignet photo shoot, right now the focus is another type of beignet: ata. There are many  fried street food snacks to be eaten here, and they all have their individual names in fon. However they all get called the same thing in french: beignet. So if you come to Benin and ask to eat some beignet, don’t be surprised if you end up with something completely different than what I’m about to show you, which is called ata in Fon. As you can see from the photo, ata is a bean based snack. Step 1 is washing your beans.

colettebeignetbeninesebeignet07Then the beans are soaked in water to loosen the skins off. Which isn’t actually necessary, but my neighbor felt like doing it.

colettebeignetbeninesebeignet08Some beans have holes… yes it is exactly what you think.

colettebeignetbeninesebeignet09SIGH. Welcome to my life. Trust me, live here long enough and you stop caring when there are small bugs in your flour, beans, and pasta… once cooked you can’t even see them or taste them anymore. Plus you get lots of extra nutrients. In any case the UN has just released a report that we should all start eating insects by 2050 because of overpopulation and food shortages. So I’m just getting a head start now since it seems rather inevitable.

colettebeignetbeninesebeignet03Step 2 is to peel all the garlic. It actually isn’t a lot because garlic here is tiny. I would say the cloves are good 2-3 times smaller than garlic from the states. In fact all the foods and fruits here are tiny compared to what we are used to in America. For example, the largest tomatoes I have seen are about a big as a golf ball. (Of course in Cotonou they have produce from Morocco and Europe flown in at expensive prices and you can find stuff at “normal” sizes)

colettebeignetbeninesebeignet04Step 3 is to add a bunch of pepper to the garlic. Make sure to keep the garlic and pepper mix separate from the beans. We aren’t going to mix them up just yet. Step 4 NOT PICTURED is to slice up some onions and set them aside in a different bowl, you won’t be needing it for a while.

colettebeignetbeninesebeignet05Neighbor Mom was also sorting out beans, but not for my project – she was preparing another meal.colettebeignetbeninesebeignet06When I’m not at home Bosco hangs out with the neighbors.

colettebeignetbeninesebeignet10This is what Neighbor Mom was making. Atassi, which is rice and beans with a spicy fried onion shrimp sauce. Along with fried fish and cheese. Neighbor Mom gave me a plate to eat… delicious!

colettebeignetbeninesebeignet11Back to ata. Once the beans have soaked, garlic peeled, and pepper added, you go for a walk. And you balance all of that on top of your head.

colettebeignetbeninesebeignet15You walk to this little boutique that sells okra, pepper, candy, and other miscellaneous food things. But that’s not what you want.

colettebeignetbeninesebeignet16What you want is the grinder next to it. Manned by an eight year old girl. Uhm at eight years old my parents would never let me near a machine that had the potential to pulverize my fingers. But in Benin, child labor is alive and well… The first thing she does is grind the garlic and pepper together.

colettebeignetbeninesebeignet17The beans go in next. Notice the piece of wood she’s using to help push down the beans.

colettebeignetbeninesebeignet18Then the beans go in a second time to make sure it’s extra smooth.

colettebeignetbeninesebeignet19Once everything is done, she runs water through the machine to clean it out.

colettebeignetbeninesebeignet12Put everything back on your head and walk back home. But on your way back you can’t help but stop and stare at a cow munching on grass.

colettebeignetbeninesebeignet13The trusty Fulani are always wandering around to let their cows graze.


colettebeignetbeninesebeignet20Back home, it’s time to stir. The goal is to get it light and fluffy, so stir away.

colettebeignetbeninesebeignet21Don’t forget to mix the garlic/pepper mix as well.

colettebeignetbeninesebeignet22Add some salt. A lot.

colettebeignetbeninesebeignet23Add a MSG cube. Add your (not pictured) sliced onions as well.

colettebeignetbeninesebeignet24And if you’re a crazy American, set aside a bit of the mix and add some herbes de provence because you’re curious. And suffer the wrath of the neighbor’s mom because she was horrified and enraged that you had the nerve to *change* a recipe even though it was only a small portion and you had purchased all the ingredients– here’s some advice, don’t ever try to modify a Beninese mama’s recipes, even when it’s a little portion – keep your experimentation with local cuisine behind closed doors. (Side note: my theory on why the Beninese are against any recipe modifications or experimentations is that 1) when they learn to cook as a child, they get beat if their food doesn’t taste “right” and 2) there can be no throwing out of food if an experiment goes bad – food costs $$ and you just do not throw it out, so to be safe they follow tried and true recipes so there is no risk of messing up 3) they haven’t eaten as many different foods as we have, because, well, expat food is expensive and a normal Beninese person can’t afford that. Also expat food is only found in the Capital. Again, these are just my hypothesis.)

colettebeignetbeninesebeignet25Next step is to prep the frying materials. She’s pouring gasoline over the charcoal to make it more flammable.

colettebeignetbeninesebeignet26Then you pour a liter of oil in.

colettebeignetbeninesebeignet27Frying time! Notice what she uses to flip the ata over – a straw reed.

colettebeignetbeninesebeignet28Bosco, the most helpful assistant chef ever.

colettebeignetbeninesebeignet29I like my ata extra crispy. What you do to achieve that is to fry it once, then open it up and refry it again so the insides are fried and the outside is double fried. Finished!

colettebeignetbeninesebeignet30I don’t know why Bosco is licking his lips (mouth?) because he actually won’t eat ata. Not a fan of beans I suppose. Or perhaps is the onions and garlic that did it.

colettebeignetbeninesebeignet31For this beignet I decided I didn’t want to hand sew my buttonholes ala my Colette Ceylon. Soooooooooooo I just decided to learn how to make bound buttonholes, yay! My first advice is: do not use busy fabric to make samples and learn how to do them… dig out a solid color scrap, because crazy prints will just the learning process frustrating.

colettebeignetbeninesebeignet32For my first sample I used the buttonhole guide written by Karen of Did You Make That?. While it is well written, it was too much information for a complete beginner like me. I needed something more simple and more straightforward while her guide was text heavy and very detailed. Which is a good thing, but it isn’t what I needed. I ended up being rather confused. I think it would have been much more helpful had I looked at her guide last instead of at the beginning. I think her guide is best for those who are trying to perfect their buttonholes rather than trying to make their very first buttonhole.

colettebeignetbeninesebeignet33I wasn’t a total failure though! Behold my first buttonhole! You can see how I got confused.. there are some stitches on the lips that shouldn’t be there…

colettebeignetbeninesebeignet34Here’s my facing. I’m just showing you these so you can ooo and aaaah at my final bound buttonholes, because there is a huge improvement after about ten tries!

colettebeignetbeninesebeignet35For my second sample I used the tutorial from Colette Patterns. Much easier. Also, the CP tutorial is image heavy and light on text. I am a visual learner, so my buttonholes made from this tutorial turned out much better.

colettebeignetbeninesebeignet36I also used a tutorial from Gertie’s blog. So many different ways to make buttonholes!

colettebeignetbeninesebeignet37Then I practiced on my project fabric.

colettebeignetbeninesebeignet38Eight samples later and I was finally ready to move on to the real thing.

colettebeignetbeninesebeignet39By the way, the fabric is from woodin. I just love this shop too much.

colettebeignetbeninesebeignet40Four yards of the blue print plus two yards of the gray contrast. The gray is what I made the Archer shirt out of and originally it was to go with this skirt (hence the gray bound buttonholes) but in the end the two didn’t look good together.

colettebeignetbeninesebeignet41I chalked on my buttonholes with the help of a template.

colettebeignetbeninesebeignet42Then I added the buttonhole lips.

colettebeignetbeninesebeignet43Then I made the facings. You think that’s a lot of pins right there?

colettebeignetbeninesebeignet44Try having an entire army! This is where Karen’s guide was helpful as the Colette and Gertie guides didn’t cover the army pen technique. colettebeignetbeninesebeignet47Buttonholes done and basted shut! Please don’t judge how they aren’t perfectly aligned… it was my first time. Once it was finished, then it was time to start sewing the skirt and just pray that the buttonholes would  match up fine at the end.

colettebeignetbeninesebeignet46In the end it wasn’t the buttonholes that gave me problems… it was a printer low on ink that tripped me up. You see, where the size line labels are is exactly where the printer was running of the ink so when I cut out my pattern I forgot to cut out my size and accidentally cut some pieces six sizes too big Ooooooops!

colettebeignetbeninesebeignet45I didn’t discover this later until it came time to attach it to my lining. I don’t know how or what, but I just did some pinching, some fudging, and then nobody could tell anything went wrong! From the outside at least.

colettebeignetbeninesebeignet48Then the skirt was finished. Except for one last joyful step: the removing of my bound buttonhole basting stitches!

colettebeignetbeninesebeignet49Aaaaaaaaaaaaand done! But I want to know why not many sewing bloggers show off the inside of their Beignet. It’s just so pretty. I actually stare more at the inside than I do the outside – that’s how much I love it!

Back CameraLook how nice it looks inside out and on the body. I think a very clever person could make this skirt reversible.

Back CameraBy the way, I went with fabric covered buttons, courtesy of a local notions shop.

colettebeignetbeninesebeignet01Here was my original Beignet + Archer sketch. It did not work out because the beignet is very high waisted and the contrast fabric for the Archer I used was too stiff, so all that happened when I wore the two together was major poofage at the top.

colettebeignetbeninesebeignet50What the beignet skirt did work well with, however, was my pajama top! It was the perfect and had lots of drape – exactly what I needed to go with the skirt.

colettebeignetbeninesebeignet51On Frances’ last day in Benin we stayed in a small guesthouse. With a wall. Which is why we could have a photo shoot outdoors, otherwise there’d be just too many stares. Check out the giant banana plants behind me – and emphasis on the word plants as they are not trees as people commonly think.

colettebeignetbeninesebeignet52I am not sure what Frances said for me to make a face like that.

colettebeignetbeninesebeignet53Banana leaves make good arm rests too.

colettebeignetbeninesebeignet54Please admire my bound buttonholes! They are a contrast lover’s dream. So many new possibilities with color that regular buttonholes can’t pull off!colettebeignetbeninesebeignet55Also please admire my pockets.

colettebeignetbeninesebeignet56Proof they exist.

colettebeignetbeninesebeignet57Climbing the ladder, with one foot on the ground because in the beginning I wasn’t sure if this homemade ladder could support me.colettebeignetbeninesebeignet66I might be smiling but I’m still terrified. I’ve got my right hand braced against the wall (hidden) just in case something went wrong.

colettebeignetbeninesebeignet59Relief! No more climbing Beninese ladders for me, I’ve got my photo and am satisfied.

colettebeignetbeninesebeignet60Don’t forget to take the time and smell the flowers! Though I’ve noticed that flowers here don’t have very strong scents.

colettebeignetbeninesebeignet61Frances and I have been practicing our “dead Japanese doll” look from Japanese pattern books. deaddollMore on this in the next post.

colettebeignetbeninesebeignet62Big cities + rainy season + lots of standing water + lots of trash + crowdedness = mosquitos everywhere. Ugh!!!colettebeignetbeninesebeignet63Yay Frances joined in!colettebeignetbeninesebeignet64Once you’re done looking at my bound buttonholes that I am oh so proud of, then please look at Frances’ top.

colettebeignetbeninesebeignet65You see, due to length I had to split this entry into two (too many side stories) which resulted in me also splitting the photo shoot. So that’s a wrap for the Colette Beignet and Beninese Beignet for the moment!

Pattern: Colette Patterns 1005 Beignet
Fabric: Woodin 62045

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