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Today I was in a part of Montreal I've never visited, talking with students at Vanier CEGEP, and their instructor, Stephen, showed me to a district of African, Moroccan and Thai cafes on Boulevard Decarie. I chose Khady, and ordered Thiboudienne, a dish of red rice, fish and vegetables. When I tasted it I realized this was not just any dish. It was one of those home-style, traditional dishes that take generations to understand, and it probably takes hours to make. The rice had a flavour I can't remember ever tasting before, yet once I tasted it, it became familiar. It was like caramel without the sweetness: a warm, welcoming taste of someone's home-cooking. Thiboudienne is a Senegalese dish, and it appears from my brief look-up that it is the king of Senegalese cuisine. The colours were all warm: brown, orange, red, and the plate was massive - I couldn't finish it all. The vegetables were carrot, eggplant, and some sort of white starchy root whose name I don't know, but whose comfort-inducing power was great. I think the other vegetable was cabbage, but again, it was imbued with a fragrance and a colour that made it its own new thing.
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