Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Necessities of Life: Water and Food

Water here is life. When the intense rainstorms come, like it did today, my mama is ecstatic. She begins to call the nearby towns where her shambas (maiz and bean farms) are located to see if it, indeed, is raining there too. The rain shakes the walls here and the tin roof amplifies the sound so it wakes even the soundest sleeper up at night. And while I used to complain about the hassle of all the mud ( I seriously have never witnessed so much mud in my life!) I know the rain is necessary for the crops. Rain is like Christmas here. My family gets so happy, runs outside with buckets, and calls friends- much like Christmas day in the US. For you to get an idea of the intense rain, here is a picture of my friend Chris and the RIVER of rain that formed on the main street after only a few minutes of Kenyan rain.

The food here has been surprisingly delicious. Where variety lacks, ingenuity prevails. Like I’ve mentioned before I love chapatti – a delicious tortilla / naan like bread eaten with beans or cabbage. Another common dinner for my family, who are Kikuyu (one of the 43 tribes in Kenya), is githeri. Githeri is a mixture of maiz kernels, beans, and potatoes. Very filling, and very delicious (especially with avocado!). And I am finally getting used to eating ugali (maiz and water mixed to the consistency of clay) and sukumawiki (kale cooked with onions and tomatoes). I used to be a mess in my attempt to eat ugali with my hands, but my technique has improved over the past few weeks.

During the week, I eat lunch in town at one of the restaurants. There are maybe 10 small restaurants that offer a few things each day. The concept of a menu is very different here. While the restaurant may have a menu with 30 different items, there are most likely 4-5 options for the day. You can get a good cheap meal of chapatti and beans for 50 shillings ( 70 cents) or an expensive nice meal of rice and grilled vegetables for 100 shillings ($1.50). My definition of expensive has definitely changed. I say expensive because A. I’m on a Peace Corps salary now and B. I am starting to think in shillings, and 100 shillings can buy you a lot here!

Here is a picture of my host brother's best friend Taqueen eating the spaghetti I made last weekend. They LOVED it! My mama wants me to make it again every weekend.

I also baked a cake today for my host brother's birthday. Well, actually it was a few days ago, but he never mentioned his birthday until I asked! Apparently, birthdays are not a big deal here, my host mom forgot that it was her own son's bday!!!!It was a little difficult without an oven, but I baked it by covering a pot with charcoal. After an hour of cooking in this makeshift oven, the cake turned out tamu sana (very sweet!). I will definitely be baking in the weeks to come so I can figure out what works best with the materials I have available. Improvising is one of the great skills that I am picking up as a peace corps volunteer…who would have known that I would be cooking cakes with charcoal ovens? Maybe, the Food Network is interested in a Kenyan version of Ace of Cakes??

Much Love,

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