Food, Kenya Style

So this week I thought I’d do something totally different and let you in on our eating habits here in Kenya.  Nairobi is a modern city so we don’t have to cook goat over an open fire, although we’ve had it, and it tastes really good. Of course watching the goat get killed and sliced up isn’t so pleasant.

In Sydney we would live on BBQ’s most nights with chicken in between. To buy a BBQ here we have to pay out around $800, not a top priority but we wish it were.  Barbequed meat is much better than that done in a frying pan. When we first moved here Pete conquered a charcoal BBQ but I think our neighbours might not be so enthusiastic about the smoke, but man did the food taste good!

A frozen chicken costs about $8 and it’s pretty straight forward to throw it in the oven to roast. But I’ve learnt, thanks to Google, how to make chicken pilau. According to the locals it tastes more like a biryani (Indian) but they think it was cool that I actually tried. They must’ve liked it because three people took the leftovers home. I also like chicken pad thai but Pete’s not really a noodle fan so we can’t have it too often. He’s more of a meat and three veges guy.

pilauI’ve also learnt how to make kachumbari. It kind of looks like bruschetta but better and you don’t have it on a slice of French stick, you can have it with anything. I found this recipe but apparently it’s not very Kenyan. Firstly you need to soak the red onion in salty water to take out the bitter taste. You’re also meant to add spring onion and white vinegar to give it a kick. Lucy, one of my co-workers made some and it was much better than mine.

kachumbariUgali is one of our least favourite dishes. Pete refuses to eat it, that’s because he hasn’t has a good version of it. Basically it’s maize flour and water, with a touch of salt. No, it’s not a homemade recipe for glue, I’ve made that one. Ugali is a staple food here, especially if you’re in poverty. It is totally non-nutritious but here the thinking is that if you don’t go to bed with a full feeling then you haven’t eaten enough. Ugali just sits in your stomach. I got Tinga, a young man who was staying with us one weekend, to show me how he made ugali and it wasn’t half bad. Still, I only eat it when I have to.

imagesGitheri is probably one of the hardest meals to handle. I’ve never had it with meat, simply with beans, maize and tomatoes. Again, Pete refuses to eat it, mainly because he needs serious dental work on his back teeth. It’s borderline okay when it’s hot but as soon as it starts to cool down it is so hard to handle. Also, my stomach reacts badly to it, to the point I can’t have it any longer.

githeriBefore coming here I never really was a coffee nor tea drinker, only when I had to. Each Thursday I go to our training facility in Kiserian (an hour away) to teach a class of boys. There we get black tea, as milk is too expensive. Here, Kenyans love their sugar. It is not unusual to have a cup of tea with 3 – 6 teaspoons of sugar in it. I’ve even got a small taste for very weak lattes. I can say I even enjoy a coffee from time to time. Mind you, at Dormans (a café) they have this delicious gluten free brownie, the only place in the whole of Kenya, which helps the attraction to coffee.

So overall, there is plenty on offer here. You can buy bananas for 5 cents each, fruit and veges are cheap, meat isn’t. There are hundreds of cafes and restaurants to choose from. Food in Nairobi is much more expensive than out of town. On Sundays after church we go to Galitos for chicken and chips. If we wanted pizza – it’s the in thing here and you can get a family size pizza on Tuesdays for $7. There’s even a place to buy frozen yoghurt – we’ve been there once with visitors who had kids, nice but so jolly expensive.

You will never starve in Africa as long as you’re not fussy. We miss real cream, cheese that has flavour and veges that you don’t have to soak in a special cleaner. But, we do have lots to choose from as you’ve seen.

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One Dollar At A Time

Here in Kenya we have plenty of opportunity to help people out. There are the beggars, the disabled sitting in wheelchairs and then those selling goods at the side of the road.

There are a couple of people who have stuck out here.

One of them is a man in a wheelchair who had his legs amputated from the knees down. He sits each day at the corner by a small shopping centre. He has children (we see them from time to time) and one of the world’s biggest smiles. He’s polite and doesn’t beg for cash but you can tell he’s in need.

Unfortunately there’s no disability support pension here for people like this man. They are totally reliant on having their families support them. Every now and then when we go past his spot we drop in 100 shillings, worth about $1. More than that though, we stop for a chat and ask him how he and is family is. It gives him respect that he is of value and not simply because he needs money.

A couple of weeks ago I met the most wonderful lady. Each day she stands by the road we take to work. She is there early in the morning till it starts to get dark. She has a baby strapped to her back. She holds out her right hand for the entire time, in it she has a bag of blue sweets for sale. I don’t know how much she sells them for but probably only for a shilling or two. I don’t know this lady’s name but I really admire her.

On either side of her stand men selling DVD’s, posters, flowers and the matatus (vans moving masses of people) and buses throwing out diesel fumes.

I admire her because she’s not waiting for her situation to change, she is changing her situation, one shilling at a time.

I am more than happy once a week to drop 100 shillings into her hand. I usually ask for a couple of sweets so it doesn’t look like I do it out of pity. No, I do it in admiration.

You might say that it’s only the odd dollar, what difference can it make? But to these 2 people it means they can buy some flour and make ugali that night. It means that they have something to put towards their rent. Or it may mean they can afford to buy one jerry can of water.

Even though our personal support level is short by about $1,000 per month, I’m not going to let it stop me being generous. These two people inspire me to keep going even when it all seems a bit much.

My next step is to get to know their names.

Tell me about someone who has inspired you lately.

Hunting For Beads

So, I come up with this idea for our child sponsorship program and that is to get the kids to make a small gift for their sponsor. I was thinking of a bead bracelet of really nice handmade card. So now we have to find the materials.

Forget your local arts and crafts shop, think more like – it’s bigger than Ben Hur.

I know I will get ripped off because I’m a Mzungu (whitey) so I take my partner in crime and co-worker Joy with me.

my view from inside the matatu

my view from inside the matatu

Step one – get a matatu into town, but first you have to wait for it to fill up. We only waited for about 15 minutes so that’s pretty good.

Step two – walk for 5 hours around town visiting various touristy stores to see what they have on offer as well as several markets to see if we can bargain for a better price.

Our overall goal was to get some ideas for cards using local material to spruce them up and see where the beads come from.

This is Joy after 2 hours

This is Joy after 2 hours

At the Masai market (there’s stacks of them) no one was giving away their secrets, they just wanted us to buy something. I’m teaching some of our students on earth sciences and spotted a piece of pumice for around $1.50 which I thought was good. No way was Joy letting me spend that much, she reckons it’s only worth around 50c. No matter what I said she refused to let me buy it and said that I could get it for the same price at the local supermarket. For 2 days now I’ve looked at every shopping centre in the area and there is no pumice in sight. Hence as I am writing this Joy is going back into town to buy me a piece of pumice so I can talk to the students on volcanic rocks.

There are both locals and tourists at the market

There are both locals and tourists at the market

I’m glad I didn’t have much cash on me because there are some very cool things at these markets. You’ll see people making necklaces, carvings and trinkets. You didn’t get hassled like in other markets. It was quite relaced and orderly. Except there was one vendor who thought I was telling lies when I said I’d been here for 9 months because my skin wasn’t dark enough!

What we discovered in the end is that you can’t buy just plain white cards, you have to cut your own. Everyone at the markets buys their beads from some invisible person first thing in the morning, pulls apart the necklaces and then put them back together in a special design by the vendor.

Some of the very cool things for sale at the markets

Some of the very cool things for sale at the markets

After traipsing around for hours we headed to a bookstore in search of a book on volcanoes and what did we find – a bead shop. However we had to wait until 2pm because all the shops closed between 1 and 2 for lunch. When it did eventually opened we discovered a little Masai woman in their buying her beads to take back to the markets to sell. So this was their secret spot.

By 2.30pm we were absolutely starving and managed to find the one and only place to get something to eat in the whole of the area. I guess this is where everyone went for their lunch break while we meandered around the market. Beef stew, rice and a bottle of soda all for $5.

Bargaing necklaces down from $1.50 to $1. In the end we paid $1.30

Bargaining necklaces down from $1.50 to $1. In the end we paid $1.30

Of course as soon as we got back to the office (another matatu ride for 40c) someone announced that they knew of a place 2 hours drive from Nairobi that you can buy beads from.

Guess where my next adventure will be!

Always have a good pair of sneakers for the long walk ahead

Always have a good pair of sneakers for the long walk ahead