I am a fairly resilient person. I am flexible. I can handle most things that come my way. But I really need good food. It sounds lame and a little pretentious, but nothing is better therapy for me than a delicious meal, or a block of creamy chocolate. It was the thing I was most worried by, about coming to live in rural Uganda. Don’t get me wrong. There is wonderful, tropical fresh fruit and vegetables here. There are some pretty yummy snack type foods. There are PLENTY of carb options…but after a while the food can get a bit….well…same-ish.
Michael and I recently had the immense privilege of travelling to Italy for 10 days, to meet my parents for a holiday.
This was my first trip to Europe, and I absolutely, whole heartedly loved every bit of the experience. More than anything I loved the food. Well, maybe love is not the right word.
I devoured the food.
After so little access to food from my own culture and food with FLAVOUR, it was an incredible feast.
I ate my way across Rome.
A gelato every single day; the most light, soft gnocchi I had ever tasted; delicious local meats, cheeses, breads and pesto; luxurious panacotta’s; hearty homemade tomato sauces; scrumptious bakery food (for breakfast!!); and freshly brewed coffee whenever I felt so inclined…
All enjoyed in one of the most ambient, beautiful, historically rich cities on this earth. Sigh
I got fat.
And it was totally worth every last calorie. I thought it was an impressive effort, to put on the weight I did in the short 10 days I was there.
So did my staff. A few of them commented to both Michael and myself that we really ‘got fat’ while away, with the MH receptionist stating proudly (and loudly) that particularly my bum and hips had become much larger. There was lots of enthusiastic hand gestures to explain this. Meanwhile, I beamed with pride.
You know you have lived in Africa for too long when you don’t react with even the slightest indignation to such an observation, but receive and enjoy it for what it is – a grand compliment.
But the first day home in Kamwenge eating staff lunch was tough. Really tough.
and what I eat for lunch at work:
As you can see, it’s really different.
For those of you who don’t know, matooke is basically THE food of Uganda – plantain banana steamed in banana leaves on a charcoal stove, then mashed and served with either red beans (Monday, Wednesday, Friday lunch) or g-nut sauce (Tuesday and Thursday lunch) or meat stew (once a month ‘cos meat is expensive!)
We always offer another staple with the matooke. Occasionally it is rice (yum!) but almost always it is posho – which is maize meal cooked with only water until it turns thick and hard, kind of a playdough-y texture. (I know you think I’m under-selling it but that is honestly what it is!)
The first day back home in Kamwenge – back to matooke and beans for staff lunch – was a little bit of a shock to the system. And my tastebuds.
Not only was it a shock, but it reminded me of why I had been so excited to NOT eat staff lunch for a few weeks. We had purchased a 50kg bag of dry red beans from a farmer, about a month ago, who it turns out had sold us dud beans – full of weevils. They were everywhere, buried into the beans. We tried lots of local methods to get rid of them, and although these methods may have killed the majority, there was still one tiny but important issue remaining.
They were still in the beans.
Only now they were dead.
So we still have another few weeks at least to go of these weevil infested beans, which none of us at Maranatha are that happy about. And on my first day back home, I didn’t really feel like crunching down on little black dead insects in my food. Do I sound like a food snob?
So to keep us sane, Michael and I started a conversation about all the delicious food we could imagine eating, instead of the beans. We got into quite a lively debate about the best possible food dishes, so we decided that we were allowed to choose one dish from each country…
As this was unfolding, some other staff were listening curiously to our odd conversation (“laksa or rotti chanai?” “creamy gnocchi or a good Italian pizza?” “pho or cold rolls?” etc). It is times like this that I realise how much of my identity and world view has been influenced by the intense multiculturalism of urban Australia – especially when Uganda (although full of different tribes) is mostly Bantu in origin.
I turned to one staff member and invited her into the conversation by asking what her favourite food was. She looked confused. I explained, if she could have any food in the world, what would she choose as her favourite.
She thought for a moment and then enthusiastically replied:
“Posho and beans! I love posho and beans too much! I wish I could have them every day. Really, I don’t like Tuesdays and Thursdays, because I have to eat posho with gnut sauce.”