It has been a grueling three weeks. Last month, I cut down on the food budget, and instead used this money for other purposes, assuming I would get paid dues owed to me. Unfortunately, the outstanding debt went unpaid, which meant our normal foods storage was in deficit. I am lucky to have several mama mboga’s who are not only friends, but speak one of my local lingos. I come from mixed parentage, so I play it to my advantage depending on the situation. Where I live, tribe helps in such situations. I can use tribe to gain not only credit, but sympathy. I have also realized that we “office” women, look haughty to the vegetable sellers, a.k.a mama mbogas. Sauntering off smartly dressed every morning, to return in the evenings looking unfettered, yet affording more comforts than the mama mbogas. It is times like this, when I am forced to bend low and ask for credit, that mama mboga is able to relate with me on a one to one. Just another parent raising a family with ups and downs of life.
My late mother – God bless her soul- raised me to know that a good mother should always serve a healthy portion to growing children. She insisted upon abundance, not quality. She had a point. This is Africa. Anybody not in the A class minority, eats organic. Did I say anybody? Mistake. It is everybody. I have a nutritional book that was done as a report in the mid 60’s. That long ago. I buy books and journals all the time, and especially love detailed topical issues, to better grasp what I haven’t leant in detail at school or in life. In this report by somebody and other, who included current and past United Nations surveys, it was noted that what the third world needed to reduce malnutrition, was a daily dosage of a half a teaspoon of oil, to every child under five. Couldn’t be truer.
All over Africa, children eat healthy portions of starch, but suffer from constipation and poor digestion. Oil would combat both. In addition to this, few proteins are ever available. Oil again would help here. I won’t go into how little it would take for Africa to combat hunger. There are enough politicians doing enough nothing about this, for me to join in the confusion. Okay….so early on, I set out to ensure my family is fed not very well but very much. It has been good so far. Miss D, Sonny and my baby have glimpsed at milk, waved at cheese(luckily my baby is allergic to it!),had chicken ceremoniously, fish frequently as long as it was spelt O.M.E.N.A, and….had cereals and greens every other day. Dare I not forget a daily helpful of good old starch. We couldn’t be healthier. Actually if you wished to gauge my financial status, all you would do is watch the frequency of meat meals at ours. There is money, there is meat. There is no money….There is no meat. So simple.
My baby loves beans. What a saving gladness this gives me. It means that we can actually pass with having a bean and rice meal on a celebratory day. One fact I realized out of sheer shortage of money and a wish for a balanced diet, is that cereals are a family’s best friend. They not only help save; but you are an assurance of good food and enough of it, to overcome tough times when disaster – read brokenness – strikes. To this end, I know as much of dryable foods as I can. Where, Where and how to buy them Our home does not lack for variety.
Muthokoi which is maize with husks removed through a soft pounding, cooks faster after soaking. We mix it with all sorts of beans. Yellow, red, maroon, black…. Cassava comes dried in chips. Marvelous. Another multi-bean mix. We have failed to understand the magic of boiling dried maize. We all can make chapati, ugali, spaghetti and rice.Having internet facilities at work has helped me learn new cooking methods and recipes. We make all sorts of stuff with flour. Ask Jamaicans. So much can be done with bananas and flour. Best of all, you all should have lots of corn/maize flour in stock. It has always been our saving grace when nothing else was available. You can not dispute porridge. Not now, not ever. Warm or cold, nothing fills and pleases a growling stomach like porridge. Interestingly, porridge is regarded and used in so many categories of a meal. Starter, appetizer, breakfast, main meal, etc… And it is eaten in every community I have met or read about.
Recently, now that the older two are grown and able to plan and make meals alongside mother me, we have begun to experiment and refine our culinary skills and prowess. TV is no longer an entertainment forum. We try what we watch. In purchase of equipment and other items for use in cooking. Vegetables we just passed off as “muzungu food”(white man’s food), are now becoming regular in the house. Celery, Cucumber, Cauliflower, red cabbage, beetroot. We have also introduced a wider variety of spices into our cooking. We recently made cheese at home and are looking to make it a habit for Miss D’s sake. I discovered a butchery that sells a variety of cuts near the bus stage. I am elated. For a good price, I can get mutton, chicken cutlets, liver, gizzards and all sorts of meats. The beauty with this shop, is that the meats are all cut up to edible portions. Nice huh? Ok. This is the deal. My “Baby Daddy”- God rest his soul- was a hotelier. This means that I got privy of what happens in all these one, two, three, four and five star hotels, behind the scenes. Especially in the kitchen.
My little convenient butchery, sells stuff that does not look like your ordinary cuts. The chicken I am boasting of comes in various forms. You can buy shredded skin of chicken, almost meatless wings, skinned necks and barely breast and thigh pieces. Mutton is cut up into manageable pieces. You may get bone of cow. Yes bone. Do with it what you will do with it. And so forth and so forth. Now what happens, is that the people who matter in hotel chickens…oops…kitchens…decide what parts and amounts of the meats to keep .Get my drift? The rest…all of it….goes to the bin. I should say “is supposed to”. Those of us, who have not been in a coma in the past three or so years in Africa, need no telling. No one throws food, let alone meat, any more. Just can’t afford it. So a contract is given for “kitchen trash collection” and voila! Yours truly and company will eat meat.
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Emerald Sua is a Christian single mother who prides herself as a voluntary organizational guru for lives, systems, situations and homes.