Tuesday, June 22, 2010

An Eating tour of Mukono—how to feed 20 muzungus

If you really want to know what life is like, just watch how people eat. We Bazungu are not quite the Ugandan norm, but our eating habits definitely reflect a world far different than the one we were raised in.

The day begins with breakfast. Those of us who followed the advice of our predecessors and brought more granola bars than clothes have a nearly endless supply of Chewy, Nature Valley, and Cliff bars. These, combined with instant oatmeal, local fruit, and Yogurt, make a delicious meal. Our team keeps a huge pile of fruit on the back porch, mostly bananas, pineapple, mango, and oranges, which all make excellent breakfast food. Angie makes a grain porridge which no one else is brave enough to taste. School children eat a variant of this porridge for breakfast, but theirs involves corn flour and nothing else, which is about as nutritionally week as it is filling.

If you choose to go out for breakfast, your first decision is to turn left or right at the gate. Our immediate neighbor to the right is a pork joint—not the most appealing for breakfast, and it certainly doesn’t compare to our neighbor to the left, which is a shanty shack that contains big vats of beans, rice, and matoke. If you are not in the mood for beans, continue past the shanty shack and the outdoor pool hall to the corner chapatti stand. There, you can purchase Rolex, which is an egg and veggie omelet rolled inside a piece of fry bread. The district health inspector tells us it is OK to eat Rolex despite the lack of hygiene standards because “the food is sold hot, so no one gets sick”. Excellent.

Past the pork joint to the right is a sort of commercial center, where there are clothing shops and corner stores for all of your household needs. There are also stands with fruits of all kinds. And then there is our friend the Rolex man. Since the Bazungu moved into his neighborhood, his rolex stand has been re-surfaced, he built a storage box, and added an umbrella. We hypothesize that our group gives him more collective business in a day than he usually gets in three. He speaks passable English and talks to us while frying eggs and bread. Right next to him across a dirt patch is a woman selling deep fried delicacies—roasted chickpeas wrapped in a bread shell, deep fried. Boiled eggs wrapped in mashed sweet potatoes, deep fried. Sweet bread, deep fried. Each of these treats cost between 10 and 20 cents.

Continue down the road to the taxi park. This region is lined with small shaded shops offering more chapatti and beans, yogurt, rice, and ground beef. Most restaurants sell approximately the same thing. But in the Taxi park there are young boys selling other foods—various chicken parts roasted on sticks, meat popsicles with fatty beef, packaged cookies, and a local delicacy, fried grasshopper.

In the evenings, the streets come alive with vendors roasting bananas, meat, and corn over charcoal fires. We aren’t usually out at night because Edith, our chef extraordinaire, cooks amazing meals at our house. Roasted veggies, fried rice, spaghetti, squash, mango chutney, chapatti, you name it. Our favorite has been termed “Ugandan Café Rio”, which involves chapatti, rice, ground beef, and mango chutney all rolled together. It is amazing.
On Sunday, Edith gets a day off and the team cooks together, which gives us a chance to bond over a charcoal stove and dull vegetable knives without handles. The Sunday dinner Gestapo, as our chore chart has lovingly christened them, gain a better appreciation of just how awesome Edith is. They also gain practical skills in starting fires using wax matches and plastic bags, which will certainly come in handy later in life.

Bottom line, we eat well. We are even getting used to matoke, the steamed plantains that are a local favorite.

(photos forthcoming)

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