A Note About Food

Magnificent Makande.

Finally back to blogging. Sorry for the five-day absence – power cuts, long days at work and a lazy, heat-exhausted brain got in the way. As promised to the lovely Rita, here’s a little about food in the heartlands of East Africa. Although Moshi has plenty to offer on the restaurant and world food side – decent traveler fare (burgers, salads, breakfast and the like) and some of the best Indian we’ve ever had (more on that in another post – this bonafide piece of culinary heaven in Shantytown deserves a whole post of its own), we’ve also enjoyed our fair share of local grub.

I must admit I was a bit worried about this before we came – that the locals would be, shall we say, ‘food-challenged’ much like the Cubans – but I have to say that we were both pleasantly surprised. Don’t get me wrong: the ingredients are simple and preparation lacks the finesse of Indian or Thai food (nah, pretty much all Asian food), but the local specialities are comforting and satisfying enough. The staples are maize, ugali (a kind of sticky polenta-like porridge made from wheat), beans (often served in a light stew), a banana stew (that sadly and rather disturbingly sometimes includes animal innards as a little surprise for the unsuspecting diner), plus a few special-occasion dishes, including the aforementioned roasted goat. Rice is ubiquitous, limes are plenty and feisty little ‘pili pili’ chillies are offered up with most meals as a little bright green pick-me-up.

Lunch at Amani is eaten together with the students, with a different dish every day, lovingly and rather heroically prepared by the three cooking mamas (they have to cook up 1,500 meals a week). From a I’ve-tried-but-I-can’t-eat-it-anymore start on Mondays with a tough-to-stomach meat stew made with the whole cow (including pieces I don’t dare to try and identify) to our favorite, makande, a maize and bean stew on Fridays, the dishes are simple, filling and nutritious.

I reach my I-can’t-eat-anymore-rice-or-beans limits periodically and will undoubtedly be happy to part with these dishes come March, but I do genuinely like a few of the local specialties they serve up (especially the one pictured). A few special treats, as well as Sandra’s fabulous cooking in the evening keep up our levels of culinary variety enough to get through some of the less savory dishes or the relative monotony of the rice-beans-rice-ugali-beans routine at lunch. These little donut-type things they make every Wednesday morning for tea are unbeatable in their greasy goodness (‘Ninapenda mandazi’, I like donuts… very much). We’ve even – much to the horror of my adoptive-Swiss self – indulged in the only chocolate available in supermarkets here: Cadbury’s. Shock and horror. I can’t wait for my dad to bring some real chocolate when he comes in December (Timo, take note). It will taste glorious in comparison although as they say: beggars most definitely can’t be choosers, especially when it comes to a foreign and easily meltable luxury like chocolate…

On that hungry note, enjoy your evening meal and be good to each other.

Miss you all.


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