Kenyan food is a vegetarian’s nightmare as well as a Atkin’s dieter’s nightmare – luckily – I’m neither of these so I am enjoying this meat heavy, carbo loaded Kenyan diet I am on! The food is hearty with many stew-like dishes with rice – yet the sauces they use have a distinct Indian flair as many Indian spices are used. This equates to yummy food! Many root vegetables are also used – I honestly never knew there were so many variations of potatoes. They have some that look just like a banana but taste like a potato. They also have sweet potatoes that are white – but taste just like our orange ones. Speaking of color – their oranges here are green…go figure. Since we’ve been here we’ve been eating 3 meals a day mainly consisting of meat, rice, potatoes, and chapati (a type of yummy tortilla). My favorite is the breakfast pancakes which taste exactly like my grandmothers recipe. They simply roll the flat pancakes up and eat them plain – they are delicious!
In the US – a T-bone steak is a real treat – here I feel like it’s an everyday occurrence. The first day we were here one of Mungai’s uncles brought in 2 T-bones on a platter with a big knife. He proceeded to cut it up in small pieces and we snacked on it like an appetizer with our fingers. It felt rather primeval in a way – there’s something about eating meat with your hands that makes it taste that much better – it’s back to the basics. Mungai and his uncle picked up the bones and ate them with their hands…there were no leftovers for the dogs! Next he paraded out a platter of sliced, grilled meat. As a side note – when I travel I take the strategy of eat first and then ask what it is later. Else you visualize and mentally process what it is that you are about to eat and your brain will talk yourself out of it. I utilized my strategy in this case and grabbed the first piece and chewed. Good taste – hot of the grill – not bad. After everyone inquires about it I found out it was tripe – not something I would normally eat if my brain had been allowed to make the decision . (maybe I should be employing this strategy for men I date too) So – would I have tripe again…sure.
Everyone seems excited to see the 6 women from the US that Mungai brought to Kenya – we seem to be in demand – more so than I ever was in NY! We were invited to dinner at a friend of his family’s – Ginna. It was a unique dining experience that made me feel grown up beyond my years. The house was large and ornately decorated with animal pelts and other African designs. We sat down in a dining room as large as my apartment and had a very formal dinner while conversing with Ginna’s kids who were in college. It was fascinating talking politics with them. I was surprised to find out that many people here are thinking that Hilary Clinton should be our next President. I was a bit shocked. In fact – one person said that the US needs a bit of a feminine touch after Bush. The view of the US is so different than our own self view – it is eye opening to hear what other countries think and a bit disturbing at the same time. Regardless – the food was outstanding – ribs, chicken, beef, rice, and veggie mash. I find it interesting that there is always a variety of meat. Normally my mom would simply make chicken. That’s it – one meat, and a vegetable. Yet here – it’s a minimum of 3 different kinds of meat – it seems like so much effort. For dessert we had our first Kenyan ice cream – yum!
We toured old town Mombassa today and learned of the battles of the Portuguese and the Muslims. We walked through the town sticking out like clothed people in a nudist colony – 6 white women walking around a Muslim town in Africa. We told people we were from Canada…it was just easier that way. At the end of the tour we walked through the various markets. It started simple with many fruits and veggies stacked on blankets and carts on the street. We then went into the enclosed spice market. What a wonderful smell! Spices piled like colorful mounds of sand. Lemon grass, ginger root, vanilla beans, and saffron – it was beautiful in a 3rd world rustic kind of way – but the smell was like an Indian restaurant.
Next we went to the meat market – and it was an experience like no other. I just wish that I could somehow bottle the smell and put it in a scratch and sniff sticker for everyone to experience because my words can’t really do it justice. First off – when I say market – it’s not like a local Kroger supermarket butcher counter. It’s a shack with dirt floors and individual people with stands selling things – meat in this case. However – this market also did the slaughtering. The smell and the flies were overwhelming, meat parts from every kind of animal were hanging from hooks at each stand. Camel, goat, cow, lamb, and every part imaginable. Liver, heart, and there hanging with a family of flies – intestine…my tripe from the other day. Let me tell you – it looked much more appetizing coming off the grill than hanging on a big meat hook raw – freshly butchered. We were all a bit horrified, as we breathed out of our mouths as to not get nauscious from the smell.
I think the men there were completely entertained by our reactions as they tried to sell us camel liver (which was the size of a watermelon). Some would think that this may curb our appetite – but we all happily went to lunch after that and had our traditional meat stew. I accept what I saw by rationalizing that meat markets like this one in Mombassa area exist everywhere – even in the US (though maybe a bit cleaner) – but we don’t normally see the inner working of them – we are sheltered from that. Today the shelter was removed a bit – as I expect it to be removed even more as I continue eating my way through this journey.