Monday, October 24, 2011

We got no food, no jobs, OUR PETS' HEADS ARE FALLING OFF!

Cooking in the summer

Cooking in the winter
"It's OK, I'm a limo driver"

Philile being cute and preparing some cabbage

Ziggy and our chicken!

Babe's fine camera work, notice chicken head on the ground, bloody knife in my hands and shame/horror on my face

I remember before I even applied to Peace Corps, I had a friend serving in Eastern Europe. She recounted that by the end of the pay period, some months she'd kind of be scraping by in terms of food. I thought this was horrendous, no way that would ever happen to me. Happen it did. I had a week until we'd be paid again and I had no food. OK I'm lying, I had significant stores of Swazi staples that Bear Grylls could make last for months. I decided rather than going to town and spending my own money, I'd try to challenge myself to cook/eat like a Swazi for the week, hoping to learn a few things and because challenges make everything more exciting.

First up was liphalishi, or "Pap", the single staple of the Swazi diet. It looks like mashed potatoes and tastes like nothing but somehow goes with everything. It is made by boiling some water, throwing some mealie-meal in, and stir like mad/cover the pot, until liphalishi forms. I cooked this with sugar beans which many Swazi families eat every night. I threw in some Italian spices, but usually a little onion, carrot, tomato and "aromat" (basically salt and msg) is added. Then you mash some of the beans and have dinner. They are pretty versatile.

Breakfast time is indengane. You can make this one by using mealie-meal or sorghum meal and mixing it with a little cold water, then add it to boiling water. You cook it for a half hour and a gellatinous breakfast occurs. To make it more enjoyable, add honey/sugar and milk to your steaming hot bowl of sorghum. It does what it needs to do, gets you full for the day. Definitely not as good as oatmeal but its growing on me. And definitely better than incwacwa (and easier to say). Incwawa is indengane left over night or two, to let it become good and sour.

Next we have emahewu. Because cooking Swazi food rather than just eating a granola bar or cereal takes a long time, and sometimes you are starving while cooking, Make told me that emahewu is the principle snack of Swaziland.You make emahewu by making indengane but rather thin. After its done you add a pinch of sugar (or flour) and let it sit for two days, depending how sour you like it. Don't have to worry about this puppy going bad (I think). You drink out of a community jug and it holds you over.

The other main snack of Swazis is sugar cane. You can collect it from the side of the road where it falls off of trucks. My teeth are not nearly strong enough to bring the cane but bhuti wami does the hard part and the inside tastes like honey.

I considered making emasi, which is the real treat of Swazi land. It's probably whatever Little Miss Muffet was eating, curds and whey. Its curdled milk (chunky!) with some crumbled dry liphalishi. Its not the easiest texture to get used to but its not too bad. Its too hot for me to mess around with dairy products though. As Ron Burgandy said, Milk was a bad choice.

Lastly, we have the finale. The chicken. As a vegetarian for 6 years of my life, I considered this the final step to fortifying my status as carnivore. Sisi and I went down the road to buy a chicken. She picked out a good one and it relieved itself on me in several ways on the walk home. I was nervous to kill it, but I figured these chickens have a good life. They don't sit in a disgusting, crowded factory getting pumped with hormones. Mostly they run around and do whatever they want all day, rather humane really. The time came. My bhuti held down the chicken and handed me a unfortunately dull knife. I felt bad that it was so dull, but I tried as hard as I could to make it quick. Soon, the head was off. I was shocked I went from PETA to slaughtering animals for supper. Then came the de-feathering process which was a little revolting but you get over it. It bleeds for the night and gets cooked the next day. "Home Chicken" is just made with onions and the chicken's natural broth. We added some Tuscan seasoning for a good cross culture exchange and they all loved it. It was incredible and falling off the bone. So fresh! Not like the dry, artificially enlarged chickens I am used to in America. Delicious!

It made it even better to sit out under the stars, watching an incoming electrical storm roll in. It was an interesting week of Swazi cooking, and Make got a kick out of helping me with some of the items.

Random Swazi Fact of the Week: Cider is NOT gluten free here, at least not Hunter's. Only took about a million tries to figure it out.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, you've come a long way since Girl Scout camping and sit upons.