03 February 2012

about food

Cooking in Burundi is a contact sport somedays. Look at all the twigs and stones and what-what I had to sift out of my dried beans this morning before i could start soaking for tomorrow’s dinner.

I can’t say for sure, but judging from what I hear and from people’s reactions, we are some of the few “bazungus” here that cook for ourselves. And when you only pay someone around $5 + food costs to shop at the market, cook a fabulous meal and clean up afterwards, I’d agree that it makes a lot of sense to hire someone to come every day. Not to mention the fact that it is really difficult to get used to preparing food in a new culture - where the ingredients and the tools are all different than you are used to... and we often don’t have electricity or water. I won’t even tell you about the 4 hour banana bread that still didn’t cook all the way through.

(grilled maize is a favorite of ours. It isn't sweet corn but an earthy, bready flavor)

Billy and I eat pretty simply here though. Lots of beans and rice, eggs and potatoes. We always have local bananas and avocados and mangos at our house. After we got used to the sour-milk taste and consistency of local yogurt, we quite enjoy it with a bit of fruit, local honey and fresh roasted peanuts on top. I won’t lie. I do miss cupcakes and chips & salsa and baked macaroni dripping with cheese. But I also really enjoy knowing that 90% of what we eat in Burundi has grown right here in the local soil - or been raised walking on and eating the same grass I walk on. And our purchasing it helps keep a local family alive and thriving.

(lunch out at a local place - goat skewers and potato - and a warm sprite)

Yeah, you are right... it is easier to eat this way here in Burundi where it is a necessity for most people. Grocery stores are small& expensive and outside the big city they are rare. Not to mention that many people don’t have refrigeration in this hot climate and cooking is done on open fires. When you drive out of the city of Bujumbura, most of the hundreds of people you see are busy either busy farming their land, or carrying their produce on their heads or the backs of overburdened bicycles to home or to the market. It seems that the entire day is filled with the work it takes just to grow enough food to feed your family. It reminds me of theIngells family and how Avery and I longed for that life of hard work and simple pleasures when we read the Little House series. We knew full well that it was (is) a hard life, and yet, there was something natural that called to us from it. Something that highlights how insane our culture has gotten since we have stepped away from the earth.

(Burundi's version of picking up "drive through" for dinner)

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