Friday, October 19, 2012

In the Kitchen... RiverValley Language Camp Style

(I wrote this a few weeks ago, but haven't had a chance to upload it till now.  Hope you have as much fun reading as we did cooking!)

Along with the idea that language is culture and culture is language, there are a LOT of traditional dishes here in Tanzania that us outsiders simply never grew up making.  Chapatti, for one.  Pilau.  And a good portion of us didn’t grow up chasing chickens around the yard to fry up for dinner.

So this week, the teachers came in full force.  We spent all of yesterday at the market bartering and buying the best produce we could with the money we were  given (using our best Swahili skills, of course! :P)  Then today, we brought out the charcoal jikos (stoves), the live chickens, the rice with stones in it, the coconut shredders, the strainers, and all the rest of the produce.  And, little by little, we spent the morning making, preparing, using our Swahili (a bit), learning, and laughing as we tried to imitate the skills our teachers have been using since they were little kids. 

The highlight of the day for some people was the killing of our lunch meat.  I am more than willing to let others do this for me, though I helped with the plucking of feathers process after they were dipped in boiling water.
For me, though, I was most excited about learning to make chapattis.  I’ve watched people make them many times but I’ve just never done it.  Today… was the day.  I even realized that touching the chapattis in the pan over the burning white hot coals isn’t as dangerous as I expected! 

I’m not saying I’m going to start a business… and I’ll probably still buy my chapattis from here on out.  I’m also very aware of how many typical things we DIDN’T do today that most Tanzanians would do… including hauling water by bucket from the nearest river and (hopefully?) boiling it before making everything.  Even without the extra steps, we were all sunburned and exhausted by the end.  But we thoroughly enjoyed our meal, our teachers thoroughly enjoyed laughing with (at?) us throughout the day, I learned that I really DO like banana desserts (sometimes!), and I’m proud to have acquired a few new skills in my toolbox to carry with me from here!

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