Showing posts with label cooking (mis)adventures. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cooking (mis)adventures. Show all posts

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Banana Week

It’s banana week at our house. 
A few weeks back, one of the bunches of bananas on the banana trees in back of our house dropped.  Ronit and I had big plans for these bananas – we tend to use whatever we have on hand pretty well.  So when they went missing, we were pretty bummed.  And confused.

After a bit of inquiry, we discovered that one of our guards had helpfully put the bananas in a cardboard box, tied it closed with copper wire, and put it in one of the back storage rooms on the property.

When he heard we were looking for them, he brought the box up to the house, explaining that you should always put bananas in a cardboard box to ripen quicker.  “Right,” we said, nodding our heads.  Inwardly, I likened it to an old Tanzanian-wives-tale, like the one where I'm not supposed to drink cold water on hot days because it makes me cough. I'm sure it had nothing to do with allergies!?

All I could think of when I saw the copper wire was how people steal
copper off irrigation systems in the States to sell it for money! 
If they only knew how many boxes of bananas were sitting wrapped
with copper wire in Tanzanian backyards...
I'm assuming the newspaper is also critical to the ripening process?

My roommate and I laughed, took a few pictures (because that’s what we do), and left the box covered to see what would happen.

A couple of weeks later we started smelling a mysterious banana-like smell from the entryway where we had left the box.  We checked inside, and whala!  The bananas were ready!  Turns out that bananas really do let off a ripening agent-something-or-other-that-does-something-so-they-ripen-and-apparently-you-can-put-other-fruit-in-the-box-to-ripen-too-and-I-should-look-up-why-this-is-but-will-refer-you-to-knowledgeable-chemist-friends-instead-because,-well,-I’m-too-busy-cooking-with-bananas.

Suddenly, all our plans for Sunday-afternoon cooking changed.  Pumpkin bread for morning routines was cancelled, and banana bread subbed in.  We found a Betty Crocker Pound Cake Mix (a treasure in these parts!) in the freezer and came up with a banana-maple syrup topping for it.  Making pancakes?  Add a few – or ten – bananas to the mix!  And I’m pretty sure that banana chocolate chip bars will be on the dessert/snack menu for sometime this week – sans oats, since oats are so expensive here.

yum! :)
We started wondering in the bustle of banana-cooking what would happen once these bananas were gone.  After all, we had managed to use nearly half the box in 30 minutes time!  And then we remembered the trees out back, with another five bunches worth of bananas slowly getting ready to drop… and simply smiled as we thought of all the banana weeks to come.


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!