My food in Malawi

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March 31st 2014
Published: March 31st 2014
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Eventless food

My food in Malawi does feed me so basically it makes the job, but there is not so much I enjoy in it. I have the feeling that eat exactly the same things all the time but that’s not completely right, living on the campus of the school where I work gives me 3 options.

First option I can get the school food, which is prepared for the students three times a day. The other teachers eat at their home on the campus and the other employees of the school eat their own food. So far after 2 months here I never managed to be awake on time for the breakfast so I can’t say much about it, I just heard it was porridge during the week and bread on the week-end. Then, for lunch and dinner there are just 2 different meals which means that if there is the meal number 1 for lunch there will be the meal number 2 for dinner and vice versa. Meal Nr 1 consists in rice, meal Nr 2 in what is locally called nzima. Nzima is a made of corn and water noting more nothing less, I believe there are no spices or salt in it. To me, it defines perfectly the word tasteless because it has no taste, no taste at all. For those who know it lt looks similar to polenta but this is white and harder than it. Curiously it because even harder during the time it’s in your plate which means that when you start eating it is quite flexible but becomes harder after a few minutes. A thin skin also covers the parts you don’t touch after a while like when milk becomes cold so I usually remove it just like I do with milk (I mean in my life out of Malawi because I don’t drink milk in Malawi). I eat quite slowly, probably because I don’t really enjoy the food and because hot food combined with the heat makes me sweat a lot. The fan is always on but unlike the others I don’t eat in front if it because I believe it would send so many mosquitoes, insects and dust straight into my plate. On the side there is usually tasteless beans, sometimes an egg or salad. There is also sometimes a sauce which is just oil with tomatoes (I should maybe just write “tomato” because it looks like there is only one of it in it for the whole school). This food is prepared on the fire by the school cooks and is served in big amounts so usually I can’t finish it. We had also meat a few times but I apart chicken I don’t like it and it looks very unhygienic so I don’t take it. I don’t have to pay for this food which is quite nice.

The second option is going to buy the groceries and cook. In my usual life I have the feeling that I never have the time to cook but here it entertains me the time I do it so cooking is nice. On the other side this is still not the best option because there are less possibilities. Indeed, what is buyable is extremely limited (in variety, not in quantity) and I would have to cook almost the same things than what the school is already providing. Once I went to the only butchery that I know in town to get for once some nice meat and I bought a lot of expensive and good looking meat to freeze it. The same day I left home for a few days trip to the south and when I came back I saw and smelt the disaster in the fridge. A blackout happened so the fridge was turned off, I had to throw away the meat and clean the fridge this wasn’t funny. After that experience I decided not to go and buy meat again because the shop is far away and as you can’t rely on the electricity you shouldn’t buy more than what you need for the same day.

Among the things that I can easily buy not too far from home I discovered after a few weeks the Soya tasty pieces and if I do cook, this is usually what I prepare. According to the packaging they require cooking oil, tomatoes and onions to be prepared and fortunately all this is available here in Kapathenga (it sometimes actually looks like they are pretty much the only available things here and many people are selling them). I now have spices “imported” from far away so I can have tasty soja pieces that are actually truly quite tasty especially is there are prepared my way - with the time I
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They even have ice creams which is very rare here.
know how to get the best out of them believe me. Apart the tasty soya pieced I also sometimes cook eggs or as there is a lot of corn I like to make pop corns because it always gives me the nice feeling I am having a party which is pretty nice because in fact there are no parties. Cost of the soja pieces with all the ingredients around 0.60 US dollar per meal, the eggs are 0.20 dollar each and making the pop corns costs almost nothing.

The third option is to get ready made food out of the campus. In this case I can eat chips on the street or go to the restaurant. About the chips even if I am wondering all the time how long they use the oil before to change it I never had the courage to ask and I believe I prefer not to know because otherwise I might not buy the chips anymore and I want to keep them among the few options that I have. I can’t eat them at the stand because I am unable to eat under the sun so my chips buddy (I call him Mr. Chipsi) puts them in a small plastic bag, add some salt on the top and squeezes it in order to salt them all. They are bigger than the ones I knew so far, absolutely not crunchy and very oily - I like them. Sometimes there are small wooden sticks available to pick them easily from the plastic bag, when not I eat them with the hands which is don’t like there is no tissue provided and because once more, they are very oily. Generally the local people like to eat with the hands and even if I also sometimes do like that I usually go for the traditional way (it’s actually a very relative thing so let’s say MY traditional way). Chips cost about 0.40 dollar but I usually give a bit more to have a bigger portion.

No matter where I am I always prefer to go to the restaurant and this is the same here. There are unfortunately no decent restaurants in Kapathenga so the closer ones are in Kamuzu Road, a few km further. Unfortunately I eat dinner there around once a week only because it can be quite an adventure to go there using the not always very stable dampas (taxibike). Dark comes very early, most of them don’t have lights and almost no one else does either. On the way back the darkness is always quite impressive and when I don’t want to think about what I am doing on that unstable bike without light I just look at the amazing sky full of brightening stars, this feeling is amazing. Anyway, when you are at the restaurant you know why you did the ride. The menu is quite simple, there are not so many options but to me this is a paradise. Basically you can have Chambo fish curry, beef curry or chicken curry with either Nzima, chips or rice. There are also burgers but I know a lot of time is needed to prepare them and usually I am too impatient to get my food to order that. I don’t know how well the kitchen is equipped but I believe they make miracles with a very basic equipment. I always go to the same restaurant because it is so good and because I believe the other ones are by far less good. The meals cost a maximum of 3 dollars, to what you have to add the dampa money (around 0.60 dollar for each 20 minutes ride). Whenever I am Lilongwe the capital city or visiting anything out of here I also always go to the restaurant and among other things this is what makes those excursions so enjoyable. Once I went to Lilongwe (it can takes until 2 hours to get there) just to go to the restaurant and I am looking forward to be travelling in South Africa in two weeks to enjoy good and various food.

This was about my food in Malawi. As I am staying in a village with no vehicle so it makes things beeing like that. For the usual tourists or expats the situation is probably different, I assume they can enjoy good food easily.

2 more pics at the bottom of this page.

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