The Local Fare

It wasn’t enough to bring me my own carafe for hot milk tea. Afraid I won’t like the local fare, the staff asked the cooks to offer me other choices at dinner until I insisted I would eat what everyone else is eating. I’ve sampled all food I’ve been offered, and the only thing I draw the line at is the slimy rotten mudfish, which I experienced at the clinic. I’ve eaten fresh roasted mudfish which is crispy and palatable, but the stench of that stew-like dish would make the eyes of a lutefisk-lover water.

Two new dishes for me this go-round. Rushuck, a pale green soupy food made with crushed ground nuts (we call them peanuts) and okra from our garden. It’s quite tasty. The cooks serve it with ugali, a pasty dish made from maize flour, a little like polenta, but white in color and pastier in texture. I can do without ugali, though I’ll eat it if it’s the only starch. 

Madita, a sweetened porridge made with ground maize and milk, is a delicious treat. Here, they serve it in a cup and we drink the thick breakfast-type treat. We’ve only had it once. I would definitely have it again.

Several times, we’ve had kudra, a dark leafy plant we grow on our site. It’s cooked with oil, dark green in color and slimy in texture–cooked until it’s almost a liquid. Because they thought I might not like it, they made me chicken and rice, but I was happy for the green vegetation in spite of the texture. At home I love kale, chard, spinach, and we have seeds for these plants here, so one day, when our garden is producing year-round, we will have these important nutritional foods here regularly.

Chickens here are the epitome of free range and very flavorful, though I’ve eaten an old rooster whose meat was as tough as he was in life, ruling his roost. 

Though much of our staple food supply comes from Juba or Bor in South Sudan, or Kenya when the roads are flooded, we reserve part of the food budget to buy local meat a couple times a week: antelope or goat. In spite of all the cattle in the village, beef is rare because it’s available only when slaughtered for a special occasion. And though villagers who own cattle drink and cook with the fresh milk, at ASAH we serve full fat powdered milk to our girls, served hot with tea and sugar.

Generally meat here is served in a stew. If we had Ugandans or Kenyans cooking, we’d have it roasted, which makes even goat a treat for me.

There’s fun food, even here in South Sudan. Ayot, paper bread, is a favorite of our ASAH girls. It’s nearly paper-thin, with a spongy texture. Folded many times over into a pocket shape, Ayot is used like similar foods in other African countries to dip into soupy food, sauces, or even to pick up bits of meat. 

We have silverware here at ASAH, but Sudanese are accustomed to eating with their fingers, so ayot makes for an enjoyable way to feed themselves. Still, our girls and staff are generally using spoons and forks.

I enjoy nyiny, a dish made with whole beans and whole maize, something like githeri (spelling?) served in Kenya, though the dish here in the village is somewhat plainer. Still, it’s a break from plain old beans. 

I’ve ordered fruits and vegetables, biscuits and powdered juices that will arrive on our AIM Air cargo flight the 28th. I won’t get a taste as I fly out on that plane to return to Kenya, but I’ll be back in a city where these types of I-take-it-for-granted foods will once again be available, and a few days later, I’ll be home in the US.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s