Visiting village kitchens has always been a favorite. I recently had the experience of cooking in a village kitchen where all of the items had been grown on their farm.
I have spent many years camping and love “roughing it”. I love cooking over an open flame, roasting hot dogs and marshmallows, cooking foil wrapped baked potatoes, cooking multiple course meals in various dutch ovens, making tin foil dinners, dutch oven pizzas. I love trying new campfire desserts like smores made with chocolate cookies and fruit cobblers.
I love developing survival skills like fire starting without matches, building temporary shelters and growing my own vegetables.
My adventure seeking sometimes hits a jackpot. When I told my Malawi family I was coming for a visit, they asked me to plan to eat with them. I asked if we could take it one step further and asked if I could actually help prepare the meal. I was surprised she said yes, but looked forward to it.
She prepared the chicken and nsima, my job was to prepare and cook the vegetables. My jobs were to prepare okra and sliced cucumbers. It reminded me of being invited to bring food to family parties at home and knowing the assignments are made on what they think you can handle.
Sliced cucumbers. A fairly easy task. What made the experience different was using a very dull knife while cutting the cucumbers on a plate in my lap while sitting on a cinderblock. I thought I was doing y ok until Mum took over after deciding I was talking to long and needed to start on the okra. I didn’t get to see her technique, but she was significantly faster. Malawi cucumbers are my favorite! I actually crave them. The flavor is better than an apple and I seriously think I could eat them every meal.
I was being directed to begin the okra. I was handed the full knife, a small plastic plate and some fresh picked okra. She demonstrated the task and I began. I could see the painful looks on their faces as I struggled to portray that I really am pretty good in a kitchen. After the okra was sliced, I sliced the handful of leaves I had been given. I added soda to the boiling water and then added the greens and let them simmer. While it was simmering over the fire in the center of the room, I was handed a tomato and began slicing it.
The smoke in the room made it difficult to breathe, yet no one except me complained. I honestly don’t know how they were not struggling. They all enjoyed kindly laughing at my inability to handle the smoke. I had to keep leaving the room. I was a bit embarrassed, and extremely humbled, and yet felt all the love.
I know I am the first foreigner to cook in that kitchen. It is my goal to do it every time I visit. Maybe next time, I will get graduate to more difficult tasks.
The meal was amazing…even the okra. The experience was unforgettable. Cooking and eating with this incredible family is one is my best days. I know teaching me was challenging, but they got a lot of laughs out of it. I felt loved and honored to cook with these amazing women.