Let’s eat. (We can pray and love later. If we feel like it.)

OK, so I have been doing my best to keep you all up to date on my activities, which is good – but I have forgotten what really inspired the blogging to begin with. Rawlsy is back in New Brunswick, penning the script to Eat Pray Love 2: the condensed Natalie Joan edition.  In which Julia Roberts is replaced with Maggie Gyllenhaal and doesn’t have a publisher to finance her year abroad and so stays for nine weeks. And she doesn’t engage the help of a sexy Latin man to solve her problems, because while far from perfect, she was generally happy to begin with.

So darling, without further ado… let’s eat. African food has not disappointed. I am loving every little bit of it. (OK. That is a lie. Last night I was served some kind of sour tomato. I was not a fan. But it was the exception to prove the rule.)

The adventure starts in the Seychelles, when on night number one, exhausted, hungry and uncreative, D. and I stumble across the street, to the beach-side pizzeria. We’re a little disappointed in ourselves for not choosing something more exotic, but we know that will come. Nevertheless, we peruse the menu with interest. I was considering something awesome, like octopus pizza, when my scanning eyes found the incredible ONION pizza. Seriously. Dough, plus sauce, plus onion, plus cheese. Nothing else there to spoil the flavour. Onion and cheese. (Dad, are you reading? How is it that we never came up with this on our own?) It was incredible. Particularly when paired with Seybeer.

Also experienced in the Seychelles: fresh barbecued tuna, dipped in chilli sauce. Amazing. I wished I had a bigger appetite, because it was worth having seconds, even thirds.

One regret: I did not eat bat. I wanted to. But by the time we worked up the courage, we didn’t have another opportunity to try it. There are large bats in the Seychelles. Fruit bats, with wingspans of 4-5 feet. Amazing. And apparently, they taste like chicken. (But only after you soak them in vinegar for a few hours, to kill the smell.)

Then to Tanzania. Admittedly, the safari food was not worth mentioning. It was fine, even more than fine occasionally. But it was cooked for Western tourists, and I could have been eating it pretty much anywhere. There was usually one “African” meat dish, more often than not it was lamb. I did my best to like it, despite hating myself for eating a poor baby, but the verdict is in: after years of avoiding lamb because I didn’t like the idea of it, I now know I also don’t like the taste.

And now, for a very reasonable $150 per week, I have food and lodging at the school. My own room with ensuite (though admittedly not always functional) bathroom, and a cook and housekeeper. Josephine is a fantastic cook. Our typical meal is either rice or ugali (sometimes potato) with two types of vegetable: carrots, peas, cabbage, etc. Then, some kind of fresh fruit for dessert. Occasionally there is meat. I do not always know what kind.

Ugali is a staple food in Tanzania, like potato at home. It is served with most meals. Ugali is a stiff porridge, made from white maize flour. You roll it in your hand to form a scoop, with which you pick up your beans and/or vegetables. The girls eat ugali pretty much every day, a few times a day. We get it a few times a week. It does not have a lot of taste, but mixed with the right side dishes, I find it quite enjoyable.

Ugali: creating a scoop...

Ready to eat. (Cheers to my gracious hand model, Gemma.)

Much of the cooking here is done with coconut. My favourite meal is rice, with a side of peas, cooked in a coconut sauce, and some cabbage. So yummy, and something I would never have thought of at home.I am also plantains, cooked with garlic and peppers.

And then of course, I cannot write about the food without mentioning Chips Mayai – Dar es Salaam’s favourite fast food, and one of Josephine’s specialties. Essentially, chips mayai is a french fry omelet. Fry up some chips, throw them in a pan, and add egg. I have to say, it is pretty amazing. I will try this at home. With a little ketchup and hot sauce it is truly fantastic.

Mmm. French fries and eggs.

I think I will be hosting an African supper soon after I get home. Josie has offered to teach me to cook ugali and the coconut sauce. And who can’t manage to fry french fries and eggs together. Let me know if you would like an invitation.

I just reread my post, and apologize that it is even more scattered than usual. It is past midnight and I am so tired… but I have been delaying long enough. If I take the time to edit it, it is likely you will see me before you see another post.

I will be back later in the week to address the praying and loving.

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