Monday, September 26, 2011

EATING IN NGARA

We are far removed from the "anything at anytime" availablility of goods in the developed world.  There is no such thing as 7-Eleven or WalMart, or even anything close.  Town is a 40 minute walk away.  There are little hole in the wall food shops, and I have only found a couple of restaurants I would venture to eat in.  Also, since the town water pump has been broken for a few weeks I am reluctant to go to even those, since the water shortage has probably left them washing food and hands a little less carefully. 

On the good side, we have a plethora of fresh vegetables at amazingly cheap prices, compared to what we are used to, even with the "mzungo premium" we sometimes pay.  There is a central market in town situated under old UN tents that is open daily.  There are also some open air shops where our dirt road meets the main road, about a 20 minute walk away.  The best prices are at the Saturday market, when all kinds of sellers bring their goods (fruits, vegetables, meat, used clothes, and kangas (the African material used for clothes and a lot of other things) and lay them out on blankets for display.  It covers a whole hillside.  Luckily this is only a 5 minute walk from us, so we can load up on a lot of things and not have to carry them far.  There is some bargaining involved but it is easier once you know the going price range.  We pay about 40 cents per kg of potatoes (about 1/2 pound), 12 cents for an avocado or cucumber, and 30 cents for a small pineapple.




Saturday market near Afriline
We eat meat rarely and only at restaurants, since we have no refrigerator.  Even there, you would not eat a lot since the goat and beef meat is very tough and takes a long time to chew.  The chickens here have so little meat on them it is almost not worth the trouble.  I pass a lot of goats on the way home from school, and they are extremely skinny.  The one time I went to Rwanda the animals looked a lot plumper, and the chicken I had in Kigali was like a dream.  The farmers occasionally bring live chickens to school to sell to the teachers and charge about $3 for them.  One of my teachers offered to come to my house and slaughter one for me, but I refused, since I would have no idea what to do with it and not sure I want to learn.  I am sure my diet is deficient in protein so I am trying to eat a few eggs every week.  They can be found in town for about 15 cents apiece and I try to eat them within a couple of days since they are not refrigerated.  I know corn and beans make a complete protein.  There are plenty of beans around, although they are a little hard on the digestion in any quantity,  but so far I have only seen maize flour, not the fresh stuff.  I am not sure when the season is, but I remember seeing dried corn stalks when we came here in July.  I did make vegetarian chili a couple of times and would have loved some cornbread to go with it, but haven't seen corn meal either, even if we had an oven to make it in.  Cooking is confined to our 2 burner electric hotplate, which we didn't get till we had been here about 6 weeks.  Before that we only had a small camp stove we had to use outside due to the fumes from the petroleum.  I much prefer the hotplate, though it is not of any use when the electricity goes out.  This was rare when we first got here, but lately it has happened several times a week.  It is nice to have some bread and peanut butter handy for those occasions.
Neighbor Elie from England checks her cell phone while making banana fries in our "kitchen."


The "supermarket" in town is like a mini Walmart compressed into a room about 20 by 40 feet. Food is on a few shelves and the rest of the room is taken up by sundries and hardware.  They do not sell fresh food here, just packaged things like juice, cookies, powdered milk, oil, mustard, coffee, and spices.  The owner is from Oman, so a lot of the imports are from Arab countries.  She also sells bread from the bakery in town for about 80 cents a small loaf, but it always tastes stale even when you buy it the same day it was made.  They apparently only make white bread here.  I bought some whole grain rolls at a restaurant in Mwanza, but that was the only time I have seen it.  I am pretty sure they don't fortify it with vitamins as they do in the USA, but it is filling.  Rice and white flour are available but expensive compared to other things, about $1 per kilogram.

The family that owns the supermarket also owns the best restaurant in town, Paradise.  She contracts with a local woman to supervise all the cooking, but approves all the recipes.  They do not have a menu but serve a buffet daily which usually consists of rice, fried bananas, beef stew, tomato sauce, and cabbage salad for about $2.  Sometimes they have chicken which is very well prepared but you feel like you are just chewing skin on bone, no meat.  The other restaurant we go to is mainly an outdoor bar, named Garden Pause.  They have little cabanas roofed with some kind of thatch where people mostly drink beer, but you can get rice and meat stew, brochettes, and chips mayai, a Tanzanian omelette made with french fries and eggs.  One problem is that the restaurants here only serve food after 1 p.m., a little late for me since breakfast is usually just a piece of plain bread and coffee.  I rarely would go there at night because I could not walk home in the dark.  No street lights here and a little scary, although there does not seem to be a big crime problem here.  There are picky pickys that go at night but I am a little leery of getting on a motorcycle at night with someone I don't know, although I have done it and not had a problem so far. 

The meals I make most often are usually a combination of vegetables.  Avocados are cheap so we make a lot of guacamole with onions and tomatoes.  I like salad with boiled potatoes, cucumber, onion, tomato, olive oil and vinegar.  Greens are not recommended by the Embassy because of bacteria but Breana makes a good cabbage salad.  She likes to cook and has made good banana curry, rice pilaf, and chappatis.  Ellie, our new English neighbor, came over and made spaghetti with fresh tomato sauce and banana fries.  Another time I made sweet potato fries but still cringe at the amount of oil used.  For years I have not added salt to food, but I got a little freaked out after I passed out at school from dehydration, and have been pretty liberal with it since.  We are so used to a processed diet in the USA, which contains tons of salt.  My present diet consists of almost all fresh food.  Even the peanut butter is local and lightly processed.  The only canned things I buy are coffee and powdered milk.


Hoping to get to Kigali soon for some protein.