Open fires on the ground, peeling pumpkin leaves and sifting grit from rice https://youtu.be/HJIFnn2B51I – my experience of every day cooking in Malawi.
I was cooking with a group of local people who have
albinism – the condition that means that they don’t have colour in their skin or hair. That all makes life risky in the hot climate of Africa as they are very prone to skin damage and cancer from the sun. And many have very limited eyesight too.
Malawi has a wonderful climate for growing staple ingredients such as maize (used in their nsima porridge-like
dish) and tomatoes (which feature in lots of food). Sea fish is difficult to obtain because Malawi is land-locked but there are many fresh water fish available from Lake Malawi – and these are either dried or cooked fresh.
Lack of electricity and refrigeration determine how many food stuffs are used. Much is dried so that it can be stored safely; potassium permanganate is used to kill off bugs; much of the cooking takes place outside in simple terracotta pots sitting on bricks above a fire; most food is boiled – again to kill any bacteria.
And everything that has food value is eaten: the leaves of okra, beans and pumpkins.
For me, the live chicken was probably the most disconcerting ingredient – especially as it was still laing eggs as it walked in to the compound. I didn’t see it being despatched but there were more eggs inside that we discovered: hard-boiled after the bird had been cooked.
When food can be sparse and limited, its understandable that every resource has to be used for the people to get the carbohydrates, vitamins and protein they need – especially as most have tough physical jobs. It is very different to our “Western” lifestyles where food is more than abundant and most of us do much less arduous office work.