Warm heart of Africa

Catch up with my adventures in Malawi https://youtu.be/TKApvBoXMpI 

It is a beautiful country full of charming, generous people who shared their culture, cuisine and aspirations.  Definitely the place to visit for your first experience of this extraordinary continent.

 

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Meet International Music Star

Supported by rock star, Madonna, meet Lazarus who is soon to become famous through a film about his life.  Cooking with the albino group in Malawi (https://youtu.be/KtWv-awdX2s  I learnt about the challenges they face and the success they achieve. With the pale skin and hair resulting from their albinism, these are people who stand out in Africa.    Some people still think that they are ghosts or spirits; many have been attacked in the past, some killed and their bones dug up for export for ritual magic.    Getting work is extra challenging especially as many have visual impairments too.  Thank goodness that the Government of Malawi is taking action to help them with special creams that are reducing the risk of skin cancer.

But, like people everywhere, members of this group still have ambition, determination, motivation and lust for life.  Take Virginia who has become a school teacher, influencing future generations to develop more inclusive attitudes.  Although she recognises that not everyone is kind and understanding of her situation, she continues undaunted to make the very best of her talents.

Lazarus is made of the same stuff: he had been playing music at every opportunity to provide for his family – doing what he can do best.  Now, with the help of Madonna, a film of his life and music is due for release.  He’s already been featured on the BBC World Service and his star will continue to shine.

Who would have believed that just hoping to cook with local people in Malawi would have brought me such revelations?  There is no end to the surprises  and abilities of people all over the world.  My thanks to everyone at the Association of Persons with Albinism in Malawi.

 

 

Mud huts and traditional dances.

 

The dance was authentic but cooking in the Malawi village https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zOu3AYr5eZA&feature=youtu.be was rather a cheat: instead of basic pots over a fire on the ground, we used a sort of field kitchen.  But I did manage to pound cassava leaves in the long-handled pestle and mortar.

Our hosts from the Latitude 13 hotel in Lilongwe www.latitudehotels.com.

had contacts in this simple rural village.  Hotel Manager, Mehul, Head Chef, Cephus,  and his sous chef, Mphatso,  made all the arrangements from the kitchen equipment and transport to the ingredients and treats for the children.  As we left, the hotel team were planning future support to make those village lives a little easier.

The houses were simple round structures: built with hand-made mud bricks and roughly rendered.  They have to be careful to avoid the carcinogens when firing the bricks over open fires.  The basic thatched rooves were perhaps cooler in the hot climate and easy to create from the local vegetation but had waterproof  liners for rainy days.  Even the communal latrine hut was immaculate.   If you spend most of the time outside, just basic airy and cool indoor sleeping spaces are probably enough.

It was the structured village culture that was so impressive.  In a place without electricity or running water, everything and everyone was neat, tidy, clean and orderly.  Everyone had turned out to watch this strange blind woman attempt their recipes.

The women and youngest children sat chatting and laughing on their own large straw mat while, alongside, the older children sat on theirs – politely patient with the proceedings.  The few chairs were set out in the shade for the elder men  as befitting their age and status.  Only the adolescent young men ranged around the edges: understandably bemused,  rather bored and dismissive of the whole spectacle.

The subsequent village dance was more to their taste.  We trundled over the rough terrain for a mile or so to a large clear space where many of the local people had gathered to celebrate their chieftain.  There were wildly exotic costumes and masks, much foot-stomping to the sound of cheers and singing.  They were all having a wonderful time   and I was the one sitting on a throne-like bench  taking in every bit of the fun.

It was all rather humbling to have been given such a very warm welcome and been admitted in to the lives of all these people.  I came away with considerable respect for and better insight in to a way of life that was so different in many ways but also so familiar in others.

 

 

Head Chef’s top dish at Lilongwe’s best hotel

Cephus showed me his best-selling dish of prawn risotto   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u_-_m3xDeqU&feature=youtu.be

at the magnificent Latitude 13 hotel in the capital of Malawi www.latitudehotels.com.

We were cooking under a huge tree alongside a swimming pool of excited children.

Fish from Lake Malawi is very popular everywhere in the country but, being otherwise land-locked, seafood such as prawns have to be imported from the African coast.

It was a great dish but, even better, was Cephus’s insight into the progress that is underway in Malawi, rightly called the “Warm heart of Africa”.

Communications are improving with the internet and mobile phones.  Construction of new roads and buildings are playing their part in increasing business and the economy of the country.  Life for everyone is easier and getting better – people are happier.

Blind people are benefiting too with Government support: learning to read and write; knitting clothes and moving towards work.

With sous chef Emily producing the de-veined prawns, our delicious dish reached its sumptuous conclusion with the final drizzle of garlic and butter.  Perfection in the warm sun alongside the fun in the pool.