Ukambani

{{popup treeAndCow.jpg treeAndCow 640×480}}Tree And Cow (2k image) Ukambani is Kamba Land, the area of the Kamba tribe; it’s where I live. Tala is on a flat plain and somewhat dull from a landscape perspective. But out where I visited on Saturday, it’s quite beautiful.

Upon arrival in Machakos I headed for the T.Tot Hotel. Everyone knows it; it has the best Mandazi. It was there I had arranged to meet Dominic, and there I planned to eat my lunch.

The choices for vegetarians are not great. I’ve mentioned before the fact that there is one stew with either chicken or beef. Last time I fought with Chicken bones, this time I went for beef on the basis that it would be already cut up and mostly separated from the bones. I told the waiter I wanted beef stew and…
“Rice?”, he suggested.
“No, not rice, ugali“, I replied, “and a chapati”.
He stared at me in disbelief.
“Ugali?”, he intoned.
I nodded and smiled.
“And chapati?”, he added, incredulously.
I continued to smile and nod authoratatively.
“And mango juice”, I added.
I assumed that he just thought I’d ordered a bit too much, and since my appetite that had been sharpened by the bus ride, I didn’t mind.

When he brought the food he stopped short of the table and tilted his tray slightly; I thought the stew was going for a burton.
“This is chapati”, he said, indicating first one dish and then another, “and this is ugali.”
“Yes, good!”, I beamed and pointed at my table. I realized that he was finding it hard to believe that a mzungu would choose such a traditional dish. The idea sank in slowly as he arranged the plates and glasses on my table and placed a knife, fork and spoon against my stew bowl. Before I realized myself what I was doing, I’d reached out and pulled a lump of sticky maize meal off the ugali dish and was kneeding it between my thumb and forefingers in local style. I had to follow through. I dipped the resultant thumb-pot in my stew and raised it to my mouth with gravy and beef on borad.

What fun! I ate my meal with my fingers, for the first itme in Africa! I finished the lot and enjoyed it more than the chicken stew last time. My waiter promptly lost interest since, if i was prepared to eat with my fingers, then ordering chapati and ugali was no big deal after all.

4 Comments

  1. Tom Says:

    You go. What a fun restaurant experience.

    Do you think you’ll take up eating with fingers as a permanent thing now? Perhaps even when back in the West?

  2. Mark Says:

    I doubt it, Tom. I ate with my fingers for a while when I came back from India. But it seemed pretentious. I know that many people who do eat with their fingers say that they can’t "taste" the food as well when they use utensils. I can see what they mean, and if I were to do it a lot, and get over the discomfort that we Britts associate with having gotten our food over our hands, I could imagine missing the sensation. But in geneal its a bit too risky. And my home cooked Ugali doesn’t come up to scratch.

  3. Tom Says:

    What exactly is Ugali?

  4. zorka Says:

    I love eating with my fingers. But now in the west, and with long, varniches nails, it’s not too practical. Even in an indian.

    Did i tell you about my hercules phase when i was 19? I made it a point to eat everything with my fingers. Even noodles. it was because i loved the TV series, and i loved the idea of eating a drumstick with one hand, and then using the other to hold my silver goblet on high and say ‘more wine.. more wine’ .