Finally took time to stay in the kitchen for a bit today and soak in the all the wonderful character. Freaya, Nissy and I had the privilege of private African cooking lessons from Sulemein, ever patient and all knowing when it comes to the kitchen. We ducked into the mud structure with billowing smoke pouring out the door around 10am, at least 3-4 full hours after Sulemein began her day by walking 2 hours just to reach Maisha and prepare our lunch. A plethora of garden fresh ingredients were ready for us to start chopping including beautiful red vine ripened tomatoes, massive bunches of earthy cilantro, tangawezi (ginger), garlic, green bell peppers, shallots, carrots, giant avocados and limes (which they call lemons). Dough was rising ready to be made into chapati. The tools are limited and technique is not what I’d call safe, but learned a few new things. The heart of the story was the interaction of the people.
As Nissy began cutting the shallots, the ladies in the kitchen all started commenting we were about to see her “tears of joy.” Surely enough they began soon after. Freaya began rolling out the chapati (like tortillas) which takes a little practice and Sulemein requested a story to pass the time. What came out brought tears to my eyes. Freaya related how after their great-grandfather converted to Christianity, he fasted for 40 days and had a dream that he was supposed to go to Africa. He obediently bought the airline tickets but passed away before the date arrived to travel. Now, almost 60 years later, Freaya, Nissy and a whole group of their cousins are here in Kenya at Maisha living out his dream!
All the while, we were chasing away chickens that were bound and determined to eat the beans and maize for the feeding program directly out of the boiling pots over a roaring open fire. This whole time I thought they had some disease because the state of their feathers, but they are just singed by the flames. Sulemein called them fireproof chickens. Mama Grace’s calico cat wondered in and was doing her best to win a piece of chapati. It was a perpetual game of shooing flies, chickens and the smoke in your eyes. The end product was green grahams (like lentils), rice, chapati, and one of the most extraordinary guacamole’s I’ve ever tasted. What an absolutely beautiful experience!