My First Fruit: Tree Tomato
My First Meal: Habesha Ethiopian
Imagine a place...The sun has not yet risen, and the cock sings his song to announce the dawning of a new day. The adhan rings out, to remind us to stay mindful of pray. To keep us in thought of thankfulness and humility before the greatness of The Creator. My first taste I know will be passion fruit or porridge. My host has created a remix that couples coconut and a variety of spices to accompany the sour cereal. I know that in these first tastes I will be comforted. Reminded of the warmth of life and the beauty in awakening to new days. Yeah, I'm a food junkie. Completely indulged in my sense of taste. It envelops me and inspires these words. It has brought me closer to family after work days. It sparks laughter and rest. Here in Kenya, the taste are new and fresh. It taste like, feels like home.
If I am to begin anywhere it is with Tata's food. Our meeting was very brief with no words passed between us (however by the end of the night she would name me Wabura), only glances. But her food left an impression on me that has planted roots in my culinary memory. What sticks out was the Pilau, Mokimo and Chapatis. The meal pulled on the part of me that longs for comfort and believes in the power of subtleties. The beauty in simplicity. I was comforted by the familiarity of a family meal and enticed by the newness of food from hands that have known another existence, in another space and time. And the flavors, textures and colors that being in that space give way to.
Nairobi offered meals with the ones I hold near to my heart. Family. It offered the opportunity to cook from fresh, local produce. She was Diamond Plaza and Meru's bhajias with fresh avocado and lime juice. Nairobi was egg less chocolate cake. She was Florence's dengu, sukuma wiki and chips. Nairobi is fashioned with memories of apple mangoes that are kin to bliss, sticky, oily jack fruit, custard apples and pineapples that taste like sunshine. With you beloved one, me and my Sun have run on trails in arboretums, eating mangoes from street vendors seasoned with chili. Our feet red from your soil as we sipped remixed porridge in the morning and traced peace signs with bamboo sticks on your pathways. Our tag, to show that we were there, loving and living. I've trailed the foothills of Mt. Kenya, and breathed the same air that fueled life to Kimathi and the Mau Mau during their freedom struggle. I've walked the roads of Zion, looking for elephants and eating guava jam and fresh fruit bought on the side of the road. I fell in love with my imagination again watching shooting stars and tracing constellations. I knew fullness, my appetites satiated by the abundance that you are Kenya.
In Nairobi there is Aga Khan's Hawkers market. One of the most beautiful things a foodie can come across. Food, fresh fruit and vegetables everywhere. Anything you can desire. Bargains, haggling and the sweetest, sweetness of fruit I have ever tasted. I grew full from all the different varieties of mango I sampled at different stalls. It was perfection. Amazing perfection. And I stood in the middle of all that motion, so still and quiet. Overwhelmed by taking it all in.
And then, and then...there is Mombasa. Ahh, stealer of hearts. Mombasa, clear water beaches and street food. Sugar cane juice fresh and squeezed from a mill by hand with hints of ginger and lime. Mombasa was warm and tender nights. Something kin to bhajias made with potatoes, and battered in lentil flour called viazi via karai, bought in front of someones home, deep fried on the spot in the yard and served with chili paste. (Catch me singing "Best I Ever Had"). Coconut water and breakfast that's more like an adventure in taste; Black beans cooked in coconut milk (mbazi) and stuffed in pastry or mandazis, rice and coconut cakes, lentil bhajias and fresh fruit. Mombasa is pleasure, unapologetic, unabashed. Mombasa is kin.
And I can go on and on. I left you reluctantly and with much strife. And my last tastes, once again, Tata. Pilau, beans and cabbage. The most simple and filling way to say farewell. There is so much more to say. Immense thanks and apprecilove that I cant convey proper. So, beloved one, I salute you dear heart. Until, until..Love
- 1 potato sliced in thin circles. (you can even use the slicer on a food processor)
- 1/2 cup of water
- 1 1/2 cups of gram (lentil) flour
- 1/4 cup sliced coriander leaves
- variety of spices to your taste. I reccomend any of the indian culinary spices.
- salt to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder *key element for bhajias to rise
- sunflower oil to deep fry
With the flour and water, make a thick batter, similar to pancake batter. Stir in spices to taste. Add potatoes and make sure to coat completly. Get them completly gooey with the batter. Heat oil until its really hot. Careful not to burn, but make sure that is hot, to the point o fdeep frying. You can do a test by dropping a bit of batter in the oil. If the batter puffs up, the oil is ready. Place the bhajia batter in the oil by spoonfuls. They will rise and puff in the batter. Cook until they are a golden brown and are nice and crisp, about 3 minutes. Voila. Bhajias. Serve with chili paste, tamarind sauce any number of chutneys or my favorite kachumbari, basically salsa made up of tomatoes, chili, cilantro, garlic, onion and lime. The beauty of bhajias is that there are a many versions. A bhajia is really anything fried so try the flour batter mix with spinach or onions, really any vegetable you can think of. Injoy!!
My Kitchen sounds like "Zamaney" by JahCoozi and Ukoo Flani and "Lady of the Sun" by A Race of Angels