It always depends. Meals here, similar to the trend of our schedule, are continuously dependent on factors outside of our control. Meals are based on the availability of electricity, whether there’s bread or certain vegetables available in the market, the amount of time we have available to cook and/or if we can get the coal burning stove to warm up enough.
One method of cooking we tried to adapt early in our stay was to learn to cook on a small coal burning stove. Most Malawians cook this way and we were eager to try so we did not have to depend on the unreliable electricity. Our first instructor was the hospital cook. He showed us how to light the fire and let the coals burn slowly enough so they could last for hours. After he showed us once, we were sure we could do it by ourselves. Our next solo attempt was hysterical. We took nine matches to get the kindling to stay lit and spent at least twenty minutes fanning the flames until the coals were lit enough. Even though it was time consuming and more difficult than we anticipated it has been fun to learn!
Regardless of our methods for cooking, we’ve been incredibly fortunate and have had great luck with each meal. Each time we were in Lilongwe, we went to a Western grocery store and went grocery shopping. We got basic food items we were familiar with such as spaghetti, noodles for mac and cheese, bread for grilled cheese and tuna melts and vegetables for curries. While at our base at the hospital, we have traveled to Namitondo nearly every other day for extra supplies. There’s a little farmers market that sells tomatoes, green vegetables that slightly resemble kale, onions, sardines and a few other items. There are also men that cook in a giant pot that sell ready to eat items. One of these items is called chips, essentially French fries. We love them!
One of the first days we were here, we visited the man picked us up from the airport, Nicholas. He is a baker in Namitondo. He took us behind his home where a giant brick oven was located. He showed us through the process he went through to make bread. It was so fun! We were eager to try his bread but none was baked yet so we promised to come back later. Throughout the past week and a half we have picked up bread from Nicholas regularly for lunches and dinners. Or so we thought. Dr. Nesbit came with us only on the first visit to Nicholas’s bakery. It wasn’t until this week she came with us again and kindly pointed out that we had been getting the wrong bread the entire time. All three of us forgot which shop was Nicholas’ and we had accidently been buying from the shop next to his! Needless to say, the shop owner next to him likes us very much.
Although the meals we have made ourselves have been great, they have been very American and we were eager to try more “authentic” food while we were here. The hospital has a cafeteria so last Friday night we went there for dinner. We tried nsima, a corn based porridge that is thick enough to mold with your fingers. To eat nsima, you break off a piece and roll it around in your fingers to soften it up. Then you wrap it around a few veggies or dip it in a sauce. It was very filling and tasted delicious!
Regardless of how we have obtained or made our food, we sure have had a fun time throughout the process.
With warm hearts,
Samantha, Alycia and Melody (S.A.M.)