Tuesday, September 1

Food – glorious food

I recently gave another more comprehensive presentation with a DVD about my visit to Malawi which was followed by a lunch prepared by the support group members with the emphasis on Malawian flavours. Those who attended gave generous donations. One member – by courtesy of Wikipedia- also presented his research findings about Malawian food just before we sampled all of the delicious dishes. His presentation is listed below for those who may be interested:

Malawian Food

Despite its natural riches, Malawi remains a very poor country. In this little country most people are subsistence farmers. This means they grow most of their own food in small gardens. If a family has extra food, they take it to market to trade for other necessities. Malawi cuisine has remained largely free of culinary influences from the outside world, until the late 19th century, with the exception of the use of cassava, Peanut, and chilli pepper plants which arrived along with the slave trade during the early 1500s. These foodstuffs have had a large influence on the local cuisine, but less on the preparation methods. Malawi cooking has remained mostly traditional. The staple food in Malawi is Nsima (which is the Malawian equivalent of Zambian Nshima and is made either from cornmeal, maize or ground, dried, cassava.) Nsima is a thick porridge that can be moulded into patties and served with either beans, meat, or vegetables collectively called Ndiwo. Other Malawian dishes are prepared with rice, cassava or potatoes. However, the keystone of any traditional Malawian meal is starch; the relish is a secondary element intended to give flavour to the food. Because the Malawi people have always been farmers, this meal is highly regarded because it gives the necessary energy to work in the field all day.

So all over Malawi, the meal is composed of two main dishes: the starch (Nsima) and the relish (Ndiwo). While the recipe for starch is mostly the same all over Malawi, the relish is very different from region to region. In the east of Malawi, it is made mostly from vegetables, as meat is expensive and most people can’t afford it. The basic ingredients in this region are rice and foutou (massed plantain and cassava) and fufu (fermented cassava). A variety of local ingredients are used while preparing other dishes like spinach stew, cooked with tomato, peppers, chillies, onions and Peanut butter. Cassava (manioc) plants are also consumed as green salad. A traditional recipe for the basic vegetable Ndiwo includes Onion, tomatoes and green vegetables, especially cassava.

The Malawi Lake, located in the eastern regions of Malawi, is a great source of various types of Fish. The main types are Chambo, Mlamba (Catfish), Usipa, and Kampango. The people that live around the lake use the fish to cook delicious relishes and other foods. A traditional Ndiwo made from fish is the Curried Chambo fish. The main ingredients for this dish are: fish fillets, lemon juice, flour, onions, curry powder, fruit chutney and carrots. Chambo (Tilapia fish) is the country’s speciality and the main lake delicacy. Another traditional food is Wali wa samaki, made from salmon, vermicelli, Onion, carrots, rice and seasonings.

In Malawian cuisine there are some exotic recipes based on insects. These dishes have different preparation methods than other dishes. Ana a Njuchi (wild bee larvae) are dried and then fried with salt and dried again. They are served as a relish or appetizer. To cook bwamnoni (large green bush crickets) you have to remove wings and horned part of legs. After that, boil them in water for five minutes, then dry in the sun. Fry with a little salt and a little fat if desired. This dish is served as an Ndiwo relish. The nsensenya (shield bugs) are washed and fried with a little salt until they are brown and also served as a relish.

Special Equipment for Malawian Cooking

The Malawian cooking methods are basic ones and you don’t need any special equipment to cook any of the dishes in the Malawi cuisine. Your everyday cooking pots and pans are enough to cook a complete Malawian meal. However, if you want a true Malawian food experience, you should know that cooking is still done the traditional way in Malawi. In the vast majority of Malawian homes, food is cooked over a wood fire using a tripod made of three supporting stones. Women (and children helpers) are responsible for everything concerning the food from market shopping to dish washing. As Nshima is eaten with the hands, everyone washes in a communal bowl before and after the meal. Many Malawians have mud stoves outside of the house, where they cook bread. Since Nshima and Ndiwo are the essential elements of the Malawian cuisine, there are some special tools used when cooking these dishes. One of these tools is mthiko, the cooking stick that is specially made for cooking Nshima and Ndiwo.

Masterchef & Musical Fun Night

I was also privileged during the following weeks to attend a fun novelty music night with the added attraction of our own community Master chefs who produced an Entree, Main course and Dessert. We all voted to determine first prize.

Profit after expenses all went towards Sanctuary Victoria to provide help for a most deserving refugee family.

The music, sing alongs (such as The Lion sleeps to night, The Pub with no Beer etc), and musical questions for added prizes all made for a convivial evening.

To give you flavour here are a few of the questions about golden oldies – see if you’re familiar with any of these songs and can answer the questions

How old was the Naughty Lady of Shady Lane – sung by Dean Martin?

Wobbly Boot – Slim Dusty
Do you know what a wobbly boot is and what is a galoot?

Lily the Pink- The Scaffold
What did medicinal compound do for everyone?

Little Boxes – Pete Seeger
What is ticky tacky?

What are all these songs all about?

Rivers of Babylon – Steve Earle
True Blue – John Williamson
Okie From Muskogee – Merle Haggard

Matilda, Matilda – Harry Belafonte
Who was Matilda?

The rules were there were no rules except to relax and enjoy yourself and laugh. Correct and clever answers , good and and not so good guesses , those attempting to sing a few lines and impersonations received varying scores with prizes awarded according to perceived levels of agreement and enthusiasm.

What more could you ask for a good nights entertainment.


susan said...

1. 9 days old

2. drunk - weird person

3. considering it was 40 proof alcohol..

4. cheaply made

5. slavery (one of my favorite songs)

By the rivers of Babylon
Where he sat down
And there he went
When he remembered Zion.

For the wicked, carry us away
Captivity require from us a song
How can we sing king alphas song in a strange land?

So let the words of our mouth
And the meditations of our hearts
Be acceptable in thy sight
Over i

6. for myself, I think it's Vegemite.

7. pride in being dumb as a post

8. a bag for stuff

That was fun, Lindsay :-)

gfid said...

well, Susan is a very hard act to follow, so i'll just applaud loudly in appreciation..... but you did tweak a memory. a friend served for 2 years as a teacher somewhere in the neighborhood of Malawi years ago. she was a young widow, her husband having died young, of cancer. there were literally flocks of local men vying for her hand, she being a 'wealthy' north american woman who clearly needed a husband..... till it was discovered that she hadn't yet learned to make the staple cornmeal dish, and was thus not suitable wifely material. and, oddly, she never seemed very adept at learning.... so she came home as single as she left. and remains single to this day.

Seraphine said...

the malawi cooking sounds awsome. i wouldn't mind the vegetarian versions, especially after hearing about the buggy versions.
and bread from mud ovens? i'd definitely love to try that. i assume it is a kind of flatbread?

the only trivia question i knew is little boxes/ticky tacky. at least, i *think* i know. ticky tacky refers to the suburban houses that were built in the 1950s and 1960s that basically looked alike. they used the same basic blueprints and materials (with minor variations) because they were cost efficient and affordable. the idea was to find housing for servicemen coming home from war and the baby-boom children that followed.
society was very conservative and conformist, perhaps as a result of living in these "tacky" little boxes.
am i right?

lindsaylobe said...

Hi Susan, Granny F & Sera

Susan – Very well done!!- The song ‘True Blue’ was written as protest against Australian goods being manufactured or overseas
Thanks for participating.

Granny F – how remarkable – not to difficult to make – I guess we all have our idiosyncrasies and balk at learning what to most seem rather straightforward aspects to a new life.

As mentioned, traditional cooking in Malawi only uses 3 stones. Mud stoves have become popular and were first demonstrated and used in the 1930's by teachers whose students subsequently used mud ovens for commercial bread baking.

Mud stoves use only 10% of the wood needed compared to 3-stones fires which reduces the harmful effect of deforestation within this highly populated country. The added advantage is the facility for families to have more food variety in the diet as 2 or 3 pans can be heated rather than the dependency one cooking pot under the old method. Fried dough is eaten and flat bread can be bought cheaply in markets throughout the country.
Some time ago I was in contact with Sister Mary Doonan from the Medical Missionaries who devoted a lot of time to encouraging the woman to add more variety to their family’s diet. Mary was surprised how popular she quickly became as husbands relished the added flavors and variety which had been added to their previous staple diet.

Best wishes

Seraphine said...

you can tell i'm a "westerner" because i don't think of cooking in terms of how much wood i must burn at mealtime.
it's interesting how even small gains in efficiency can have a dramatic effect on the environment, and also ultimately on one's diet and health.
Thanks for sharing that, Lindsay.

gfid said...

i suspect it wasn't the learning she balked at, but the attitude that she was incomplete if unmarried, both in Malawi and in Canada

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