“Do you have a Cooking Stick?”

Before moving to Kenya, we’d spent at least six months trying to transition our diet to something simpler, knowing that we would not be making a lot of fancy recipes once here. We tried our hand at making chapati with vegetables and other foods that we would have available at our local markets. One food that we did not try out was ugali, a known staple. Isaiah had visited Kenya with Marc in the Fall and came back with nothing but complaints about ugali (because they don’t even make it with any salt!). However, it didn’t take long for us to realize that any dinner made without ugali is really considered just a snack.

So, yesterday a neighborhood girl came to show me how to make ugali–which is really very simple. You boil water, add cornmeal until it “looks right,” (pretty thick, indeed) then cook it until it is not too sticky to touch. It ends up like dry mashed potatoes. But before showing me the art of ugali, she asked, “Do you have a cooking stick?” Which apparently was essential, because when I showed her my fancy American cooking utensils, you could almost see her turn up her nose in disdain. She went home to fetch a cooking stick, and after eating ugali (to the delight of all the children minus Isaiah), she returned with a gift just for me:

Because you can’t make ugali without it, apparently!