Friday, May 15, 2009

Laughter in Lilongwe

On our first evening in Lilongwe our team broke up into two - each half went to dinner at the EWB OVS' host family's home. I ended up going to the Adams' house for a traditional Malawi meal: Nshima!

The hospitality of the Adams family was phenomenal. They welcomed us into their home to share a meal and asked nothing in return. We were welcomed with great smiles and open arms. Their home was not too unlike that of a North American home - a family room, a kitchen, and a backyard with a garden (only this garden was growing some kind of crop). Their family room was equipped with a TV and adorned with some form of porcelain dogs (aha! Dogs that EWB volunteers can be near - no fear of rabies).

Before the Jfs headed into the kitchen to learn the art of Nshima we were given a GIGANTIC bowl of ground nuts. Ground nuts look like peanuts but taste fairly different; regardless I really liked trying them.

Nshima is the staple food in Malawi and Zambia - the best way I can describe it is that it is some sort of Maize porridge. It's cooked by adding maize meal to warm water and then stirring and then bowling and then adding more maize and stirring more and so on. Eventually a very thick porridge is in the pot that is scooped into portions. One portion of Nshima was huge! I could barely finish it. Mrs. Adams taught us how to test the water (dip the spoon and drop it on your hand, it needs to be a certain temperature) how to add maize and how to stir. She showed us all her different cook ware - my favourite was a GIANT Nshima stirring spoon. Sierra has a picture of it - I hope to post it soon. Nshima is eaten by rolling a ball in your right hand and then using it to scoop relishes. It's tasty, and despite the severe case of Nshima coma that follows I love it.

As I mentioned above the meal was humongous. I could barely finish the relishes and Nshima. Fish and chicken were also served - I did not partake in them though (vegetarian). I was told that in traditional Malawian culture the fish head granted wisdom and that woman are not allowed to eat the fish head. The punishment for eating the head was divorce.

The dinner was full of laughter and discussion - warm hospitality. The open sharing between the two groups was never too serious; it was happy and genuine. It was a great experience to be introduced to Malawian food and culture with such an amazing and friendly family. They cooked far more food than our group could devour and offered us to come and dine with them whenever any of us are in Lilongwe. I left the house feeling genuinely great and ready to learn more about Malawian culture – this meal was just the tip of the iceberg and I want to experience a lot more!



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