Good Food for Lunch – ugali, rice, meat and ???

Sunday Communion Services were rotated among the out churches (bush churches). Folks from surrounding churches would gather for the worship/Bible teaching meeting after which the Communion Service would be held. And, after that, the whole crowd met together, divided into groups, for a meal. And, as one of the visiting pastors, I was included in a meal together with the other church leadership. And, being one of the “bageni ba lina” (guests with a name [honor]), usually a good Sukuma meal would be served.
This one Sunday the service was held at a church in a very remote area. There had been drought for a couple of years and most people living in that area had difficulty obtaining basic food essentials. For this special Sunday, though, the Christians had collected enough for the church crowd.
As we sat in the dim interior of the local evangelist’s hut, the food for us was brought in. The ugali (cornmeal mush) was there. The bowl containing the meat and gravy was there. The procedure was to take a piece of mush and, after molding it with your fingers into a small ‘bowl-like’ portion, dip it into the gravy and eat it.
To me, there seemed to be something floating on top of the gravy – something that looked like real short pieces of fine grass. Since it was dark I could not really make out what it was. But, by swishing the piece of ugali through it, I was able to dip my ugali into the real tasty gravy.
One of the church leaders fished out a hunk of meat. He was sitting close to me and I could see what it was! I was a longish strip of meat but with the skin still attached, hairs and all. He first folded it in half, skin and hair inward, and popped it into his mouth. I think he just ‘sucked’ on it for a while and then swallowed it whole! When he saw that I was not eating the meat he showed me how to do it. Now I knew what was floating on top of the gravy. Hairs!!!
The African pastor who was with me was appalled. He knew what it was (beef neck meat with the skin still attached!) and objected strongly to “poor man’s meat” being served to “bageni ba lina” (guests with a name [honor]). He proceeded to voice his displeasure and rebuke the evangelist but the other church leaders who were there were able to tone things down and give explanation for the reason for the “poor man’s” meal.
I continued to eat – mostly the cornmeal mush and what gravy I could get as hairlessly as possible. I ate little of the meat even though I had been shown how to do it – “fold it, hair inwards, and don’t chew. Just swallow”.
And the copious quantities of sweet “chai” (tea) that came later helped clear any lingering hairs in my throat. My stomach? That’s another matter. But I am still alive and well many years after that incident.
And, may I add, in all my years of bush-church meetings and the meals that followed, I only ran into this situation once. But I still remember it – and didn’t ever use this story in deputation meetings!

One thought on “Good Food for Lunch – ugali, rice, meat and ???

  1. Paul Beverly told a story about another surprise. Paul was visiting a Christian home in Tanzania where he served as a missionary. He was quite new on the field, and when the gravy pot was put on the table, he saw a huge dumpling floating on top. He was delighted that Africans had mastered the cooking art of making dumplings. During the meal, some man took the dumpling and offered it to Paul as a sort of honor. Paul was delighted….. until he got it in his mouth.

    In Tanzania the Africans have a sheep which has a huge fat tail. This tail, like a Brahma cows hump, stores fat for the dry season when the sheep’s tail is consumed by its system. Paul said he took a big bite, and realized he had a mouth full of fat. He also realized that, being a great honor, he must eat the rest of the fat or insult the host. He said he had a horrible time getting it down but managed.

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