Chow Time – Sour milk and Dried Fish!

Talk about diet! Sour milk and boiled dried fish was not my choice but relationships in African homes often called for “fellowship” around a meal.

First, descriptions. Milk came from the cow into usually a wooden “chanji” (vessel). And, being of wood, it was hard to clean properly and milk from a “chanji” wasted no time before turning sour. And, the longer it stayed in the “chanji” the more lumpy and sour it got. But that wasn’t a problem for them. That was the way they liked it!!    BUT ME? NOT!!

Now, for the fish. Tilapia was caught by nets in Lake Victoria. Because there was no refrigeration, and the best market for fish was ‘way beyond the lake shores, the fish had to be dried to make it marketable after lengthy (days) transport, usually by bicycle.

To dry it, the fish was split open and usually set out on the ground in the hot sun. Drying properly took several day; if a day was cloudy is slowed down the drying and often gave the fish an “unripe” smell – to say nothing of taste! Sometimes, the fish was dried on a platform over a fire and that made the drying faster. But, in the process that added a smokey taste to the odiforous (sp?) dried fish.
And, here I was after a long morning of roofing a primary school, on into mid-afternoon, ready for a break and a good meal. The head teacher invited me to his house, the wife brought in the meal – ugali, sour milk and boiled dried fish!
I survived – though I swallowed with reluctance. And the sweet milky tea she brought in to close the meal took most of the taste out of my mouth.

But the problem was that what I had swallowed seemed to stay with me for several days and I was sure others could tell what I had eaten!