Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Note on Cooking

Part of experiencing a new culture is tasting the food of the country you are staying in. I love to try food from different parts of the world and to see the unique ways that people prepare the same simple ingredients. Unfortunately, Rwanda is not known for fine cuisine.

Food in Rwanda tends to be bland and overcooked. Rwandans prefer quantity over quality. I believe that the food is cooked to a mush because Rwandans do not like to chew. The goal is to cram down as much food as possible before your stomach tells you to stop. Chewing only slows this process down.

Even worse, the umukozi who works for my headmaster uses about five times as much salt as normal. Thank God I'm able to cook for myself now! The gas stove that I bought is the best investment ever!

Here is what the umukozi cooked last night.

And here is what I cooked (reheated from the night before).

Now, granted, they don't look too much different. They are the same ingredients, after all. But the difference is in the texture. And the seasoning. Even though the soup I made was brothy, the vegetables were still more crisp and tasted like more than just salt.

I have a desire to teach people about nutrition while I am here. There is an availability of good, fresh food and spices and it is all fairly affordable. And when food is not overcooked, it retains its nutrients, which means that more money can be spent on flavorful spices rather than on more bland food. And when you don't overcook your food, you spend less time cooking. This means that you can eat at a reasonable hour, as opposed to eating right before going to bed, which is terrible for digestion and metabolism.

Here is an example. I cooked this for dinner tonight. It took me less than 30 minutes.

Spicy penne and vegetables

And I know that most Rwandans don't have the luxury of a gas stove, but cooking over fire shouldn't add more than 15-30 minutes to the cooking time. I have seen cooking go on for 2-3 hours!

Here's to hoping that I can teach some Rwandans how to cook.

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