Tonight, we are preparing potatoes with peanut sauce for supper. Ned, Isidord, and I eat about one hot meal a day. Usually, we have bugali, or fufu, a thick doughy paste made from manioc flour. The bugali is served with a sauce made from whatever vegetables are available, such as tomatoes, onions, and garlic. Sometimes we eat our bugali with sombe, the cooked leaves of the manioc plant. Red meat is nonexistent. We occasionally treat ourselves with some mkeke, fish that comes from Lake Tanganyika’s indigo depths. If we have made a visit to a village, we buy a sack of biazi, or sweet potatoes, to give a bit of variety to our diet. On occasion we have rice, which is grown in the malaria-ridden swamps near Gatumba. The food is meager, but since we make it ourselves, it is very satisfying in the stomach. We eat it by lantern-light with our hands, dipping morsels of bugali or biazi into the sauce. Some Congolese people can afford only bugali and sombe, thus all they eat is the manioc plant, day after day. Needless to say, this is not very healthy, but this may be the only choice available.
If you are looking for a snack at noon, you can treat yourself to some bananas and peanuts. Bananas are plentiful, and they taste much better than bananas you find in the States. The peanuts are gigantic and delicious. If you are adventurous, try some matewe, or raw manioc that has been soaked for a while to get rid of the bitter sap.
At night, we cook our supper over charcoal. Cooking with charcoal takes patience, a bit of elbow grease, and occasionally a few burned fingers. Since we are three bachelors living by ourselves, Ned, Isidord, and I prepare all the food ourselves. Most Congolese people are bewildered when we tell them that if an American man wants to impress a woman, often he will prepare a meal for her.
Growing food is rather tough here in the Congo, as the security situation prevents the stability needed for agriculture. Soldiers, bandits, or rebels might loot your crop. If you are a woman working alone in the fields you may be kidnapped and raped by soldiers. If you are selling something in the market, groups of soldiers may arrive and simply take what they want without paying. So, even just growing, harvesting, and selling food is tricky. Perhaps when personal security is better in Eastern Congo, food security will be better too. Insh’allah.
Posted By Walter James
Posted Jul 1st, 2009