Walter James

Walter James (SOS Femme en Danger – SOSFED): Walter graduated in 2006 from the University of Minnesota. Following college, he worked on international development in Haiti and Senegal, and studied human rights and international development in Senegal, Costa Rica, and Morocco. Walter first visited Eastern Congo as a 2009 Peace Fellow for The Advocacy Project, where he documented the work of civil society organizations such as SOS Femmes en Danger, Arche d’Alliance, and Tunza Mazingira. The following year, he graduated from the University of Maryland School of Public Policy with a Master’s degree in Public Policy.

Bon Appetit!

01 Jul
Dining on fufu and sauce from a communal dish

Dining on fufu and sauce from a communal dish

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.

Forming a lump of fresh bugali, or manioc fufu

Forming a lump of fresh bugali, or manioc fufu

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.

Bon appetit!

A rather large mkeke being carried to market

A rather large mkeke being carried to market

Posted By Walter James

Posted Jul 1st, 2009

1 Comment

  • Jodi James

    July 25, 2009


    Yum! Great descriptions of your cuisine!

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