On my visit to Lwela, two weeks ago, I was served nshima, salty scrambled eggs and caterpillars. I chickened out on the grubs, but ate the rest. It was a good lunch. A few have asked how we are doing here with respect to food. The answer is very well! Yes it’s true that many of the brands and foods we enjoy at home are not available but we get enough and are not going hungry. Some of the products are better. All Gold ketchup beats Heinz. The chicken bullion cubes do not include milk products. The Nando’s peri peri sauce is fantastic! Isaac’s and Julie’s allergies have not been a problem. Thank you for praying about this! We avoid the same things we avoid at home and can find plenty of suitable substitutes.
So what do Zambians, and us now, eat? The staple starch in this country is something called nshima. It’s made from either maize (what Americans would call field corn) or casava (what Puerto Ricans would call yuca or cassava). These are ground up and mixed with hot water to make a stiff mush. If you’ve ever made corn tortillas, nshima has the consistency of the masa before it’s pressed. In this picture the nshima is the mashed potato looking lump at the top of the plate. This stuff is pretty bland so Zambians eat it with what they call a relish. A relish is designed to add flavor, but not necessarily a lot of calories. For example, along with your nshima you might have a little stewed chicken, or beans, or pumpkin leaves, or salty scrambled eggs. The nshima will fill you up. The relish tastes good. This meal is eaten with your hands. No silverware here. The idea is to grab a bit of nshima flatten it out a bit with your fingers, dip into the relish and pinch a bit into the mush. Then pop the whole thing into your mouth! Actually it’s quite nice. In the meal pictured, the beans and stewed pumpkin leaves are relishes. My kids love it.
We don’t eat nshima for every meal or every day for that matter. Breakfast foods include oatmeal, eggs, bacon, pancakes, french toast, bread, peanut butter and jelly. Cereal choices are limited-I miss the ACC pantry! The milk is UHT milk and has a taste I don’t care for. Elise seems to like it. Many things are made from scratch, with substitutes like casava flour for wheat flour so Isaac can have it, but they taste great especially when there are few snacks lying around. Can’t just run to Panera! Dinners are pretty simple. We eat a lot less meat than we would in the states. Vegetable choices are limited. We were very excited that Mark found green beans in the market recently. Chicken and beef are the main proteins. Occasionally we get some pork. A weeks worth of groceries costs about the same as in the States. The bottom line is that food has not been a problem at all. Praise the Lord. We can get what we need and with some adjustments we like what we eat. Reminds me of Israel in the wilderness. Yahweh let them hunger and then gave them what they needed so that they would understand “man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Deut. 8:3).