Hand to Mouth: People Eating #3

I thought I had more of hand-to-mouth food photos, since I have been to the land of maize meal and have been in the land of sticky rice afterwards.

I found surprisingly few.

I think I also have my hands on food not on camera when hand-to-mouth commensality occurs. Here are some I managed to dig out.

The maize meal is called nshima in Malawi, ugali in Kenya and Tanzania and several more different names throughout South-East Africa. In homes, it sometimes comes served in the covered pot that keep them warm.

It's actually quite hot when they are freshly made... but the locals seem to have more tolerance to the heat from the maize meal.

The manner is to rinse your fingers first, then roll the nshima into a ball with your fingers. Some seem to be using a part of the palm. It takes some training... nshima feels a lot looser than sticky rice. It's similar to the consistency of, say, mashed potatoes after all the liquids are added.

The Kenyan and Tanzanian equivalent, ugali, has thicker consistency and is sometimes made hard enough to be cut into small pieces, so I was told.

The picture above might be condowole, similar texture to nshima made with white maize flour, but instead made with cassava flour.

Some people told me that if you keep eating condowole, you get constipated... I guess there is almost no fiber left in the starchy cassava flour.

Nshima and condowole are eaten with the relish.

The poor man's relish is pumpkin leaves cooked with just salt, while a bit better-off folks add tomatoes and onions.

Often, beans are the only protein source to accompany the meal.

Then comes usipa (small dried fish), also cooked with tomatoes and onions.

While in the city of Lilongwe, expats have them with chicken or beef. Or sometimes with chambo, freshwater fish from the Lake Malawi.

These prime protein sources are occasionally eaten in the countryside as well, but more rarely, and in many places limited on festivities.

There is so much attachment people seemed to have with this staple food. When I asked the project driver what his favorite food was... he thought about it for more than a few seconds, then said, nshima!

... and yes, fruits are also the classic hand-to-mouth food.

These small girls are not drying fish, but rather, walked around to sell these fish, while snacking on local mangoes.

When I stayed in the countryside at a local development officer's house, every once in a while we'd run out of water, which they brought from the nearby well about 500 meters away. After dark, there is no way you would walk to the well, so when the water is finished, it's finished.

So, after the meal is eaten in the evening, I sometimes went to bed feeling leftover nshima on my fingertips... which seemed to stick even after rinsing with a wee bit of water and rubbing off with tissues I brought. And I would try not to use those fingertips to take off my contact lens.


    great post. the contact lens comment reminded me of a friend at school who claimed her grandmother would lick specks of dirt out of her eyes. Maybe this could be a contact-lens removal tactic too......
    then again....


    Since my tongue is not long enough to reach my eyes, I guess i will have to hire the grandmother to lick off my contact lens... but if for convenience I hire somebody nearby who ate the meal with me, I think there is a wee bit of leftover nshima on her tongue too. Aaaah.


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