The beer I am drinking is called Tusker. It comes in a large can, like beer in Scotland. There is a picture of an elephant on the can. The beer tastes good, and I have not been a beer drinker, really, for the last decade.
The rice I am cooking is Pearl Rice, Kenya Pishori Long Grain Rice. For every cup of rice I use, the bag tells me to use four cups of water. Those are the only directions on the bag. I am used to cooking Uncle Ben’s Minute Rice. This is not Uncle Ben’s Minute Rice. One cup of this rice makes more rice than I expect, more than seems possible.
I remember hearing an NPR story about washing rice, over and over to remove the starch, and I remember listening somewhere in the back of my mind without really paying attention. I wish I had paid better attention. I bought a strainer at the Nakumatt, and I rinsed my Pishori Long Grain Rice, over and over until the water ran clear, removing the starch. I think I did it right.
I have one saucepan in my kitchen, in which I make the rice. I bought it at the Nakumatt, as the kitchen was bare when I arrived except for some tired and mismatched silverware thrown in a drawer. I bought one coffee mug, and one drinking glass for water. There was a single wine glass in the cabinet and a cereal bowl and three plates. I fill the saucepan with four cups of water from my very large bottle of purchased water with the pump I added on top. I can’t drink the tap water.
I love this rice. It is very good. It is not ready in one minute. Nothing in Kenya is ready in one minute. Who needs to rush in Kenya? Kenya is teaching me to slow down.
I thaw two chicken breasts in boiling water from the very large bottle of water on the kitchen floor, in the electric kettle I got at Nakumatt. There is no microwave, of course. The plastic wrap I bought to freeze the six chicken breasts individually, shreds to pieces as I unwrap them.
As I cook I listen to the BBC on the battery operated transistor radio I bought at Nakumatt. They have everything at Nakumatt, including workers to help you find anything you need, except a plug for the bathroom sink, to shave, which elicited puzzled stares. I thought I should try to conserve water. I also learned that if you ask where you can find clothes pins, you will be stared at uncomprehending. I had to use gestures to be understood. I needed to ask for clothes pegs, which I didn’t know.
On the BBC I hear stories about troubles in the Central African Republic, Sudan and South Sudan, Uganda, Nigeria and Somalia. The stories are hard to listen to, despite the excellent reporting. This is a violent time in Africa, and the stories are always about large numbers of deaths. The BBC is a treasure. The next program switches to news in Kiswahili, and I recognize words, proud of knowing when someone is counting (I know my numbers), understanding stray words but not the details. Someone said ‘hotelini’ and I knew they were ‘at the hotel’.
My stove is very small, and has one electric burner and three gas burners. A can of propane sits next to the stove in the house. It is shorter than the kitchen counter. It is like cooking on a grill, but not like cooking on a grill. The dials are touchy, and I have to relight the burners repeatedly as I cook since they keep going out when I try to lower them. There isn’t much play in the dials. There are many who would be envious of this stove.
I cook the chicken in the frying pan I bought at Nakumatt. I add many spices, spices I shipped to myself in advance, spices from home. I add Spice Islands basil and Mrs. Dash’s garlic and herb, which are next to the Kroger cinnamon and sugar which I had hoped to be having on toast. There is no toaster.
When the chicken is done I cut it into pieces, add rice, plenty of butter, and look in the refrigerator to see if there is one more ingredient I could add. My refrigerator is mostly empty, but I find just the thing. Leftover Canned Heinz Peas from my Heinz Tomato Soup and Canned Peas meal two nights ago. They were made in Poland for Heinz Africa and Middle East. The writing on the can was in Arabic. I haven’t had canned peas in about 30 years. We used to have them growing up. The taste is a good memory, even if they do not really have a good flavor. The frozen vegetable choices are non-existent and fresh produce choices are minimal. Canned goods are the way to go with my refrigerator constantly going on and off.
I am surprised that my 90-minute preparations have produced a good meal. The meal was tasty. As my nephew Joel would say, ‘I approve.’
Good thing. I have enough leftovers that I will be eating this meal for the next three nights.