At the end of July I asked Grant if I could go to market. (For the past few months I've not been to do the weekly Guest House shopping as I taught Chef Paulo to do this instead)
When we ladies visited the school on that special day in July, and I went around taking photos, I was shown the kitchen. The kichen helpers proudly pointed out their pantry. This was just off to the side of the smokey, darkened kitchen and was equally smokey and dark. When I asked what was in the dozen or so hessian bags, they said a couple contained ugali / ground maize meal; others had mchele / rice, and some were filled with maharagwe/dried beans. There was also a bag of coarse salt.
I asked them how these foodstuffs were served and they told me at 9am each child was given a bowlful of cooked stiff porridge made from the maize meal. At 4pm they were given a tin plate of beans boiled up with rice. All is washed down with water drank in cupped hands at the garden tap/faucet.
While this is a staple diet for many people in East Africa and for these children especially, it's a lot better than having nothing to eat which is what would be their lot, if they weren't in this care.
However, this got me thinking. Here were 259 rapidly-growing children who don't ever see fruit or vegetables in their meals. So when my driver William and I passed the local ATM cash machine on the way to the market two weeks ago, I asked him to stop in order for me to draw money from Grant's bank account. Then explaining to him what I wanted to do once we'd been to the market, William and I planned another trip to the school.
Buying the Guest House vegetables as well as healthy "stuff" for the school, meant that I'd ask for 40kg of potatoes and pay for it with official money from the moonbag around my waist. Then I'd ask the vendor for another 20kg to be weighed out and placed into a separate bag, for which I'd pay with money from my personal wallet. The lady who sells potatoes, also has a stall nearby with plastic bowls in various sizes, wooden cutting boards and vegetable knives. I bought a selection of these to take to the school as I knew they didn't have anything like this in their kitchen. I also bought a two-liter bottle of vegetable oil.
My friend, whom I call Rafiki (friend) who sells the best potatoes at the best prices in the market
Then I moved onto the stall with cabbages, carrots, tomatoes and onions where I did my shopping in the same way.
Two of my other friends (also known as Rafikis!) who also give me good deals on vegetables
Finally I visited the fruit stalls which are manned by young men. Apart from the normal large order which I always buy for the Guest House, I also bought a lot of extra fruits for the children. The fruit vendors were thrilled at the even-better-than-normal sale from me that day!
I bought seven water melons, six pawpaws, six pineapples, a huge bag of oranges, another of tangerines, and several bunches of small (ladyfinger) bananas. I also bought a large bunch of grass-green bananas. Here in Tanzania these bananas are peeled, chopped and added to vegetable (or meat if you're that privileged) stew. It adds bulk as well as flavor to the dish.
William and I then drove to the school. The children recognized the vehicle; waving and shouting they ran behind it into the school grounds. William got a few older lads to carry the bags of fruit and vegetables to the kitchen. Meanwhile, I thought I might treat a few of the children with a small bananas. Bad mistake! Within seconds the children were grabbing at the fruit in my hands until I was just about pushed back into the vehicle. The head teacher arrived, shooed the children away and then walked me to the kitchen.
Within minutes I was crowded by dozens of eager children wanting a treat !
In the kitchen I showed the helpers how to prepare vegetables, fry them in oil to make a tasty and healthy base for the rice and beans. One of the three ladies, (older than the others) knew exactly what I meant and started to peel onions and potatoes as we spoke. I also knelt on the floor - no tables or work surfaces in this kitchen - and began to peel an orange into one of the large plastic bowls. As I did this, the older lady said she knew fruit salad and would continue with it. Soon the other two ladies were helping with lunch preparation.
One of the ladies knew exactly how to prepare fruit and vegetables and set to work immediately!
The children crowded in the kitchen doorway eager to see if they would receive another treat! (The haziness is due to smokey stoves lining the wall behind us)
I explained to the head teacher and the other kitchen helpers that the food I'd brought that day could last for at least two weeks. My intention is to motivate these carers (who are wonderfully caring carers of these orphans) to use the fresh ingredients economically and so improve the taste and nutritional value of the children's meals.
I didn't tell them at the time, but I will repeat this again at the end of August and every month for as long as I live in the area.
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