Tag Archives: Friends

Chombo! and New Friends!

Sunday, one of Sandy’s Malawian colleagues, Lloyd, his wife, Hope, and their sons, King (2) and Victor (10), came over for lunch. We had been planning it for awhile; Hope was going to teach me to make Malawian style Chombo (a popular local fish) and I would show her how to bake banana bread (or cake, as they more aptly call it). She and I immediately set to work in the kitchen – or, she started working and I watched. She expertly cleaned the whole fish, scales flying with the quick movement of the knife. The fish were cut in half and sat ready for the frying pan, staring at me.

Meanwhile, Sandy and the boys played Bao (not sure how to spell it, but it’s an African game like mancala.) King and Victor shared a Fanta, which turns out, has a lot of sugar in it for a two year old.

King and I bonded. He helped me add ingredients for the banana cake, and when that Fanta sugar kicked in, he was wired. He got his hands on a golf ball and we played soccer/catch/hit-kate-in-the-shin-with-a-golf-ball/bowling in our long hallway.

Back in the tiny, hot kitchen, Hope made nsima to go with our chombo. I’d seen the process once before, but it definitely requires finesse and a muscular arm. You really have to beat the maize flour paste to get just the right, firm consistency.

The fish halves sizzled and fried in the pan, under Hope’s watchful eye. She knew exactly when to flip them so that they were evenly and thoroughly cooked, which took longer than I would have thought. She was patient with my impatience.

After his sugar induced mania, King promptly (and I mean promptly!) passed out. He was awake one minute, giggling at my Chichewa pronunciation and the next minute, his head was drooping heavily on my shoulder. He spent lunch sound asleep on the sofa. I tried to argue that they should just leave him here with me – but they seem attached to him and at the end of the day, decided to take him home.

So the five of us sat down with our chombo, nsima, and a sauce she made from oil, tomatoes, and onions. It. was. delicious. I’m Southern, so frying everything is ok with me… I’d eat anything that had been fried… but this chombo was exceptionally good. It was served whole and we attacked the tender flesh with gusto, carefully avoiding bones and eyeballs. Lloyd’s family were experts – they ate everything except the bones. As I have had a large fishbone lodged in my throat before (not an experience I plan to repeat) I was more tentative and left more on my plate. All in all, a combined bite of fish, sauce, and nsima was excellent – flavorful and filling.

After lunch, despite my insistence to the contrary, Hope did all the dishes, and I was left with nothing to do but dry them. This is definitely the way to host a lunch party – your guests bring food, prepare an excellent meal, and then do the dishes!

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Nsima – like grits…

When Sandy returned from Malawi back in 2005, he often mentioned eating Nsima.  It is the Malawian staple eaten at almost every meal.  Having heard about nsima and its importance to Malawians for years, I was eager to try it.

Friday night, an American lady working with the CCAP invited us to her home for dinner.  One of her adopted Malawian sons was there with his wife and their two-year-old daughter.  Kay, our hostess, had prepared roast beef and vegetables.  When we got on the subject of nsima and they heard that I had never had it before, Kay’s daughter-in-law jumped up and offered to make it.  I got to stay in the kitchen with her and watch her make it.  It’s fairly simple but definitely takes finesse.  You boil a pot of water with a little bit of corn flour in it.  Once it is boiling, you gradually add more flour, beating it constantly until it is a thick, doughy paste.  You then use a special wide wooden spoon to make it the shape of a madeleine.   I think I will attempt to make it sometime soon, but since I am notorious for screwing up instant oatmeal, don’t hold your breath. 

The finished product looks a lot like grits if they are left to cool and clump together.  Nsima, similar to grits, takes on the flavor of whatever it is accompanying.  We had ours with tomatoes and eggs and ate it the traditional way, with our hands, mashing everything together into one compact bite.

It is really good and really filling.  We also had homemade custard with fresh pineapple.  Kay said she would teach me to make the custard the next time we see her. 

Please note the two-year-old’s face as I eat the nsima in the picture above.

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Thank you

We finally have internet at home!  I haven’t been on-line very much since we got here and haven’t had a chance to email, facebook (is that a verb now?) or read comments.  I originally anticipated that this blog would be a way for us to keep in touch with you, but really, it is a way for us to be connected to you through all of your responses.  Thank you.  In these first weeks when we feel inevitably homesick, it means so much that you are keeping track of us.  We miss you all so much.

The news pouring out of Haiti is devastating.  Everyone there and all of our loved ones are in our prayers.

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