Before man discovered fire and ended the animalistic and primal act of eating raw meat (Except in Ethiopia, [you guys do your thing]), we watched what other animals ate and copied them. We learned to pick fruits and certain leaves from our primate cousins and later on began hunting, like the predetors of the time. Until the invention of fire and cooking, human beings tastes were under developed and lacking in diversity. Cooking allowed a few good things to happen For one, it made the food taste better, it also got rid of a lot more bacteria which lived in the carcases we ate, and made it easier for our bodies to digest the food. As time moved on and humans evolved into more ‘foodie’ types; the meals we ate evolved too. Take the middle ages for example, if you were lucky enough to harvest some grain, murder a pig or two and make some cheese from your cow’s milk; Bread, Bacon, and Cheese were most likely the everyday food. The not so lucky ate a rank vegetable stew reminiscent of horrible high school meals.
Royalty got to eat the right way, a feast during every meal. There was this one tale about one of the craziest kings in England, Henry VIII. He is famous for murdering his wives and starting divorce on the grounds of, “she’s not birthed an heir for me.” Back to the food. Henry like most royalty was given the opportunity to eat different meats such as dolphin, and enjoy spices from the far east. This was the period in time where both halves of the world had discovered each other and there was a lot of exchange, especially in food culture. It was at this time, table manners or etiquette became a standard for most meals.
Although here at home, not much was happening, we would usually cook with water and salt. Food is constantly high in starch and the flavours play between salty, bland, or bitter. And Traditional foods have that effect on us. Some one will refuse to eat Omena, or Mrembe. Because it may be seen as backward or uncool. But the thing about Kenyans unlike our West African brothers and Sisters, we want chips and chicken which is just as bland or as salty as the muthokoi you would otherwise eat. Our West African counterparts really enjoy their egusi, fufu, and Jollof Rice; Rarely would they turn away from having their traditional foods. So what’s wrong with our culture? Why are we avoiding the foods that built our history?
The answer is simple. They are yuck. But, they can be made better! My mom makes the best githeri. This is because of the addition of various spices and tomato puree among other bells and whistles. She transforms it from the drab, bland mix of beans and maize and turns it into a beautiful curry. The heat from the chillies always complements the beans. The cumin leaves its deep flavor on the potatoes and carrots. Honey sweetens the entire dish and also contributes to the dark color of the stew. Curry Leaves and ginger bring out the earthy rough flavours of the maize. All in all, the dish becomes something that would put a smile on the face of Gordon Ramsey or your own grandma.
The thing is, we can always adjust our traditional recipes to suit the present time. That’s what cuisine is about. When you join cooking school, you are taught the traditional recipes, and homework is adjusting the flavors, and adding your own flair to the otherwise perfect dish. So, maybe try this githeri recipe, it will probably inspire you to change your attitude and also, help us add another dimension to our histories.
Githeri – Mama Dreadlocked Chef’s Recipe
2 cups pre-boiled beans and maize
1 large carrot
1 bunch coriander
1 ginger root
3 curry leaves
4 cloves of Garlic
2 tspn Garam Masala
2 tspn Dhana jeera
3 red chillies
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tspn Cumin Seeds
add to taste Black Pepper
add to taste Salt
add to taste Worcestershire Sauce
1 Beef Cube
- The beans and maize ought to be boiled for this recipe to work.
- Peel potatoes and fry them with salt and cumin. Put them aside
- Chop onion, garlic, tomatoes, and carrot, grate ginger root.
- Fry onion, garlic, ginger, curry leaves until the onions become translucent, then add tomato paste and leave to cook for about 5 mins
- Add spices, beef cube and Worcestershire sauce
- Add half a cup of hot water and your 2 cups of maize and beans. leave to simmer for 15 mins
- Add carrots, chillies, potatoes and corriander for the last few mins to add texture and flavor.
- Take off the heat and add some butter or blueband, leave to melt, and enjoy.
I can never take a photo of my mom’s githeri, it rarely lasts a night in the house, but google have some.. so, check it out.
This recipe is my moms, so she hasn’t told me everything but Im sure you can find something extra to add. Until Next #TastyTuesday.