Tuesday, August 11, 2009

malawian feast

They don’t know how to cook. Zilani, one of our new Malawian friends, cringes after taking a bite of the lunch prepared by the kitchen staff. It’s because they’re men. Shall we cook a proper Malawian meal? Then and there the Malawian women agreed that it would be a shame if we left the warm heart of Africa without experiencing an authentic Malawian meal.

After a shopping trip to the local market, seven Malawian women filed into the kitchen adjacent to the dining hall, relegating two baffled male cooks to the outdoors. I snuck in with a video camera and beheld a most colorful sight. The buzz of merry chatter filled the room as women poured their hearts into preparing a feast fit for kings and queens. It was apparent to me that the women took the utmost pride in sharing of their culinary delights with their new American/Canadian compadres. The aroma of kuku ya stew (stewed chicken), chambo cho kazinga (fried tilapia), mbatata (potatoes), fried zucchini and eggplant, and punga wakare (curried rice) seeped out through the kitchen doors to the dining area teasing our taste buds.

Dinner was quieter than usual as we were all busy shoveling food into our mouths leaving little time to talk. A chorus of mmm could be heard all around the table as we contentedly filled our bellies with seconds and even thirds. To express our gratitude for this unexpected gift, we did a little song and dance for our lovely Malawian chefs, singing our hearts out in Chichewa…zikomo zikomo (thank you). The looks of surprise and delight on their faces spoke volumes to their receiving our gift. And to our surprise and delight, they then spontaneously gifted us with a song in return… taku landi lani zikomo (we have received you, thank you).

~cynthia hsu

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