*The photo-uploader is currently not working so pictures will be coming eventually.*
My very good friend and former roommate Brittany just got back from serving a mission in Johannesburg,South Africa and has happily moved back to Utah, well I'm happy she's back, I don't really know how she feels about it, but we'll assume, for good measure.
Anyway, She wanted to make a typical South African meal for all of us old roommies that used to live together in the Green House, and Melanie. Sadly, I missed all the prep because I was stuck at my high school's graduation (as in the one I teach at), so I can't say too much about that, which is really unfortunate.
The staple food is a thick corn meal paste, kinda like polenta, only not quite as thick, called pap (prounounced pop, I'm sorry I can't do the IPA symbols, my brain is too tired for that at the moment). With that we had beans and sausage in a sauce, which Brittany keeps saying there isn't actually a name for since it's different every time you make it depending on what you have around. She calls it garbage sauce, much like when I make fridge soup with whatever vegetables I need to use up. On the side we had mustard greens, in place of rape* greens, since those are hard to find here in the United States, probably because of the name.
According to Brittany Africans have a distinct lack of silverware, so we all ate with our hands to enhance our dining experience. First, Brittany presented a large bowl of hot water and using a cup poured some over each diner's hands before we began. After all, who want to eat with dirty hands if you don't have any silverware.
It's interesting to note there is a polar opposite of this eating culture, China. They find it incredibly dirty to touch any food at all with their hands when eating, and will even eat hamburgers and fries with chopsticks. Then there are the myriad of cultures who range in between, like ours that switch between using utensils and picking food up. I'm inspired to do a study of food borne illness among cultures and see if there is a correlation, or if we're all just germ-o-phobes for nothing.
To actually eat the meal one takes a small amount of the pap in one hand and forms it into a small ball and using it as sort of a scoop for the other parts of the meal. The pap is sticky enough that it makes a good base for scooping and absorbs the sauce. Actually getting into your mouth, however, is a little more tricky since in order for the scoop to be effective, I found it had to be slightly more than I could politely fit into my mouth, but if you tried to bite the scoop instead of just eating the whole thing, it would completely fall apart. Brittany likened it to Sushi that way. You really have to stick the whole thing in your mouth all at once.
The meal itself was very tasty. The beans and sausage had ample spices and a hint of curry. The pap is pretty bland by itself, but the sauce was potent enough that they balanced each other nicely. The greens were also very good, but I'm a sucker for greens, and therefor may not be able to be trusted. I really enjoyed all the flavors, and am very disappointed I missed all the prep, so I'll have to bug Brittany for instructions on how to recreate the meal. To drink we had orangeade, since, according to Brittany, they're always drinking something orange flavored.
I was a little surprised how much Brittany served us since the food was very heavy and quite filling. Not surprising considering the heavy starch and carbohydrate content, not to mention the protein. She ate about twice as much as the rest of us and told us that the Africans would serve even more than that, but she was used to it. Amazing.
The only unpleasantness of the meal was that the starch of the pap would dry on my fingers between bites, especially at the end when we were struggling to finish, and leave a crusty sticky feeling, which Emily delighted in smearing all over my arm. No, we aren't actually in Junior high, not that you'd be able to tell. Em had just come from a wedding so was less hungry than the rest of us or something, and decided to make a pap man with the leftovers.
Speaking of leftovers, the bean/sausage stuff kept fairly well in the refrigerator and made several tasty lunches and breakfasts, but we had no more pap, so we tried it on rolls, whole wheat bread, alone, and found that without the pap it's a little too intense, but will keep you from getting hungry for a good long while. Perfect before a hike or something, except that curry flavored beans and sausage for breakfast is a little much.
We also watched an episode of Lady's Detective Agency while we were eating since it's a very popular show in Botswana, where Brittany spent much of her mission. It's about two women who run a detective agency and solve mysteries. Kind of a fun show.
Thus ends my South African experience, though I'd love to experience the real thing at some point, since I've wanted to go there ever since I was little. Someday, someday.
*The seeds of which being what Canola oil is made from, so the plant is not wholly unknown to us American's it's just not used by us to its full potential, just like beet greens. Honestly, when will we learn that there's more to greens than iceberg lettuce?