Tag Archives: culture

Muchomo

The first time Jenn visited me in Uganda, I posted about some of the good things we ate. In fact, many of my ethnographic adventures have been shaped by the gastronomic adventures that have come as an essential part of those experiences. My dear sister in law asked me to write down some of the recipes, and although I did, so many of them cannot be made without locally sourced ingredients, or at least things I can’t get in Tallahassee. This is not the case for muchomo.

Muchomo refers to roasted meat of various kinds: beef, pork, goat’s meat, even chicken. My favorites among these in Uganda were definitely goat and pork, and many a weekend night found me taking a brief break from research to enjoy some of the local delicacy with a cold one. I’ve been working on this recipe for a little over a year now, and I think I’ve got it tweaked to where it tastes enough like East Africa that it’s worth a try on the Blog-b-cue.

This is the basic marinade recipe that could be used with 1.5-2 lbs. of any of the above-named meats, boneless and cubed like stew meat:

1 lemon or 2 T. juice

1/2 c. vegetable oil

1/8 t. cardamom

1/8 t. cayenne

1/8 t. coriander

1/4 t. cumin

2 cloves garlic

1/2 t. onion powder

1/2 t. pepper

1/2 t. salt

Combine everything and stir it up well before pouring it over the meat in a Ziploc bag. Marinate for at least 1 hour (I did 4-5 hours, but overnight would be ideal). Roast the meat on skewers over low flame for as long as possible without overcooking (read: low and slow for that outside crunch with the juicy center). Serve with salt and piri-piri (liquid or powdered hot stuff) on the side, avocado, tomato, and roasted matooke if possible. Otherwise find an appropriate potato to pair it with and put it on the table next to your favorite beverage.

VARIATIONS

In Kampala, people who do this nightly make a living at it, and people who own the operations—often called “pork joints” (not what they sound like)—turn a handsome profit. In that context, the flame comes from wood charcoal. If you’re into that, use it. If not, use store-bought charcoal or a gas grill (I’m using regular old Kingsford this evening). That brings us to the defining characteristic of muchomo: beauty lies in the taste bud of the be(er)holder. Actually, my favorite place in Kampala ended up being this joint where my friend Freddie supervised and instructed the cooks to roast the meat halfway and then fry it up with onions and spices to finish it off. Yum.

This has gone over well with Ugandan palettes. I’m trying it for the first time tonight with a group of Tanzanian musicians. Like the recipe? Try it without the wet ingredients as a rub or send me your variations and improvisations in the comments! I’d love to take a few of these ideas back, as the home muchomo provides as much leisurely fun in Uganda as the backyard barbecue does here.

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Here’s To You, Mr. Davidson

Last month marked the end of an era in African Studies. Basil Davidson, self-made renaissance man, British Special Operations Executive in World War II, radical journalist, vice-president of the British anti-Apartheid movement, historian of Africa, documentary film maker, and champion of African creativity died at the age of 95. If you’re unfamiliar with his endeavors, check out the Guardian‘s or the Telegraph‘s comprehensive obits. Other bloggers have also celebrated his life and lamented his passing. On the heels of my own research voyage to Africa, my wife and I remembered him last month by watching episodes from his Africa series. Join in the thousands of voices online and in print whose lives have been impacted by this brilliant mind, and share your experiences with Davidson’s textbooks, documentary films, journalism, or personal interactions.

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Buganda Burning

Close on the heels of September violence in Uganda, fresh fears of conflict between Buganda and Uganda’s central government now dominate the evening news on every channel here in Kampala. It’s not clear how the enormous blaze began at a UNESCO World Heritage Site called Kasubi Tombs last night, but the Daily Monitor reported this story on the front page today, quoting officers and other people who suspected arson.

Of course people suspect arson. Of course they want to start rumors about how the central government maliciously burned down their ancestral burial place. These things are not surprising in a country where the president has been in power as long as Museveni has, especially if that country also has politically flaccid monarchies jostling for prominence. But realistically, Kasubi residents kept fires dangerously close to an enormous grass-thatched hut, so accidental fire is also a distinct possibility here.

What concerns me much more than the cause of this fire is the willingness of Museveni’s goons to use whatever violence they want to when someone gets in their way. Mourners at Kasubi apparently crossed the wrong boundaries, resulting in the shooting deaths of two people today when Museveni went to survey the damage. Is this a foreboding image of things to come in 2011 elections?

Or is it simply another symptom of the violence that bubbles just below the surface of any politically charged situation? If the riots at Makerere University are any indication, it’s more likely the latter. A colleague and fellow scholar of Uganda suggested in November that the September rioting was more economically than politically motivated, and she showed convincing evidence to support that theory. Regardless, the availability of violent means and the willingness to use them, particularly on the part of security forces and presidential guard types, remains of grave concern.

For more on these and related stories, see my Delicious links (in the sidebar).

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Homecoming (of sorts)

So it’s taken me some time to get back into the swing of things enough to post.  It’s not for lack of something to write about.  On the contrary, the first two weeks have been full.  I’ve been so busy attending rituals and thinking and writing and transcribing…there hasn’t really been much time for blogging.

Maybe it’s appropriate then that now I do have a little time on the day I went to my Ugandan host family’s place near Ntinda.  I had been biding my time until most of the family could be there.  What a happy afternoon!  Mr. Magoba invited me for lunch, but they all knew as well as I did that it was a leisurely affair that would take all afternoon.

Lunch was fantastic as usual.  Local food really is good in Uganda.  Maama Magoba’s food is a whole new level, though.  I eat matooke almost every day here.  Some people would get sick of it, but I really like the stuff.  Today, Maama’s tooke was really a cut above anything I’ve had since I got back here.  That set the tone for the whole visit.

This really was a homecoming for me.  Don’t get me wrong: I love my family in the States.  When people make me feel this at home when I’m this far from home, though, that’s a really special thing.  I realized this morning that I had been eagerly anticipating this for two weeks.

I always bring gifts for my family and friends here.  This time my wife sent me with really nice gifts for the ladies in the family.  Maama got two necklaces, and she absolutely loved them both.

Gloriah’s necklace is going to go well with her newest pink gomesi (local nice dress for women here).  People really like to match things up exactly here.  Needless to say Sister Glo was elated.

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Then there’s Nantongo.  This girl took such great care of me when I was here last year.  She’s the girl who cooks and does much of the laundry in the Magoba household.  We call her Nakinyonyi (Big Bird) because she’s always smiling.  She nicknamed me similarly as Ssekinyonyi (Big Bird, the male version) last year.  After greeting Mr. and Mrs. Magoba properly, she came out of the girls’ room there and shouted,

“Ssekinyonyi!”

How great to see my good friend again!  I don’t think she expected much of anything from me, but she’s part of the family.  Jenn really made a cute necklace for her with little blue stars and some clear beads.  It was like watching a child on Christmas morning.

Settimba and some of the others weren’t there, but I will see them soon.  In the mean time, it was really cool to see Mr. Magoba with his bazuukulu (grandkids).

At age 6, Mugumya is a total Curious George with a priceless gap-toothed grin (akazigo).

Then there’s Vincent (in the yellow), who can really school Uncle Kigozi in soccer.

As we relaxed after lunch and drank some of Maama’s homemade pineapple wine, they invited me to three upcoming family events.  Among these, Jjajja Omwami Kaweesa (Grandpa Kaweesa) turns 100 this month, and we’re going to celebrate with a big family reunion on the 26th.  I’m so excited.  These are the people who initiated my linguistic and cultural education in Uganda.  Now that I’ve been coming here for three years, they are still the people who teach me most about language, culture, and how a family lives together here.

When Jjajja Kaweesa prays, he still thanks God not only for all that he has, but also for all of the blessings that he has yet to receive in his life.  It’s such a hopeful outlook.  Maybe this is how a person lives to be 100 and has the riches of family that he has.  This is how a coffee farmer in Uganda and his wife educate their 11 children, 10 of them through university level, and several through post-graduate studies.  Now that he’s dependent on them, it’s inspiring to see that he still lives in his own home, where his children and grandchildren take care of him.  This, I have the privilege of saying, is my family in Uganda.

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