When the shopping list looks like this…
minced meat (800 grams)
macaroni (800 grams)
black pepper, white pepper, paprika
milk (3 litres :))
jam/marmalade (strawberry, but any type goes)
cream (to be whipped)
…it can only mean that there’s going to be a Finnish dinner made by two Finnish volunteer workers!
Cooking in a new kitchen, in an unknown environment is always an exciting experience. When Julia told me that we would be preparing a Sunday dinner for our host-family in Zambia I was terrified! I wouldn’t have my familiar oven, favourite mixer and ten thousand measure cups and my very own teaspoon that measures the baking powder and vanilla sugar such the way it has to be! You can’t imagine what amount of stress all of this can cause, at least if you’re a bit of a control freak Finn
As I had arrived and settled down in a house in Zambia we started to think about Finnish meals that could be cooked easily without rare ingredients such as reindeer and cloudberries. After heavy discussions we decided to stick to the old time favourite: macaroni casserole with some beetroot salad and crepes with jam and whipped cream for the dessert! Main course decision wasn’t based on it’s fashionable appearance or on it’s marvellous taste, but simply on the fact that with the casserole making we wouldn’t most likely burn down the whole kitchen! And when there’s only one stove of four working, only way to measure flour is with a tea cup and it would be amazingly stupid to ask for an eggbeater, you can’t be expected to perform as a Master Chef of Finland.
Cooking starts with a fearful wandering around the kitchen and dining room. Then the question hits me: do we even have all the ingredients? Soon I discover that cream, jam, beetroots and other salad ingredients are missing! My heart keeps beating and the stress is taking me to another level. What are we going to serve now? Macaroni casserole without salad or any other side dish and crepes without fillings?! I try to look for the milk in a fridge but find it frozen in a freezer. It’s backed in small jiggling bags that I start opening with my trembling hands. I miss my six pack of scissors back home, but all I have is a dull-edged knife that wouldn’t almost cut margarine, at least if not stayed in a sunshine half a day.
It takes nearly on hour to get a big pot of water to boil for macaroni. I cut two onions on a small wonky plate that can serve as a chopping board and think about how much planning and time so simple thing as cooking takes in an average Zambian family. Our relatively small (?) household (with 8-10 steady inhabitants, including me and Julia) has two servants (sometimes even three) and their all-day duty is to cook, clean and wash laundry. This doesn’t surprise me anymore as I pour onions to the frying pan after macaroni is finally cooked. The family’s 7-year-old son Angelo once asked me who cooks for me back home in Finland, and when I answered that I cook for myself or together with my friends, he looked rather surprised.
While our two big macaroni casseroles are in the oven (they fit there just perfect!) I start setting the table with the children. Plates and glasses are placed “upside down” (compared to Finland) when setting the table and turned “right way up” when starting to eat. I show the children how to fold napkins so that they turn into beautifully opening “handheld fans” to be placed over plates. They are literally thrilled and learn the trick in a minute (at their age in a primary school this took me a lot longer!). I can’t describe the excitement when they realise that they can make another handicraft as I but couple of unfolded napkins right in front of them. -“Really?” -“Another one?”
Then the most exciting moment arrives: testing the casserole. The family’s youngest member, 2-year old Dorothy takes a mini-mini-bite of our grand achievement, her eyes get wet and she screams “Water”!!! But Angelo takes another mouth full of food and looks really happy. “You are going to Finland, you’re going to Finland”, the mother of the family smiles.
Hi everyone! My name is Anni and I’m the the second ”etvo”-volunteer in Zambia, in Eastern Province Women’s Development Association (EPWDA) for the year 2012 (May-September). ETVO is a Finnish volunteer programme that is organized by KEPA (The Service Centre for Development Cooperation). HYY (The Student Union of the University of Helsinki) is one of EPWDA’s co-operation partners.
My blog will continue Julia’s previous experiences in Zambia. Feel free to make comments! 🙂