For obvious safety reasons, my experience in Nairobi has been limited to the Canadian High Commission, a beautiful, state of the art building located in Westlands, right next to the sprawling UN headquarters, set against a green backdrop reminiscent of a rain forest…and the MALL (complete with North American movie theatres and food courts).  Strangely, this leaves me missing my “grassroots” lifestyle outside Mombasa.  So I will take the opportunity to describe one of the things that really defined my experience while on project: coastal food (chakula).

In general, my experience at dinner (eaten around 9:00 or 10:00 p.m. every night!) was that the food was tasty, but super heavy and salty as everything is deep fried in lard (no joke), and we often had the same thing over and over again.  Here are some classics:

-ugali (literally flour and water mixed together in a cake shape) – what Kenyans describe as their “chief food”.  Too bad it makes me gag…

-chapati (basically fried dough in pancake form but about 100 times heavier) – often made even heavier with beans (maharaguay)

-pilau (spicy fried rice with beef and other stuff) – really yummy.  Rice is a huge staple here.  Uncooked is mcheli and plain cooked is wali.  Pretty yummy with real coconut milk, but the canned version tastes better to me!

-samaki (fish) – served with all body parts including the head

-kuku (chicken) – goes without saying on our broiler chicken farm!

-ndizi (bananas) – a typical Kenyan probably averages about five a day – they are cut up in small pieces (with peel on) and served after every single meal.  Embe (mangos) are also common.

-sukuma weki (spinach) – along with ugali this is probably the cheapest possible Kenyan meal.  They also eat a lot of cabbage.

-viazi, basi, na maize (potatos, peas and corn mixed together) – surprisingly good! 

-kasava (a root similar to a potato) – sold on the side of the road either in stick or chip form

-miwa (sugar cane!) – also sold on the side of the road

-mandazi and mahambri (types of doughnuts/dumplings) – more roadside food, also served with coconut beans

-bhajia (gram flour fried in a battered ball) – only costs 1 shilling!