Friday, November 21, 2014

A Salad Adventure

by Chris Lyimo

Saladu Awooka àk Mango
(Avocado–Mango Salad)
I was invited to attend a class on Francophone World at Daystar and if I chose to, I could come along with a salad from one of the French speaking countries.

Putting together this salad was an unanticipated adventure. I figured that the ingredients were simple and easily available in my Ongata Rongai neighbourhood market and that there was nothing particularly Senegalese about them.

With that I left it to the morning of the class to look for the ingredients. There was enough time to put together the salad given that I was not doing any cooking. Oversight no. 1

You know what they say when you ass-u-me. That was me at the market on the day. And I should have taken a photograph of the salad with me. Oversight No. 2

First stop was Tuskys Supermarket to look for the non-perishable ingredients. I had never heard of either peanut oil or canola oil, and though I often pride myself regarding my culinary skills and love for cooking, on this day, that pride was severely tested. It turned out that several of the supermarket staff had also not heard of the same oils. I walked down the food aisle looking for peanut and/or canola oil. I gave up and settled for regular salad oil. Cholesterol free as an added bonus. I was also going to use regular salt because I didn’t know what kosher salt was either. With the shredded coconut in the cart, I was good to go.

To the market

Though I recalled what, say, jalapeño looked like in the photo I was sent with the brief, I neither knew how to describe what jalapeño looked like or its correct pronunciation. And what was/is a navel orange anyway? I quickly consoled myself that this wasn’t an exam. The sigh of relief was deeper when I conveniently remembered I wasn’t even a student of the class or even Daystar. This was a fun thing to do. I could even chalk it up in my Do a New Thing Every Month activity for September.

I’ve always thought parsley and dhania was the same thing. I couldn’t believe I was now making calls to consult of these ingredients like my life depended on it (perhaps it did in one dimension but that’s a story for another day)

Nobody knew what jalapeno was but when I described it and what I intended to do to the grocer, she suggested I go with a yellow sweet pepper. The regular green peppers are good for a vegetable salad and not a fruit salad. I know lime juice, in a bottle. This adventure was bringing new surprises at every turn because I’m embarrassed to admit that this was the first time I saw what limes actually looked like. I got the oranges, and I dared not embarrass myself further by asking for navel ones. Avocados were in plenty but the mangoes, being out of season, were the most expensive I have ever bought.

I was now getting worried about the serve chilled part. I was quickly running out of time to prepare the salad and effectively chill it.


I followed the instructions pretty much as prescribed. I diced the avocadoes in ¼” chunks rather than the 1” as suggested. I should have stuck to this suggested to avoid them getting soggy. I had over an hour to chill the salad so I put it in the freezer rather than in the lower refrigerator. I need to leave in order to get to class in good time.


In spite of the Friday afternoon traffic, I was confident that I would arrive on time. I was doing quite well up to two or so kilometres from Daystar when the matatu made an about turn due to the heavy Friday afternoon traffic. The main snag was then the conductor sat at the front with the driver and there was no way i could get access to him and they were now heading to town via Industrial Area.

A huge inconvenience to my well laid plans. I alighted and tried to figure out the most efficient route I could use. I got a boda boda motorcycle taxi and got there feeling sweaty, hungry. Fortunately the class time had been pushed forward a few minutes and I was on time. Sweaty, frazzled but on time.

Sharing the Meal
Serving the meal

It was nice to hear the various descriptions of how the others prepared the recipes assigned to them. One student shared that he didn’t get  the couscous  but the adventure of looking for it in several stores and supermarkets counted for something in the adventure .

The sampling of the various foods presented made for the best the class experience I have ever had.

It was good to know that francophone Africa has such a rich food heritage aside from the reputation of their football teams always beating our national football team, Harambee Stars.

No comments:

Post a Comment