It has been 3 weeks since I arrived in Swaziland, which means I am responsible for cooking for myself. Those who know me may think this would be a challenge, as I am known as the “take-out queen” or the girl who only knows how to heat up things from the freezer section. HOWEVER you would be wrong. Maybe some magical cooking transaction took place when I crossed the equator or maybe its just the fact that its freezing here and cooking dinner warms up my 4×4 foot room enough for me to change into my PJ’s, whatever the case– call me Betty Crocker.
Saturday we had our “cooking practical class” which really means we got to spend $400 Rand on groceries for one meal. Myself and 5 other PCV (peace corps volunteers) decided our extravagant menu and went to work. Starting with candied apples wrapped in bacon as our app, followed by curry chicken lettuce wraps (curry chicken, lemon rice, mixed with roasted red, yellow and green peppers, onion, carrots and mushrooms served in lettuce and topped with a spicy curry sauce), and finishing with homemade ice cream with fruit (bananas, apples, oranges and topped with honey and cinnamon). Oh yeah, we were amazing. In fact our team name was “team awesome”, which I thought was appropriate. Out of 6 amazing groups of PCV chefs, “team awesome” won the cook off! I won a salad dressing/oil spritzer… which in my kitchen of 2 knifes, a couple pots and a propane tank was awesome.
The cooking continued on sunday when the volunteers from Khiza (my town) traveled to Makohnza (where other volunteers live) for a birthday celebration. I brought kettle corn (which is actually super easy to make, and thank you mom for teaching me how to make popcorn on the stove, it has been a skill that impresses everyone). I also made no-bake cookies, which impressed my gogo (grandmother). “ Philile (that’s my swazi name), how you make cookies with NO fire?” they basically think I am the queen of sugar, for all the things I make with sugar as a staple. What can I say, I like snacks 🙂 Monday night I made mac and cheese- and no not from a box. I actually added milk, cheese a tish of butter and flour and it makes the most amazing mac and cheese WHO KNEW? Last night I boiled a whole chicken and attempted the family favorite homemade noodles. It turned out a bit different then home, but it was a crowd pleaser. (gogo was very confused I didn’t want to put the chicken in the oven).
Tonight, having no clean dishes left, I stopped in town for some beef stew and rice, but just finished making homemade french fries. My room smells like McDonald’s, but it was worth it. I am happy to be cooking for myself, and making portion controlled meals (the swazis literally pile on as much food as will possibility fit on my plate). There is also the cockroach situation… note the following paragraph may cause some to gag a little.
Living in rural Swaziland, you have to learn quickly to be flexible. If this means peeing in a bucket, or sleeping in a 30 degree room with no heat, or occasionally fishing dead cockroaches out of your dinner- flexibility is key. My room does not have a bug problem, but the main house I live in does- the roaches love the oven. The family “oven” is a wood burning stove and looks like something out of the early 1900’s meets “leave it to beaver” (it’s avocado green). Just above the main cook spot is a cupboard compartment, where my family puts the food to keep warm if your late for dinner. Incentive to be on time? This is where the cockroaches like to be too. When the stove gets warm, the little critters scatter out. The smart ones run to the back wall, the stupid ones run to the front of the stove, where its nice and warm– a little too warm, because they eventually drop off one by one onto the hot stove top, where our food is cooking. YUMMY! This is why lids are important, and are usually used. But if you need to stir, you have to make sure you are quick, or watching what gets stirred in. this should bother me, it is pretty gruesome, but it has become a sort of entertainment watching the roaches bomb onto the stove and go belly up lol. I hope no one was eating when they read that part!
At any rate, things are good here. I’m learning more than my brain has the capacity to hold, I’m making friends and getting INSANELY tan, even though the last few mornings there has been frost (or what the Swazi’s call snow- its adorable really). Its hard to believe its been a month since i’ve been gone. It’s been non stop since we landed, and although I have been to town a couple times the internet is unreliable, the computers are always broken, there are 40 other PCV fighting for time or I am carrying an arm load of misc buckets and produce and literally won’t fit in the internet cafe. We have midterms next week and swearing in on august 9th. After that I should be able to get to town on my own and not be rushed for time. Until then, much love! Hamba Kahle! (go well)