Born to a Kenyan/Malian diplomatic parents, Charity Keita spent her childhood hanging out in kitchens in the various countries her dad was assigned to. With this food knowledge came the great responsibility of sharing it with the world.
I had a dinner party the other night. My guests were one of those typical Nairobian inter- national assortments: some Kenyans, an Ethiopian and an Italian/British couple thrown in for colour (I’m kidding of course: Gior- gio and Bella, no dinner would be complete without your scintillating conversation). My buddies Sheila and Njoroge recently announced their engagement (via WhatsApp, is there any other way?) so we had planned to make our weekly dinner a celebration of the happy news.
Let me provide a bit of back- ground: we are a bunch of close- knit foodie friends. When we are not eating food, we are probably talking about it. We love food, we love drink, we love to go out to restaurants but above all we love to cook and share the conviviality that comes with eating together. Every week, one of us takes it upon themselves to cook for the rest of the group. We are not, may I add, members of the Nairobi Expat Food Lovers Facebook group because when it was launched, we all decided that we were not comfortable being part of a foodie group that defines itself by the expat identity of its members. I mean seriously, I get Nairobi Social Expat – you’re new in town and want someone to hang out with; I also get Nairobi Expat Housing – you want to have people with similar life experiences to share your living quarters with. But Nai- robi Expat Food Lovers? Really? Is the implication that Kenyans could never be food lovers? The group is at best discriminatory/elitist and at worst racist. But I digress.
My mission for the night was to make a Kenyan meal with an Italian twist. Everyone is always so focused on international cuisine, that they forget that with a bit of imagination, our food too can be adapted into something worthy of world-class gourmets. After some thought, I settled on a menu of Os- sobuco (cross-cut veal shanks) and Ugali, with a side of sukuma wiki and those lovely Kenyan cherry tomatoes that have begun appear- ing in my local veg shop. So I proceeded with an Italian style stew: brown the meat, fry up the onion and carrots, stick in a bunch of white wine, reserve a glass for yourself, throw in a bay leaf and let it bubble away for however long it takes. For the ugali, I took inspiration from an article that was featured on upnairobi. com earlier this year and went with the creamy option that involved cooking it in milk instead of water and adding a stock cube, butter and turmeric powder for colour. The sukuma was cooked in olive oil that I’d infused in garlic, chilli and anchovies and the tomatoes I threw in towards the end, so they would stay whole and pop hot and juicy when you bite down on them. So there we were, it’s dinner time, everyone is sat around the table when it dawns on me: we forgot the bubbly! This kind of put a spanner in the works because I had a long toast lined-up and it just didn’t feel right doing it with Leleshwa red. Luckily, neither Sheila nor Njoroge had been told about the celebratory angle, so they were none the wiser as they carved a slice of creamy ugali from the serv- ing dish. “Ooh!” the group exclaimed in unison, as they noisily sucked mar- row out of the bones, “who knew ugali with stew could be so nice!” I smiled, smugly. Next time I’ll hit them with my famous Spaghetti Chinoise. Come back soon!