The foods encountered within Tanzania can range from the starch heavy stomach bombs of ugali and rice within the cities and towns all the way to the milk and blood mixture that serves as the primary means of sustenance for tribes like the Maasai, from freshly caught seafood along Lake Victoria to the coconut and curry heavy fare found near the ports on the coasts. But any way it comes – and much like anywhere else in the world – one can’t truly come to know a place without diving into the local culinary creations. Although I was frequently confined to the Western fare that was produced for our traveling convoy on this trip, I still sought out every opportunity to sample what I could where I could (and my opportunities likely increased due to my incessant nagging of the guides in that respect).
In contrast to countries like France, Spain, or Japan, however — where the local cuisine has been honed to perfection over thousands of years and elevated to more of an art form — the food of Tanzania takes on a much more utilitarian angle: that of providing energy to the diner in the most efficient manner. As evidence of this, the staple food of Tanzania, which is consumed at virtually every meal, is that of Ugali, a doughy mass made from either maize or cassava flour. The consistency shouldn’t be too sticky, should be malleable enough to form ball of dough into a small scoop, but shouldn’t be watery or loose enough that it falls apart with in contact with liquid.
Beyond the starchy goodness listed above, however, the remainder of the cuisine of Tanzania usually consists of basic roasted or grilled cow or goat meat (mishikaki or nyama choma) or simply preparations of fruit and vegetables:
If you’ve been following along in my adventure for any length of time, you’ll long since have realized that I’m occasionally partial to the liquid side of life. And as such, a trip to a new country wouldn’t be complete without at least sampling the indigenous beverages:
Diverging from the topic of food, my time spent in Tanzania was a particularly special one for me, as it was a chance to not only both experience a culture of which I previously knew very little and come closer to the native wildlife than I had even dared to dream of, but it was also an opportunity to spend some quality time with my father and brother who were along for the ride (visiting with family is obviously difficult considering that I’m averaging a new country every few weeks):
An interesting phenomenon often occurs when reflecting back upon a particularly memorable destination or adventure, one that I’ve written about a few times in the past. After you’ve bragged to your friends about your infinite bravery when facing down lions, shown your family the pictures of the children you encountered in the small villages, hung up the photo of you jumping with the Maasai on the refrigerator, and eaten as much ugali as your stomach could contain, what frequently lingers at the forefront of your memory are the small moments, such the way someone smiled at you, how the light and shadows danced through the trees as you watched the sun setting, the sounds of dry weeds and grasses crunching underfoot, or the vibrant explosions of color that seem to explode where you least expect them. Pictured below are a few of these memories that I’ll keep with me from my time in Tanzania (either that, or they are simply a random collection of pictures that I liked but couldn’t fit in anywhere else – take you pick):
With my time in Tanzania coming to an end, I’ll soon be moving on to my next destination: that of the hyper-kinetic, futuristic mega-city that is Tokyo (which honestly, could hardly be any further from East Africa — not only in distance, but in culture, as well). After a few days in the neon metropolis, my plan for the next few months is to continue west through the Kansai region of Japan, jump over to South Korea to indulge my kimchi cravings, eat everything I can in Hong Kong, opt for a bit of hiking in Taiwan, and finally end with a few months making my way west through China. I can’t wait. Until then, Cheers from Tanzania!