Tag Archives: I love food

Night life

I like Kampala at night best of all. Thanks to the fact that we are sitting smack on the equator, the sun sets really quickly. One moment it is light and the next dark. It is sudden but dramatic and the skies turn a rusty gold. Within minutes the candles are out and the streets come alive with running children, laughing boda men and people lined up waiting to purchase food. Most people don’t cook at home. The expense of heating food and refrigeration just isn’t worth it when the street cooks are barbecuing that chicken that was looking alarmed merely an hour ago. Sacks of charcoal line the road alongside simple bbqs and shelves heated with lamps hosting buns and stew. Music plays and the bars are filled with after work beer drinkers.

 

Uganda has among the highest electricity tariffs  in the world. Only Sweden’s are higher. The majority of homes operate by candle light. So it makes sense that I saw a road side furniture shop turned into an ad-hoc tv centre. All the armchairs were turned around to face a line of TVs, perhaps as many as 12. and all tuned to different stations.  That is Kampala at night.

 

Kampala at night is the sound of crickets and pitch black streets devoid of any street lamps. It is people sitting in a circle around a tiny charcoal burner waiting for corn to cook .  It is the hum of Boda’s ringing out in an otherwise quiet night. 

 

The sounds of Africa become more apparent as the city reduces to a constant hum.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Travel, Uganda

13 days in Kampala.

3limes is very sorry that we have not been out and about as much as blog writing requires.

I have been tucked away in my classroom trying to figure out what to teach these young’ns when they came traipsing through my door next week. It is a challenge and one that sees me scratching my head and trying to remember what an auxiliary verb is. Yes, I will be teaching grammar. It is the stuff of nightmares.

This past weekend I did manage to leave the books and the country club and move into our new home. It is not the luxurious pad that Trinidad was but it is home and in time and with some careful shopping will be very cozy. I am as happy as a lamb to be unpacked and in a new bed that I can call my own. Trooper and Princess are installed in their bunk bed and seem very happy.

We spent all day Sunday in the shops buying supplies, including boring things like rubbish bins and exciting things like lamps and shades to cover those awful naked bulbs hanging from the ceiling. The hunt for pretty things had us in and out of shops most of the day and I am most impressed with the selection on offer. I had no idea what to expect, but I was leaning more towards the paltry shelves and sad shops scenario. It has been a pleasant surprise. There I was frantically stocking up on deodorant and toothpaste and now I find pretty much anything one would need.  ( Maybe not want, but need.) Yes the shoes are grim and there are no clothes stores to write home about but there is an excellent book shop, plenty of appliances and house wares and lots of deodorant. So here, then, in a nut shell are my first impressions as we hit day 13.

The juxtaposition of wealth and poverty is shocking. Right next to a shiny mall are mud huts with people cooking over charcoal.

There isn’t a huge choice in furniture but there are things available, many things are cheap and anything can be made.

The supermarkets are really well stocked. I have found Nutella, Lindt and feta so I lost those bets.

The city is extremely dusty. Red dust appears all over the floors, the cars and my face all the time.

There are more cars than can fit on the roads. A traffic jam here is amusing. It is literally a jam, with two lanes of cars turning into 8. Everybody thinks there is a way out and no one waits in a line.

There is a brand new highway (with fresh paved concrete, quite the rarity here) that is not “officially” open but enables my drive to work to take 5 rather than 15 minutes. Some entrepreneurs have decided on a system. They sit at the entrance and exit to the highway holding large pieces of wood stabbed with spiky nails flat against the ground. Once the driver drops 500 shillings (25 cents) onto the concrete, the sharp and spiky wood is pulled aside.

The Boda Boda ride is thrilling, cheap and dangerous. I am not a huge fan. They weave around trucks, buses and SUV’s with some skill but I hear the hospitals are full of people with Boda Broken Arms.

Kampala is more expensive than I imagined. Food, all imported items and even private hire taxis (as an alternative to the Boda) are pricey. There is a cinema here (the only one in Uganda) with three screens and it costs $6 to see a film.

There are some decent restaurants here. We seem to have joined a Friday-Thai-night-out sort of club. The Indian food is also very good. One of the biggest malls has a food court but it is not a food court like in the West. As you peruse the restaurants on offer waiters approach with menus. You select what you want from them and then sit down. The waiters bring it to you. This is an example of cheap and plentiful labour. It is really only fast food in that you walk quite quickly past the places you don’t want to eat.

People living on or near the streets wear quite an amusing selection of western clothes. I know that once upon a time they were worn by some kid in Toronto and when too small were dispatched to the nearest charity shop. Now I know where those clothes go. I saw a great Vermont t-shirt, complete with a moose on a little girl yesterday.

There is a growing middle class here. The other day I saw a great lady, sitting proudly side-saddle on her Boda with a fabulous pair of high heeled patent red boots. Quite the sight.

Bicycles are for at least two people.

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Filed under Family Stuff, observations, personal, Uganda

Summer limes

A few slices of summer lime

 

Yesterday I sat in front of a fire with two sweaters on. Welcome to July in Quebec. It was bloody cold, especially for my spoilt disposition so attuned to the tropics.

 

Yet today it is beautiful here. Very still, calm and fresh. It feels Northern. The green is as fresh and pale as a Boreal forest should be. The sky crisp, the sun sharp. 

I had been sensitized to the northern climate, the trees, sounds and tastes and now I have a new found appreciation for what was once ordinary. That is the beauty of living away; I can retain the pleasure of experiencing the new.

 

 

We went to a market over the weekend in a small country town. I saw happy hippies and city weekenders shopping for their lunch, greeting each other with familiar smiles. The small kiosks were proudly selling their homemade foods. I sampled wine, cheese  and maple syrup but I could have also tried milk fed piglet or gourmet sausage. There was a pride in their food and the tasteful (and sometimes kitch) presentation. This is a land of food snobs.

 

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Since arriving in Montreal I have eaten meals that have tasted intense and fresh. I had not experienced a sensation quite like a fresh Quebec strawberry in some time. My taste buds have been deprived of these northern flavours, the sweet but tart berry, the pungent wet cheese, the nectarine dripping in juice. And visually the food looks perfect, the carrots are small and neat and orange, the eggplant firm in its purple fatness and the lettuce looks as crisp as its crunch. 

 

A Canadian summer means drinks at the dock, laughter with friends, the icy dip or the comfort of a roaring fireplace. For me it also means a return to my adopted home and time spent with my sisterhood of girlfriends. There is comfort in returning home to the familiar and seeing the gasp of recognition and joy spread over my daughters’ faces.

 

Things are often too long. Movies, books, classes, days, plays; but a Canadian summer is always too short. Staring at a Canadian lake bordered by gentle hills is so relaxing that after a while you feel akin to floating.

 

I must confess that no part of my anatomy has yet dared to experience the piercing and heart thumping cold of a lake swim.

 

Saving that for another day. Not quite that brave yet.

 

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Filed under La belle ville

Slow food in the Fast lane

Grocery shopping here is a frustrating and very expensive experience. Eating local food such as Roti and Doubles is a cheap and cheerful way to go but finding decent imported food is both costly and unreliable. Every now and then a container arrives filled with a new and exciting product and a few months later, when the container has emptied and run out, the shelves are bare. It’s best not to make too many decisions about dinner until the shopping is done as you never know what you will get. Many people cave and go headlong into the fast food option a few times a week.

The busiest KFC in the world is here in Trinidad on Independence Square. While that branch might be the busiest, I suspect that the other Trinidad branches are not far behind. I have never seen as many people eating fried chicken in my life as I see here on a daily basis. Many students rush to KFC during our 30 minute lunch hour, coming back to school with minutes to spare and licking chicken grease off their fingers for the remainder of the afternoon.
It is cheap, tasty and who cares about heart disease and long term health disasters when all that rum dissolves the probable effects?

In the rest of the world fast food consumption is on the rise. Has anyone seen those tv ads where the nice lady serves Mcnuggets on a banana leaf as a pseudo fancy appetizer? If that is not a woeful tale of recession optimism then I don’t know what it. Crowds of people march into the golden arches demanding their $1.00 meal, feeling puffed and victorious with their frugality, but what can a $1.00 actually give you? Is anyone thinking about the substances, rather than food, that is being ingested? When did people put money so far ahead of health?
McDonalds was one of only two companies to close 2008 with a 4.5% increase in their stock value. (The other is Walmart. Surprised?) Wholefoods is crawling through the tunnel of recession despair and the Big Mac rules. There is no MacDonalds down here but Burger King and KFC have line ups round the block. This has always been the way, recession woes have not really hit this corner of the Caribbean.

When I was very small, back in 1974, my family was living in Hong Kong. There was a MacDonald’s there, shiny, new and nonexistent in the UK from where we had recently been transplanted. So it was novel, yummy and there was an exciting replica of a pirate ship that we would crawl all over. A visit quickly became our Sunday night routine. I remember we weren’t allowed to drink our shake until we had finished our burger. Got to get those nutrients in first!
Once my parents realized what we were really ingesting, the visits to the glorious arches stopped and our fridge became filled with the freshest and best food we could buy. We weren’t an obsessed family but we were healthy, yet despite the guilt I sometimes felt, I loved the occasional fast food blitz.
Now I crave fine food, rather than the fast, squashy and wet food that comes wrapped in paper. I am dreaming of my summer in Montreal when I can gorge on gorgeous tomatoes, fabulous cheese, and fresh produce from the farmers market.

Right now I am dreaming of sushi.

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Filed under I love food, Trinidad & Tobago

Bells, whistles, prunes and Chow.

Do you ever stand in front of the fridge in true contemplative stance, one hand on door, one hand on chin, knees bent; looking with all your might for something to magically appear that would satisfy every craving?
I have found that food. Sweet, spicy, soft but crunchy, touched with garlic and vinegar, sugar and chili peppers. That food is Chow. It can be made with mangos, plums, any fruit that is soft enough to absorb flavours but my personal favorite is pineapple chow. The fruit is cut into thick chunks and left to soak in a jar of marinade until it turns into Chow.
1 pineapple or 2 full half ripe mangoes, peeled, chunked
2 lemons/limes, juiced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt, pepper (or hot peppers) to taste
If you puree the Mango version it becomes mango chutney. I love the combination of sweet and salty. Speaking of which, the funniest thing occurred the other day.
When I was very small and living in Hong Kong I ate these, what I thought were, candies and I recall them being sweet, salty and chewy. I left Hong Kong when I was 9 and despite never eating those “candies” again, I often remembered the taste and wondered what they were. When I arrived in Trinidad I thought I might find that taste again but had no idea what to ask for or where to look. I thought that the land of Chow would certainly have that strange, memorable and tasty sweet.
The other day in class, a student offered me a dried sweet prune. It was like a shriveled ball, rolled in a dusting of white powder. I popped it in my mouth and bells, whistles, cymbles and alarms went off. This was it!! That strange tasty memory I had been searching for. They were sweet prunes. I was immediately transported back in time and I laughed out loud.

Sweet.

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Filed under I love food, Travel, Trinidad & Tobago

Tidbits

I’ve learnt a lot over these past few weeks. Apart from everything in Mr Bryson’s book,I have also had an education of a different sort. I like to wake up and hopefully learn something everyday. I don’t mean in a cheesy, learn to love your neighbour way at all. No I mean about anything. I like hearing about stuff all the time. The following information is gleaned from a dinner party, attending Carnival Tuesday, going to TGI Friday, watching the BBC news, reading blogs and watching 25 episodes of Brothers and Sisters. 

 

1. Having someone lend you a whole two seasons of a great show that you’ve always wanted to see is a great gift. I love these characters, they are beginning to become real and if this continues I might need professional help. Have I learnt anything from the show? How so many people can be really attractive without really being that attractive at all. This is no Gossip Girl. These are real looking, better than average people with really good lighting. I have also learnt, once again, to appreciate that good TV is all about the writers.

2. The way that oil companies find oil is to drag a huge ultra sound machine along the sea bed, carefully managing to avoid whales. Sonic seiser wave thingies detect the rocks and earth’s innards and the wavy lines on paper are poured over by expats in Trinidad.

3. Very large women with very very large bodies play carnival and they are fantastic.

4. Never order a Caesar salad from TGI Friday’s in Port of Spain, Trinidad.

5. There are people living in cardboard boxes in Italy. These people are illegal immigrants and have been living up to 4 months in a community of cardboard dwellers. They are freezing cold, have no sanitation and cook with fire. 

6. I was told, upon hearing that I am moving to Uganda, that when I first see a giraffe I’ll be shocked by its height.

7. Most dinosaurs were as small as rabbits. (I must have known this and just forgotten. That is the great fun of learning these things all over again.)

8. That whole crazy blip in my brain that makes me think about food all the time is presently switched off. It is wonderful.

9. Growing up is realizing that even if you are not the best, you are not that bad.

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Doubles or Nothing

Not to get too personal or anything but I have had a stomach ache since I was 11. The first doctor laughed, the second and third doctors thought it was stress or my imagination, a few other doctors told me to keep a food diary, doctors 6 and 7 tested me for Celiac’s disease and one told me to drink fennel and peppermint tea. Finally as I near that rather large threshold that rhymes with “haughty”, I decided to do something about it. The most recent doctor, seen in London, in a large and airy office in Harley Street with fresh plants and art work on the walls, told me to give up wheat for 6 weeks. Now I have always suspected that wheat might be the culprit, but who wants to voluntarily give up pizza, pasta, roti, doubles, cake, cookies, scones, cereal, toast, crackers, Kit-kats, Twixes, and cookie-dough ice-cream? I am now on day 22 of my no-wheat diet and guess what? No stomach ache, No bloating, and most remarkably, No craving for the very things I can’t have.  The hardest thing about all this is all the Trini food that I love to eat.

First, Bake and Shark. (Although I always have Bake and Cheese and Never Shark.) Bake is a fried bread that is stuffed with shark or shrimp or cheese and a multitude of toppings including pineapple, tamarind sauce, shado beni ( coriander), salad, garlic sauce and thousand island dressing, making it the best sandwich in the world. Call Gayle on Oprah! It’s true.

Second, Roti. This is a soft bread lined with channa (  crushed chick peas) and filled with goat, chicken (boned or un-boned)or vegetables. I always take the vegetables and it is warm and delicious and filling and so so good.

Third, Doubles. Doubles are simply a double portion of soft fried bread filled with a channa (chick pea) sauce and served with pepper, cucumbers and shado beni. They are to eaten standing up in front of the Doubles stand where the Doubles man only makes Doubles in the morning. By 11 am, there is a dearth of Doubles around as everybody has eaten Doubles for breakfast. I had just moved from a regular to a slight (a bit hot) to a pepper Doubles and now I have given them up.

I am just going to the mirror to look at my flatter, happy stomach. I am trying not to think about the Doubles.

 


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Filed under How old am I?, Trinidad & Tobago