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Food: Procuring Produce…and Other Tasty Treats

June 11, 2012

This begins a series of posts all about food.  Food is vital to life and health and happiness (you can’t have the latter without the first two, right?).  Food is one thing each culture has in common, though what one eats, and what one doesn’t, varies as much as each culture does.

It has taken me a while to get this post together because I felt I needed some experience in order to post without sounding like an idiot.  I still may sound like an idiot, but at least I’m an idiot with experience!  Also, I don’t want to wait until the novelty wears off.  Then I won’t remember what makes food here different from other places (ok, different from the states, since that is the only other place I’ve lived).

I don’t know how many different posts I can do about food, but already there are many planned and begun.  Because I pretend to be a Type A personality, I am trying to do them in a logical order, starting with procuring the food.  (And it won’t be continuous…I’ll post about other topics here and there…just in case you were thinking of tuning us out for a while…please don’t!)

In the states, nearly all of the food procurement is done at a grocery store, or multipurpose store, or warehouse store.  Very little is done at open markets, or via delivery, or some other special circumstance.  I suppose here it could be the same way for those of us making far above the average wage.  However, we have found that there are a variety of ways to get our food items for a better price.

Eggs

We are awaiting our own chickens, but until then, we get our eggs from a local source, delivered.  Actually, they get delivered to a neighbor’s house, who coordinates the egg order and payment, and then we walk across the street once a week and pick them up.  Because they’re fresh and local, and unwashed, they are left at room temperature, instead of refrigerated like at home.  Be careful, though, roaches love to hide in the egg cartons!  (This is one place I haven’t seen one….yet.)

Coke

Coca-Cola is very popular here.  However, getting it in plastic bottles is a rare thing.  It comes in glass bottles, which were already here at the house, and you get them replaced with full ones as you drink them.  Matthew, our first weeks here, took the bottles to get refilled himself as a fun experience.  He loaded the cases and Levi into a wheelbarrow and headed down the bumpy street.  Amazingly, all returned intact with two full cases of Coke.  We just needed new ones (we don’t guzzle it!) and had one of our workers take them.  Unfortunately, the wheelbarrow broke, sending one of the cases tumbling to the ground, breaking about half of the bottles.  They were still empty at the time.  It actually works out well because now we have extra bottles for our one intact case and can get it refilled before we run out!

Coke and the local beer, Primus, which is obtained the same way.

Produce

Produce is typically cheapest on the street.  However, most missionary families, including us, have it delivered by our own personal produce people.  I have two.  This initially started because I had a hard time saying no.  However, I found that one had better fruits and one had better veggies, so it worked out well!  Papa Joseph had a stand down at the Commercial Centre, but it was banned (and I assume it was burnt) the weekend when law enforcement did it to the whole city, so now he “hides” under an awning of another store.  However, about once a week, whenever I need any veggies, I give him a list and he brings them to my house the next day.  I usually get potatoes, onion, garlic, cabbages, tomatoes (yep, they are a fruit, but I go with it), and peppers from him.  Fairly basic stuff.  Every Saturday, Mama Victorine comes to my house with a delivery.  As far as I know, she doesn’t have a stand, but I give her a list after she delivers the fruit.  I usually buy bananas, avocados (perfect baby food), and whatever else sounds good that week: papaya, pineapple, mandarins, limes (for the Cokes, of course), these fruits called pomme rogue that Matthew and I can’t find a comparison for, but I’ll post pictures in a future Food Series post, etc.  Her prices are high, but she always gives gifts when we’re done, so it makes up for it.  And her stuff is high quality, too!

Papaya and a couple of our mangoes

Bread

I mentioned bread in an earlier post and I do mostly still buy it that way.  Sometimes, when I’m out of time, I have a worker go get it for me.  Once we bought it while in the car and rolling down our window.  I often get it at the Commercial Centre from Mama Lily.  She has more spunk than any other Congolese woman I’ve met…I like her.  For instance, she still sets up a table.  So, either she had a business license (which is the rumored reason things got burnt – people didn’t have business licenses), or she is being spunky.

Tortillas

You can’t buy tortillas here.  Or not that I’ve seen or heard, but someone, once upon a time, taught some of their workers to make them.  Oh, yeah, I could make them on my own.  I make many foods from scratch.  But, you should know one thing about me: I HATE using a rolling pin.  I will use it occasionally, but making tortillas, the one time I did, was like torture and I have refused ever since.  However, we love tortillas and don’t want to miss out, so we’ve made an arrangement with our neighbor to have her worker make us a batch when he makes some for them.  Ironically, as I type this, that family is on vacation and their worker is in my kitchen (the kitchen where he was rumored to have originally trained) making tortillas right this instant.  Mmmmm…

Bulk Order

MAF also provides a monthly bulk order service where you order foods in large quantities and they are paid for right out of your MAF account here locally (the same way I mentioned that we get cash).  I was told this is the best way to purchase chicken, tomato paste, some worker-specific local food, flour, rice, milk (powdered), etc.  I decided to get super creative last month and ask for a bunch of other things that we eat in bulk, so why not try to get them that way.  It didn’t turn out to be much cheaper, because foods simply aren’t offered in bulk like at warehouse stores in the states, but we’re still trying it out to see if it’s more convenient.

Breaking up the bulk frozen chicken, all thigh/leg pieces, into meal-sized portions. You can see the HUGE box of butter in the back, too.

Our Own Backyard

And, lastly, of course there’s the food growing in our backyard.  We’re still working on a garden, but squash, watermelon, tomatoes, cucumbers, and cantaloupe are all on their way, some from local seeds!  We have also enjoyed mangoes from the tree and just had a few coconuts from the palm.  Watching Matthew pick the mangoes was a treat all by itself.  Mosengo wanted to, but his eyesight isn’t good enough to see the mangoes, so he was trying to catch them.  The Congolese who are quite good at it can pick them and catch them all at once.  It’s crazy to watch!

Catch the mango!

One Comment leave one →
  1. Ryan permalink
    June 13, 2012 0829

    Super Awesome! I love reading your updates.

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