Food, Pictures

American Food

Kenyans always want to know what the staple food is in America. Maybe I’m not a typical American, but I always say that we don’t have one. A typical Kenyan meal revolves around ugali (a thick maize porridge), usually accompanied by some sort of greens like spinach or kale, and roasted, boiled, or fried meat. While a case could be made that hamburgers are America’s staple, I generally just say, “In American people eat whatever they feel like eating.”

It is true that we/I eat a lot of fast food, but home-cooked meals made from store-bought ingredients also vary in shape, size, and ethnicity. Here’s a photo diary of a few things I ate while I was home for about a week in California (in no particular order):

Keep in mind that I’ve been out of the States for a year and only home for a very short time, so I was on a bit of a fast food bender. So when you see me back in Kenya and I look a little chubby… be nice. I’m looking forward to getting back to my rice-and-beans diet when I return to Kenya.

5 Comments

  1. mike

    yea dude, that’s not a normal diet, but probably what the over weight portion of America eat. You are a rare exception though, you have no fat!

  2. Wairimu

    I beg to differ on the ‘typical Kenyan meal’ being ugali, skuma wiki and meat. That may be the typical poor man’s meal in Nairobi, if that, but not everyone’s typical meal.

    Breakfast is usually tea, bread, and maybe eggs or sausage, and some fruit.
    Lunch varies – maybe fast food – chips/bhajias & sausage/chicken or kienyeji food etc
    Supper options of rice/ugali/chapos and random meat – usually beef and some kind of vegetables usually a stew potatoes, carrots, peas, cabbage unless with ugali then either spinach or kale or a mixture of the two, and fruit galore.

    For the more upwardly mobile folks, there are a plethora of restaurants to choose from and a variety of cuisines – might not be as big a selection as in the States but we’re hardly lacking in choices – Ethipian, Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Italian etc and good old nyama choma.

    1. Alan Author

      You’re right, Kenyans do eat more than just ugali; I admittedly oversimplified the situation to make my point. I think in Nairobi a strong case could be made that people are more metropolitan, and eat whatever they fancy (including pizza, chips and chicken, burgers, etc). Time are changing quickly indeed!

      Rural areas, however, still account for over 75% of Kenya’s ~41 million people, and aren’t changing as quickly. If public outrage about government maize corruption, rises in maize flour prices, etc are any indicator, ugali is still a very important part of many peoples’ lives. People aren’t up in arms when the price of potatoes goes up! Ama?

  3. Wairimu

    Maize meal is a staple in Kenya, and usually the cheapest grain. It’s therefore the most affordable especially for people already living on the margins. In times of scarcity, if the cost goes up, people will definitely be up in arms.

    In the villages etc, people may have other options eg. tubers – cassava, yams etc as well as maize, dried legumes: beans, njahi, njugu etc -to make githeri (my regional origins are showing) to supplement the unga. People in cities don’t always have the same luxury. And you pay directly for everything in tao vs shaggs, so every extra shilling to unga is one less to other stuff.

    That’s not to say that unga is the S.I. unit of Kenyan foods, it might be for the poor city dweller though ;)

    In the words of Emilio: Ji-enjoy!

  4. Christine

    Wairimu, I would like to disagree with you on the point “That’s not to say that unga is the S.I. unit of Kenyan foods, it might be for the poor city dweller though ;)” Even the rich city dweller in Kenya uses unga, its not just for the poor one. I have seen lots of rich city dwellers living in the westlands neighbourhood buying bales of unga at Uchumi in Sarit center.

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