I’m writing this during my lunch break. I’m working from home today. On one side of my table are biscuits with lemon flavored cream fillings. Those will be dessert. I would’ve had yoghurt as a starter but that would fill me up.
To the left of my table is a glass of orange juice. My plate has left over rice from a few days ago. It still tastes okay. My former housemate from Ghana taught me how to eat rice with shito. That stuff made my nose run, got my eyes welled up and I’d struggle with the fire in my rectum when I went to the toilet. I don’t have shito in my house. But I have ketchup. It’s working for me.
I have covered one side of my plate with avocado. These were brought here all the way from Peru. I saw the sticker when I bought it. Small avocado the size of a mango. Still doesn’t taste like a proper avocado. Disappointing.
Anyway, today is one of those days I wish I could write in my local language. I wish I could write in Lugbara or in Alur or Jonam or Acholi. I would find it easier to get the words. I would draft the descriptions quicker. It would be simple, done in a snap.
But I must find the words to tell of my favorite local foods (because I have more than one) whose names don’t exist in the Queen’s language. I will take you on a journey.
We will go to our garden at the back of the house in Arua. The edge of the garden has lemon grass, moringa trees and a mango tree. In the middle is an avocado tree with fruits dangling. We will pick a vegetable that looks like coriander, layi (no idea what it’s called in English) and place it in a kobi. A kobi is a local tray made from the cover of sorghum or millet stems. We will pick bamia (okra) and tender agobi (pumpkin leaves). In the house we already have ngenjia/mukene (no idea what these ones are called in English), tomatoes, onions and all these that give food taste.
I won’t bother you with the details of how this mix of layi, bamia, agobi and ngenjia are cooked. The final product is a healthy, tasty, smooth sauce that slides down your gut with all the nutrients from nature. Eat this with inyasa (millet/sorghum pap) or wunga (posho/maize flour pap) and you will thank God for these vegetables in your garden.
The closest to this in taste and texture for the Nigerians is Ogbono soup, without the overwhelming sweat and tear inducing pepper.
I also like oboo and malakwang. No idea what they are in English. Making these two requires a touch of Northern Ugandan-ness. Add odii (peanut butter) to them, sit on a papyrus mat and use your fingers to take it down with kata (sweet potatoes) or posho. You will tell of the goodness of this to your grandchildren.
So you know. That’s how I like my local food.