One of the best things about experiencing a different culture is trying new foods! Zambia has a wide variety of traditional dishes. Amy encouraged me to ask Sheila, their housekeeper, to make Nshima for us one day. Sheila typically only works weekdays but she came in part time on the weekend while Amy and Ben were away. I asked her if she would show me how to make Nshima for lunch on Saturday, and she agreed. It was fascinating! Here’s the recipe if you want to try it for yourself. I haven’t made it yet, but I plan to do so soon. You need mealie meal, or white corn meal, which might be hard to find unless you have an African market nearby. You can also find it on Amazon.
Nshima has a unique texture, kind of like a paste but doesn’t stick to your fingers, and is typically eaten with your hands. You pinch off a chunk, roll it into a ball, flatten the ball into a kind of disc, and use it to pick up whatever food is served as a side dish.
I took videos along with pictures but I can’t post videos here which is super frustrating, but I will do my best to record Sheila’s recipe and instructions.
What you need for Nshima:
- medium sauce pan
- strong wooden spoon
- 2 cups mealie meal (white corn meal)
- 2 cups water
What you need for the sides:
- Small yellow onion
- 3-4 roma tomatoes
- spinach or baby kale greens
- oil ( I like olive oil, but vegetable oil is traditionally used)
- 1 can baked beans
Make the Nshima:
Heat the water on medium/high heat until it boils. Sprinkle in about half of the meal while whisking. Cover with lid, cook for about 15 minutes, stirring every few minutes. Sprinkle the rest of the mealie meal in to the pot stirring constantly with the wooden spoon until it forms well. Don’t make it too thick.
Make the sides:
Finely chop the greens, onion, and tomatoes.
In a shallow pan, combine the greens with a few tablespoons of water and salt to taste, and cook until wilted. Add about 1/3 of the chopped onion and 3 tablespoons oil. Cook until onions are cooked through. Remove from pan to serving bowl.
Using the same pan, combine the rest of the onion with the tomatoes and 1/4 cup oil and salt to taste. Cook until tomatoes and onions are cooked through. Remove from pan to serving bowl.
Heat the baked beans by whatever method you choose, whether in a small saucepan on the stove top or in the microwave.
The Nshima is served on a plate with a serving of greens, tomato & onions, and baked beans. Sheila and the kids easily ate with their hands, I found it challenging so I used a fork. It was delicious and I look forward to making it in my own kitchen!
You can find a good Nshima recipe, along with other traditional Zambian recipes at Zambian Kitchen. I won’t be offended if you try that one instead!
Amy and the older boys have a weekly lunch/swim date at a friend’s home.
This is a group of moms who are all international workers in Kitwe – their kids are all friends and go to Judo together every week after their swim and lunch. Since Amy was away I was invited to come with the boys and hang out with the moms. Their home is an easy walk from Ben & Amy’s, and is a beautiful property with lots of yard space and a backyard pool. Lunch is a potluck situation – we brought the bread for the sandwiches.
The kids swam while we visited and prepared sandwiches and vegetables for dipping. The kids came in for their food and took it back out by the pool. We took our lunch out front and sat on the terrace. It was an interesting conversation that gave me a glimpse into the lives of international workers that work in the medical field as well as Christian education.
After lunch the kids changed into their Judogi, we all piled into vehicles, the kids riding in the bed of the truck, and off we went to the college for their Judo class. It was fun watching the boys go through the patterns and exercises. They even flipped each other! A rogue wave of jet lag hit while I was sitting there and I found myself dozing off a couple times.
We got a ride home where the boys changed their clothes and grabbed bags they had packed earlier. They had been invited to another Judo friend’s home for a two-night sleepover. It would just be me and the littles for a couple days.
The littles were not happy that their brothers got to go on a sleepover without them, but they cheered up when I told them they could sleep in mom & dad’s bed until the boys came home to claim mom & dad’s room, which put the littles back in their own bunkbeds.
The power went out again Sunday morning before we went to church. Turns out it wasn’t a typical power outage – we were out of units. Electricity is prepaid here, and when the power units run out the power goes off. Ben had topped up the units online before they left and had them on his phone, but forgot to transfer them before he left. It wasn’t a big deal – I could stop at the store on the way home after lunch and purchase more units to restore power.
The Sherman’s picked us up for church.. We were a few minutes late due to a last minute diaper change before the Sherman’s left home. This week Ada willingly went with the other kids for Christmas program practice so I was able to stay in the adult service, which I enjoyed.
After the service we stayed for fellowship time which happens outdoors, weather permitting, with everyone chatting while the kids played on the playground. I saw Tolai again, and she said she would like to find time this week to “flourish” with me. I had no idea what that meant but I very much wanted to spend some time getting to know her so I immediately agreed, and we made plans for her to pick me up so we could go flourish together.
Like last Sunday, we went home with the Sherman’s for lunch. Kevin and Sarah are lovely people and I enjoyed getting to know them. It is interesting that Kevin and Amy went to college together (the same college I went to), and Sarah and Ben were in elementary school together, and they all ended up in Kitwe serving together at CABU!Sarah served delicious slow cooker chicken tacos which we devoured in very short order. I needed to buy some power units and I had a couple things to pick up at the store on the way home, so Kevin took us to Shoprite. The kids and I grabbed the few things we needed while Kevin stood in line to buy some power units. Thankfully, he had 200 Kwacha on him, and I paid him back when he drove us home. I really should have had the cash Amy gave me in my purse. I’m so used to only using my credit card that I don’t think to carry cash anymore. It all worked out in the end. Once we got home Simon entered the code into the power box, electricity was immediately restored, and great rejoicing was heard throughout the land. Well, at least throughout the house.
A few days later Tolai came to pick me up while the kids were in school.
We went for lunch at CABU, where they have a lovely little café. We sat on the veranda and I looked at the menu. Tolai went inside for a minute, and the server came to the table for my order while she was gone. I didn’t want to order without Tolai, but I did ask for an iced caramel latte. Tolai returned to the table and was surprised I had waited for her to order.
I wanted the beef kabobs, but the server came back and said they didn’t have any that day. She didn’t seem to know what exactly they had available, so it was trial and error – ask her for something, she asks the kitchen and comes back with a yes or no. Tolai ended up ordering a burger, I ordered the stuffed chicken breast. Both orders came with a side of fries, and the meals were delicious.
When Tolai asked if she could ask me a personal question, I knew this was going to be a good conversation! I also began to understand what she meant by “flourish”.
We dove deep into the topics of family, faith, mental health, and trauma. It is my favorite kind of conversation, and “flourish” is now my new favorite word! We flourished well for a couple of hours, until it was time fer her to take me home. We promised to stay in touch and I look forward to our Zoom calls.
Ben and Amy are almost home!
The kids and I have enjoyed our time together, but we were all feeling the need for mom & dad to be back in charge again. But, true to Zambian life, not everything goes as planned, and we had to adapt and adjust one more time. More about that in the next chapter.
I was told Africa gets in your blood and changes you forever. This is a true and accurate statement. I am changed forever, not least by the people I met, and I am so very grateful for that.