World Food Day
“What is your favourite comfort food? What were your school dinners like? What was your first taste memory? What’s it like to plant, grow, and eat your own food?” Such were the questions buzzing around the group celebrating World Food Day (16th October).
It was with relief and delight that I watched the 16 participants, aged 8+ to 80+ chatting amiably as they munched their way through their own Show-and-Tell international banquet. A giant map on the wall was splattered with coloured post-its proclaiming the foods’ origins.
Why relief? Well, it’s a mystery that people in a predominantly mono-cultural, monochromatic town in the middle of England will bestir themselves on a Sunday evening to share with who-knows-whom their own culinary creations. But here they were and I blessed them for it, good wonderful souls that they are.
The stories abounded. Conversations and laughter bubbled over on top of each other as personal anecdotes were related quietly with a neighbouring eater, or to small clusters of people who in turn were reminded of the “the time when…..”.
One such story was from Steve, recently returned from a trip to Kenya, where he spoke warmly of the rich hospitality he was offered in even the poorest of villages.
His contributing dish was cooked for us on the spot. Sukuma Wiki means “push the week” or “stretch the week”. In Kenya it is made with collard greens, but any Green of Robust Character will do. It is served with cornmeal mush or chapatis or other flat bread. It is generally eaten with the hands, so hands are washed at the table with a jug of water and a towel taken around. Late arrivers are greeted by gripping the forearm, so that the hands remain employed for eating.
So, we tried it at home, with (my favourite) the tops of brussels sprouts plants. With difficulty I will hold back my rapture for this gloriously beautiful, tasty, multi-hued, unsung vegetable and cut to the chase. Fry a chopped onion in about 2 tablespoons of oil until tender. Take a bunch of greens, chop and add. Stir exuberantly to get the greens acquainted with the onions and the oil, then add about ½ cup of water, cover, and steam until done. Add a chopped tomato. Serve hot, but not so hot that it burns your fingers as you eat with your hands (we know!).
Alternatives: If you’re rich enough to have a stock cube in the house, add it with the water. If you’re even richer, you may have left over meat or other vegetables to add at the end.