Home > cutlery, fingers, Kenya, ugali > Ugali – or how to eat without a fork

Ugali – or how to eat without a fork

Ugali is a maize flour mix, similar to polenta without all the flavouring. It is the staple diet in Kenya, and indeed most of Africa, in different forms and with different names.
On my first visit to Kenya, I was staying in the home of an extended family, and as a consequence, there were a fair number of kids.
Mealtimes were fascinating, with all the kids lined up on the floor, each with a plate of sukuma and ugali. The kids, of course, all knew exactly how to use the ugali – pull a little off, mold it into a spoon, scoop up some sukuma and juice and eat it.

That doesn’t look too difficult, I thought and gave it a go. The kids burst out laughing at my attempts. The adults tried not to laugh and I reverted to using a spoon for the rest of my stay. It saved on having to wash shirts!

It struck me as very interesting, how certain societies eat with their fingers. I had a friend visit us from Lucknow, India. He and his wife could eat just about anything with their fingers and not lose a drop. Kenyans are the same.
Communal meal for orphans

We in the “West” seem to have made life very difficult for ourselves by “inventing” cutlery. After all, what is the easiest way to eat a chicken drumstick? By picking it up and gnawing at it, of course. But no, we sit there attacking it with a knife and fork to get the flesh from the bone. Ridiculous!
I am not saying there isn’t a place for using knives, forks and spoons, but why did we have to re-invent eating? If fingers will do, then use them!

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Categories: cutlery, fingers, Kenya, ugali
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