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Tuesday, 12 July 2011

A taste of Chikuni

Happy days...
Yum, yum, yum I thought as I was led towards the bowl sitting atop of the table. Eating new foods is part of living in any new culture and each culture has it’s own food types. “Down the hatch” someone said and I thought I might as well just play it ‘cool’ and go for it. I looked into the dish to find thirty or so fried caterpillars. They looked a bit like dried beef but more circular in shape. “Oh God” I thought as my hand went in to fish one of the little buggers out. I grabbed hold of a medium sized one, opened my mouth, tossed it in like it was no more than a peanut and promptly closed my mouth. Now came the difficult part… chewing. I hesitated. My co-conspirator smirked. She had already tried and knew just what I was going through. I open my jaws and shudder, started to chew. It actually wasn’t too bad. Not good mind you, but if I had to I could have eaten another. Of course then I had to swallow the thing. My throat felt tight and my stomach was ill-inclined to receive what my brain knew I was eating. But it relented and I swallowed and it was gone, except for the taste. But lovely beer took care of that problem! Happy days…

I looked at her when she told me it was hippo meat. This girl has fooled me many times already and I am not about to be fooled again so easily. But this time she’s not kidding me. It really is hippo, as in hippopotamus! They had a time trying to cut the skin off of it but eventually through gritted teeth, stamina and sheer determination the epidermis was detached and just the meat remained. Later in the evening I get to sample and very nice it was too. Not too strong a flavour. I’m tempted to say “a bit like chicken” but actually I thought it was more like a mashup of beef and pork. This seemed quite apt given that a hippopotamus does actually look, at least to me, like a cross between a pig and a (very large) cow. It apparently had to cook for just three hours which I though was quite short given how tough the meat looked.

Another beautiful African sunset
“So you eat the head as well?” I asked tentatively looking at the fish, held by its tail between two of my fingers. Yes was the answer and so with only minor in trepidation, in the fish went. The fish is only about five or six centimetres long and perhaps two wide so the bones and skull (do fish have skulls??) were easily crushed by my amble molars. Any fears instilled by my mother about the hazards of fish bones are momentarily forgotten as I enjoy the new experience. I do grind down the fish thoroughly though to ensure any stray bones don’t skew my throat because as the saying goes… mother knows best! Of course one of the reasons why the fish tastes so exceptionally good is because they are fried in oil but I don’t think cholesterol has been invented here yet so I just enjoy yet another new experience.

Your reporter in the middle of nowhere,
Bon Appetite

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