What's for Dinner?

Oh food, glorious food!

As we settle in over here, some questions pop up again and again. In subsequent posts, I hope to address a few of these, including "what does Julie do?" and "what's school like for your kids?"

Today's question: "What do you eat over there?"

As a Mennonite and lover-of-all-things-edible, this topic is a favourite of mine (much to Jesh's chagrin!). I'll keep this first post simple, but don't think this means it's the last you will hear of the Thiessen's menu in Burundi:)

Mennonite "Platz" - the mangoes we substituted for plums worked just  great!
 Everything we make is made from scratch, and most often is vegetarian. No such thing as store-bought pasta sauce or a bag of tortillas around here! With the local grocery store being 35 minutes away, and having a few meaner rows of shelves, it has been a fun (and sometimes frustrating!) challenge.

The simplest things are made from the local ingredients. There may not be huge variations in what we can get, but it's all incredibly fresh and delicious.

Weekly we get a delivery of beautiful produce
Christmas dinner with the surgery staff;
with goat kebabs as a treat!

In addition, we are blessed to have access to fresh, local cow's milk, opening up a world of possibility. I have been able to reproduce my vanilla yogurt recipe, and even tried my hand at cottage cheese to make my Grandma's blintz recipe (stuffed crêpes). Cream cheese was a fun creation, but my feta cheese totally bombed. Maybe next time!
Rice pudding goes down easy!

There is actually a lot that we CAN make here, it's just a matter of how much time we want to spend in the kitchen.

Ice cream? Definitely worth the time!
Tortilla chips
First, make the tortillas.
Second, make the chips.
Third, make the nachos:)
(worth it? That depends...)
I have tried my hand at crackers, and for Kaden's birthday we even managed a hot dog roast with home made marshmallows!

Orange creamsicle marshmallows

These things can be really fun, but tend to take a lot more time then I want to spend in the kitchen. I have found myself riding the tension between enjoying new and different things and being content with simple and repetitive basics. It's good to think intentionally about how much time I want to invest in food, and when that time might be better-spent elsewhere.

This means we often revert to our standard meal - rice and beans.

Not a day goes by where we don't have them! On their own, layered into burrito casserole, stuffed into zucchini, rolled in home made tortillas, even at the hospital cafeteria, served with plantains (fried green bananas).

Voila - rice and beans!
Burrito casserole with avocado sauce
Cafeteria luncheon with fried bananas
I have been really surprised how long it takes to do everything in the kitchen. Perhaps it's because I can't just buy a loaf of bread, or the fact after all this cooking there is a lot of dishwashing to be done (by hand, of course).

Therefore, I am incredibly thankful for someone who comes and helps with the monotonous daily chores like these that just take a lot of time.

Removing rocks from the rice.
Every. Single. Time.
It sounds so strange to us westerners, but being able to provide a job for someone local is a small way we can invest in our community, and it allows me to divide my time elsewhere (but that's for another post!). It has been a learning curve to have someone else in "my" kitchen, but it's probably healthy to remember to hold "my" things and "my" space loosely (ok, loos-ER - I still like things a certain way:)

So, the challenge to cook with (mostly) local ingredients continues.

When in season, mangoes are a favourite!
But let me tell you, we are not deprived. Eating 3 meals a day is a luxury for most who live around us, which is an excellent reminder that rice in our bowls is more then enough.

(of course, now again we do enjoy a treat from out-of-the-country - which tastes all the better when it's been awhile!)