Friday, March 27, 2009

Uganda 1, Me 0

[Luke, Thursday afternoon]

Last night I had the single most terrifying food experience of my life. It took a little bit, but I have now been bested by the local food. I saw that my opponent was more powerful than I, and I laid my sword down and supplicated in defeat.

Our friend from the business school, Mr. Rodney, said he wanted to take us out to dinner for a special Ugandan treat, that probably should have been a red flag. So far all the Ugandan food has been pretty good, so I was ready for whatever he had to throw at me. He said it was called molokoni** and the women in the room looked up at us and tittered, that probably should have been a red flag. He then described it in English, which included extensive pointing at our feet. Ro-digga speaks better English than I do, so that definitely should have been a red flag. Whatever though- we're brave, we're open minded.

He picks us up around 8 or something and takes us to Wandegare Wondegeya (think Spanish, juan-de-guerr), which is the kind of skeezy district where we got Rolex before (food, like a breakfast burrito- if you didn't read that post). Red flag. Then we proceeded to venture much further into the depths of the neighborhood. Red flag. Then we rounded a corner and came to a dark, unlit alley, which of course was where we were headed. Big Red flag. We came out into an open area that was cut off from the street on all sides and totally unlit (actually a plus as it later turned out), with little bars and restaurants all facing in.

He goes and talks to the proprietress, and continues to explain what he wants for an uncomfortably long time. We sit down and a lady comes by with a jug of water, soap, and a big pan to wash our hands. This is pretty abnormal, but nice. Rodney says it’s because we eat it with our hands. Small red flag. Dinner arrives:




Its broth, with a mysterious object in it. Suddenly I'm so glad that there is very little light. It is a cow's hoof, boiled. It smells like a cow's hoof, a cow who isn't too far removed from the barnyard (BTW explaining to Rodney what a barnyard is in American English was great. When he connected the dots of our explanation, and looked down at his bowl, the look in his eyes was priceless). It tasted about the same. It wasn't exactly meat per se, more like bones, joints and cartilage. I'm picking mine up, turning it over in my hands then dropping it again, just absolutely flummoxed as to how to approach this thing. He then says the best part is at the very end when you suck the marrow from the bone. Um, ok- We'll worry about that when we get there.

Pat's digging into his like a caveman, our buddy's digging into his. I was able to get down like three quick bites. It was really chewy, kind of beefy, barnyardy flavor. After each bite it made the top of my mouth feel like sticky/slick, kind of like after you eat really something really fatty like french onion soup or au jus. That was it. It was just more than I could handle, the texture and the smell got me. I informed our friend that he was a better man than I, that he was king and I was merely a pawn in his territory, and I threw in the towel. I am not ashamed of myself. I am no less of a man for being bested. There is no shame in falling to a superior foe. Fall down 7 times stand up 8, to quote the ad campaign.

So I said eff it and got a Rolex. Never in my life has breakfast-for-dinner tasted so good.


Oh and by the way... Who should wake up this morning feeling sick? One Mr. Patrick Philips, Field Director, MAPLE Microdevelopment. HA!

Oh and also, so you don't get the wrong idea: All the other Ugandan food I've had has been good. 100% no-questions-asked edible and enjoyable. Lots of rice, beans and plantains. Yams, cassava, potatoes, various meats (btw: the mystery meat from the other day was goat, a delicacy), and veggies that I'm not allowed to touch although I've been eating a bit at a time to get the ol' immune system going. Good, normal food more or less the same as everywhere else I've been on the planet. I've enjoyed 99% of it, so don't come away thinking Ugandans eat weird, gross things. They don't. I'm just saying in my experience and opinion, Ugandans eat one weird, gross thing.

Alternatively, called "chi-guerr-e" = Luganda for "foot." I can't say I wasn't forewarned.

4 comments:

  1. So what I think you ate, based on your description, is basically a rich, strong bodied soup, similar to a consomme, to use the culinary vernacular. The hoof and various other parts all contain a lot of connective tissue which eventually cooks down to gelatin, giving that thick/ slick mouth feel or "body". Au jus has the same property as it is (properly) made from the rendered juices of roast beast, separated from the fat, ergo, lots of flavor, body and texture but not greasy. So what I'm saying is what you ate could have been really good, but instead apparently tasted like hay and urine. Also, marrow is (can be) the most delicious, amazing thing. Akin to entire steak distilled down to a single teaspoon of beefy goodness.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Two things:

    1. I didn't wake up sick, just unsettled. I powered through that like a champ.

    2. Why you gotta dog cavemen like that? Lay off the haterade.

    ReplyDelete