Estaquinha has a not-undeserved reputation for having a lack caril, which basically means any type of food you eat with rice or corn mash, or, all meat, protein and vegetables. This is one of the reasons I feel fortunate to have Luisa, because she has lived in the area for her entire life and thus knows what to cook to eat relatively well. Once she got used to the gas stove, she started cooking for us all the time, which I think makes her feel more comfortable, and I get to sample the gamut of Sofalan cuisine as a result. Fortunately, we also bought a coal stove just before the gas ran out and I had to take the tank to Beira to fill it up. Coal is extremely cheap but takes a long time to heat up, so we have continued to use it to cook things like beans that need to simmer for a long time.
Like most families in the zone, Luisa’s parents grow most of their own food on a small farm, so when she or one of her siblings goes home for the weekend, they bring back peanuts and cassava and pumpkin leaves. As I mentioned in an earlier entry, Mozambicans mash the leaves in a giant mortar and pestle called a pilão and mix them with coconut milk and crushed peanuts to serve over rice or corn mash. I imagine peanuts and coconut became a staple of the diet here because the fats and oils fill you up if you don’t have another source of protein. We have also been finding okra and these bitter little squash called cacana and we put peanuts and coconut in them too, and beans and lentils continue to be a good standby. Once I made lentils with turmeric and Luisa liked it so much she began adding it often to the rice she makes. The fish guy hasn’t been around lately, so sometimes we resort to canned fish like sardines and tuna (which is pricier) and dried fish that you can by in the market—not my favorite. Sometimes (like around a holiday), they kill animals at the mission so all the teachers and mission workers write their names down next to how many kilos of meat they want to receive. Then the next morning, they lay the carcass out in the back of a truck, cut off slabs of meat and weigh it for you right there. I want to make sure I learn how cook all these foods because I think people would really like them in the States. Similarly, some of the women here are interested in how I cook at home, so I think I will have to have a dinner party at some point, though I’ll definitely have to be creative based on what ingredients I can and can’t find.