In the coming months, I will be working along side many adoptive parents from across the country to bring you a segment I will call “How to Keep Their Culture Alive”. I am going to start by sharing some ways my family promotes our children’s Ugandan culture in the kitchen. Now, some of you will not want to hear this, but I believe the key to making this successful is letting your family’s little hands participate as much as they are able. Our kiddos came home at 2 and 4 years old and it always astounds me how much our eldest remembers how to do – the girl’s a natural in the kitchen! Today, at the age of 7, she can fry an egg, make an omelet, load a crock pot and assist in the construction of any recipe we choose. Are there messes? YES! Tons of messes. However, the smile on her face when she gains more and more independence in the kitchen makes the mess seem less stressful, even worth it.
There are some very simple ways we incorporate Ugandan staples into our regular meal rotation. Instead of always buying chicken breast, we cook whole chickens (bone in). The first time we gave our kids “chicken on a bone”, as they refer to it as, they ate EVERY part of their piece. Viola even chewed down to the bone, cracked the bone and scraped the marrow from the center. The kids will always choose a piece of meat with the bone over a boneless piece of meat. In regards to the preparation of the meat, I try to keep it very simple. Typically I throw a whole chicken in the crock pot with 1 cup of chicken broth, salt and pepper. In the summer, we make beer can chicken, by placing a half filled beer can up the chicken and setting it upright on the grill. The key to this is cooking it on low heat for longer time in order to keep the meat nice and moist.
Fish – you guys, there isn’t a way to portray how much of a game changer fish was with our kids. We tried serving them crappy fish sticks and they ate them, but did not love them. Then, one day I grilled up some salmon for them and they were barely breathing, gulping it down so fast the rest of us barely ate any. Last weekend, my dad purchased a smoked fish from a fresh fish market. As I unwrapped it, I was not warned it was the WHOLE fish with eyes staring up at me and skin still intact. I tried not to make a face, but the scream that came out of my mouth instead made my disgust pretty obvious. I wish I would have taken a picture of miss Viola cleaning a whole fish up herself, skin included. She had definitely done that before. When I prepare our frozen salmon fillets from Aldi, I thaw them out at room temperature, pat them dry and coat them with olive oil, salt and pepper. From there, I either pan fry them on the stove or throw them on the grill. It only takes about 7-10 minutes to cook salmon. In the pan, I flip the fish after 3-4 minutes and allow the other side to cook for about the same amount of time. On a greased grill, you place the fish skin side up and cook it for about 5 minutes, flip it and allow it cook 3-4 more minutes.
There are Ugandan staples that we incorporate a little less, because they take a bit longer to prepare. My dad and step mom are great at letting the kids make a mess in their kitchen to create some of the following recipes. I am not claiming that these recipes are the best, most authentic, recipes, they are just the ones we use in our home.
1) Chapati – this is the item we make the most. Here is the recipe we use. http://www.food.com/recipe/chapati-east-african-bread-140774
3) Matoke – This is a food I remember loving but we have not tried it yet. This is the next recipe I plan on tackling. http://www.whats4eats.com/soups/matoke-recipe
4) Rice and Beans – This is the recipe we use, however, we do not put the sausage in it. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/claire-robinson/slow-cooker-red-beans-and-rice-recipe.html
Finally, if you are looking for a cook book there is one that is written by an American woman in partnership with a Ugandan woman. Email Melissa at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
I encourage you to try to incorporate a few of these tips into your home and encourage your friends and family to walk with you in this. It is very fulfilling for all involved. I hope that my children grow up with fond memories of cooking in the kitchen while they were young. I love the idea of my kiddos teaching their own kids how to cook Ugandan food.