Feeding myself

25 January 2012

Now that I’m living alone I have to feed myself. This is the most basic thing to accomplish. Project proposals, work schedules, etc do not take priority when the only things on the shelves are salt, pepper, and somewhat mysteriously, ‘pancake syrup’ (2% maple syrup!).

So off I went confidently to the market the day I moved in. I bought some basic vegetables – tomatoes, onions, garlic, bell peppers – a pineapple, wheat flour, and some potatoes. But oh no- shopping fail! I should have bought the basics first – rice, beans, and cooking oil. By the time I got to those, I didn’t have enough left with me money for those essentials!

I want to eat African food. For one thing, it’s cheaper. Imported food is expensive. And secondly, I think it’s a good experience to eat purely locally, which is what people here do, as they can’t afford imported food, and, I suppose, wouldn’t know what to do with it if they could. I should probably note, for honesty’s sake, that I did buy some porridge oats. Breakfast posed a problem. I like fried bananas (that’s unripe bananas, plantains) but a bunch of bananas merits a trip to the market of its own, as it’s rather bulky to carry. And the light quasi-pancakes I’ve eaten the last two days weren’t cutting it.

The fridge isn’t working, so dairy is out of the question for now, in this heat. Dairy isn’t a a common food here anyway. Just a little milk, maybe. Now, meat. First of all, I don’t know a good place to buy meat. The market in Moshi has a meat section, a long row of counters with piles of raw meat sitting there in the open air. Hm. Now, aside from that problem,  I do think I can cook it, although the last time I ate it before coming to Tanzania was thirteen years ago. It’s a weird thing, not having ever cooked such a basic thing as meat. Once I figure out a good place to buy it, I’ll prepare it the way Africans do – by cooking the hell out of it!

There are a number of places to buy food in Moshi. The main one is the central market, which is a massive, mostly covered market. It roughly has sections, so all the fruit/vegetable vendors are on one area, the dried goods vendors are in one area, the banana sellers, the meat sellers – you get the idea. It’s pretty cool. Having only a vague idea of what things should cost, I may or may not be getting ripped off – paying the ‘mzungu price’. Oh well. Going to rectify my food shopping fail of two days ago, I just wandered the dried goods section and picked out a friendly face who I hoped would give me a fair price. A young woman, who did indeed seem friendly. You just can’t trust men : )

From there, you head up in price and start to transition clientele from Tanzanians to expats. There is a Target-like store, a Kenyan chain, but that’s definitely pricey and just not somewhere I have any interest in buying food. Between these two ends, though, is the supermarket. This small store stocks some imported goods and some not imported, like your basic Tanzanian tea leaves, high-grade rice that a lot of Tanzanians wouldn’t buy but is grown here, and the ubiquitous Blue Band margarine (Tanzanians do not eat butter). The prices of basic stuff seem reasonable. You will have to splash out to buy a small pack of digestives though. And they’re really only worth eating if they’re chocolate digestives, and that would just end badly in this heat. There are a number of these small supermarkets in town, including one that caters mostly to ex-pats.

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