Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Eating in Tanzania

Tanzania is a place where many cultures have come together.  Over the centuries there have been many Arab traders and Indian settlers who have mixed with the native Africans to create some wonderful foods.  Food really does vary by region, from plain boiled meats and vegetables in Arusha to spicy curries and fish in the coastal regions like Dar es salam. 

Like much of Africa, people in Tanzania often eat their family meals in the communal style.  There are a few rules to follow:

  1. Meals are eaten in the living room on a mattress (mkeka) on the floor.
  2. Small families can share one plate.
  3. Large families are divided, with males, females, and children having different plates. 
  4. Very small children eat with their mothers.  Babies are fed from the communal plate by the mother. 
  5. People eat with their right hands only (because the left hand is used in the toilet).  If you only remember one thing, remember this!  You will have your fellow diners suddenly wash their hands and refuse more food if you breach this rule.
  6. The shared plate will have stew, meat, salad, or fish along with little piles of salt to dip your meat in.  These foods can be eaten by hand or scooped up with chapati, rice or ugali (maize meal).
  7. Meals begin with a bowl of warm water being passed around to clean your right hand.  It often has some lemon juice or a slice of lemon in it.
  8. You can make a small ball of rice or ugali .  Then pinch the ball slightly and use this to scoop up food.

Then place this in your mouth.  It is important to not let your fingers touch your mouth at all.  This can be messy to start with, but with practice gets easier. 

 9.  At the end of the meal everyone washes their hands again.  (For large groups the bowl is quite big). 
10.  Everyone then thanks the mother for the food.  (This really means that you are thanking the father for providing the food as well. )

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