One of the comforting aspects of being in Kenya is that you’ve never far from a chapati.
Wherever there’s population density it’s possible to find a small set-up that can serve you food at an affordable price.
What’s amazing is the consistency in what is offered.
There are several staple foods including beans, ugali (cooked maize flour), kale, chapati which will have a 98% probability of being served. Sometimes there’ll also be meat or lentil stews.
When I first arrived in Kenya I’d ask “What have you got?” which would be met by a flicker of confusion and then a recital of the aforementioned dishes.
I’m not sure how widespread the term is, but my colleagues refer to these places as mwitu.
Literally it means ‘forest’, but generally has connotations for being ‘wild’ or ‘feral’. There’s usually a giggle when one suggests “are we going to eat mwitu today?”.
We’ve not fully defined it, but there’s a definite range on the mwitu spectrum.
The essential characteristics are:
- Simple crockery (metal/ plastic bowls)
- “Cosy” seating arrangements
- Beans + kale + chapati costing less than 70/- (50p)
The variation comes in the seating arrangements (wooden bench or metal chair), breadth of the menu, whether chapatis are made on-site, and whether there’s a roof.
Within a 3 minute walk from our office are at least six mwitu options, though they’re often quite hidden and so there could be more.
It’s probably one of the features of living in East Africa I enjoy most: being able to go more or less anywhere and know you can get a wholesome, filling meal of “beans, greens and ‘chapo'” with great ease.
In other news…
Last weekend I stayed with some friends in an Airbnb an hour from Nairobi. It was all quite rustic, and there was lots of nice nature about the place.
I took the opportunity to hide away my phone for 24 hours. Being “back to basics”, we spent time walking through the tea fields, looking at the clouds, and climbing trees (no hugs, honest).
Anyway, as a result, all week I’ve been feeling all quite zen.
It’s a bit of a faff to arrange (e.g. replacement alarm clock, how to play music) but if you’re able to try it out too sometime soon – would highly recommend.
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