What do you call those last days of winter that really should not be winter anymore? The extra days of unexpected cold mornings, the wind lashing at you when you open the door, are the worst. Even though the temperature has risen, the cold that remains feels almost unbearable. The really frustrating part about the season change is that the weather still reaches extremes each day, the mornings and nights are blustery and cold, but by mid day the sun is beating down with no breeze at all. Also, I discovered the only things that make me more vulnerable to sickness than drastic changes in temperature are questionable foods and no clean drinking water. I had an unpleasant combination of those things this week; can you guess what it gave me?
You probably guessed right, the good old stomach flu. Last Friday I ingested something, or some water, that was not agreeable. After displaying the contents of my stomach on my good friend Shannon’s wall on Saturday, I thought I had food poisoning. As crappy as that was I figured that it would be over by the next day.
I was wrong. I developed a fever, body aches, cramps, sweats, the whole lot, over the next four days. All I wanted was to stay in bed, drink tea, maybe eat a saltine or two, and have Mom there to pour sympathy over me. Somehow I managed to survive those days, making my own tea, and just pitying myself (but I’m still accepting it if you want to throw some pity this way.)
I know this story is getting fearfully sad, but do not worry, I beat that flu! By Friday morning I woke up, stretched myself out after many days in the fetal position, and best of all, enjoyed a bowl of my favorite breakfast oatmeal.
I was happily recovered and ready to make up for days of no real appetite, but then I found the produce I bought earlier that week was on its last leg. If there’s one thing I cannot stand it is letting food go bad; I refuse to do this. So I baked this problem into a tasty solution
Carrot & Zucchini Spice Bread
¼ c. dark brown sugar
¼ c. honey or agave or molasses
¼ c. OLIVE oil
1 t. vanilla
1 c. Whole wheat flour
1 t. baking powder
1 t. sea salt
2 t. cinnamon
1 c. zucchini, peeled and grated
1 c. carrots, peeled and grated
Cream the sugar, honey, oil, eggs, and vanilla. In a separate bowl mix dry ingredients, add wet ingredients and beat well Add zucchini and carrots. Bake for 1 hour at 350.
Olive oil makes the difference. It brings really nice sweet and savory flavors but it also makes a more moist loaf. I had to freeze the loaf (in order to not eat it all in one day), but it reheated without drying out.
Enjoy your last days of summer warmth!
Have I told you about my lovely neighbor Liz? Well, she’s just great. Her village, Mokatako (it’s fun to day), is 9k down the road from me. In Peace Corps terms, we are practically next door to each other. Our communities are really connected because the health and community services for our region are located in my village, so Liz and I have lots of opportunities to work together. Liz comes over to my village some weeks to give lessons at the clinic with me on the day that HIV patients come in for their ARVs. We are pretty much tag team super star volunteers.
Working together on projects is just one of the many reasons why I love Liz and I love that she is my neighbor. Another perk of this arrangement is that we have weekly “meetings”, usually at my house. These “meetings” start on Wednesday mornings; Liz will arrive in my village on the early (only) combi at 6:30 am, right in time for me finishing my morning run. I make us breakfast and coffee while we catch up on all the things we’ve been doing so far that week (insert sarcasm). After breakfast we go to the clinic for our ARV adherence lesson, followed by a fun condom demonstration, then back to my place.
This where the important stuff begins, I make popcorn snacks, and we watch Sherlock or some other amazing television. We do this for a while. After lunch we pull ourselves out of this stupor and go to the library where I make the children stop playing computer games and read a book for a while. Thus goes the weekly meetings, some weeks are more productive, some less (if you can believe it), but all are spent in great company.
This particular week we decided to spice things up, or sweeten thing up, with cookies. I asked Liz what is her favorite cookie, and told her I’ll make it! The answer is one of her Dad’s famous, family recipe cookies. Since Liz’s parents are coming to Africa next week, this was a great way to prepare for their arrival.
Mr. Sundin’s Sour Cream Cookies
(Makes 5 dozen)
1/2 cup of Butter or Margarine
1 1/2 cups of Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla
4 1/2 cups of Sifted Flour
2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
1 cup of Sour Cream (or plain yogurt)
Thoroughly cream butter and sugar; add vanilla and eggs, mix well. Add sour cream and mix well. Sift together dry ingredients and mix thoroughly with other mixture. Drop dough by teaspoon on cookie sheet. Dip a glass in water, then in additional sugar and press the cookie.
Dip in sugar again and lightly pat cookie. Bake at 425 degrees, approximately 8 minutes.
Liz is a novice cook/baker, but she’s an excellent kitchen assistant. She also provides wonderful entertainment.
We had to substitute yogurt for sour cream, due to scarce resources, but it actually turned out really delicious.
These cookies were sweet, creamy and perfect when dipped in coffee.
Thanks Mr. Sundin, this recipe is a keeper. I’ll make them for you one day too!
All my love,
Forgive my long absence these last weeks! Immediately after closing this term I embarked on an adventure with Jake, the endlessly patient, optimistic and tireless leader of this excursion. Together we went coast to coast, covered over 8,000 kilometers, and explored five different countries in four weeks time. Let me correct the record, Jake drove over 8,000 kilometers; I was “co-pilot”, which meant that I opened his sodas, selected the tunes, daydreamed with the road atlas and demanded rest stops every hour or so.
Now I am back in my little house, in my little village, with the little kids, all of which I actually missed very much. It is really wonderful to come back home, relive all the adventures by sharing stories and showing pictures. The hard thing about coming home this time was saying goodbye to friends along the way. I was fortunate enough to meet wonderful people, but best of all was the old (some older than others) friends in Africa. For me the happiness in many adventures is magnified by the people I shared it with, this trip was exceptional.
At every stage of this adventure Jake and I sat down with incredible people to share a delicious meal (or a few). Meals that were truly unique to each place. I will tell you about my favorite meals, which of course was the home (or camp) cooked ones. What can I say? I love nights spent cooking, talking, and drinking favorite beverages. Every person has a special task, which all culminates to the grand moment when the table is set, the food aromas are mouth watering, and we toast to good food, good friends and the good life. I especially love the sounds of appreciation and enthusiastic second helpings of everyone’s favorites. In each country, even within those countries, the food, the spice, the scenery and even the people changed, but these things were present at each meal.
I will recount to you these wonderful nights from end to beginning, from east coast to west coast, starting with Mozambique and the delicious offerings of the Indian Ocean.
Jake and I picked up two friends, Rachel and Shannon, in Gaborone before we tore out of Botswana and over to Mozambique. We stayed a night in the capital, Maputo, and then set sights on the beach town, Tofo. We arrived late and sick of the road, but ecstatic to be by the ocean. We were happy to find two other PCVs, Jan and Karla, were also staying a few nights in Tofo. We all spent a happy night talking about how much we loved Mozambique already.
Mozambique is a food lovers’ dream. Everywhere there is people selling gorgeous produce, fresh caught seafood, newly baked bread, even hand picked and roasted cashews. There are tons of local restaurants to tempt us in for every meal, but on our second night in Tofo we decided to take full advantage of our camp kitchen and the abundance of wonderfully cheap food and drinks.
The entire menu was purchased at a small seaside, open market. We picked the best-looking veggies and fattest seafood, which had arrived about an hour earlier with the fishermen. We watched in awe as the men skillfully cleaned our choices in minutes, then we paid an outrageously cheap price for the lot.
Starter: Two types of Calamari
- Pan-fried with (home grown, newly pressed and bottled by yours truly*) olive oil, salt, pepper and a squeeze of limejuice.
- Sautéed in red wine. What else can I ask for?
Green, green salad with tomatoes, chickpeas, garlic, olive oil and squeezed lime.
Main meals: Fish Curry and Prawns
- Kingfish and barracuda cooked in (fresh) coconut water, with butternut squash, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, garlic, curry, coriander and coconut shavings.
- Pan-fried prawns in olive oil.
(Jake’s) Side dish:
- Pan-fried prawn heads. He swears that sucking out the little fried brains is delicious.
- Fresh baked Portuguese bread rolls, for sopping up every bit of coconut curry juice.
Despite there being six of us, we couldn’t manage to eat it all, so we did the next best thing to eating it; we shared it with fellow campers and the staff at the camp ground. After dinner we all retired to the deck over looking the beach. We drank local brewed rum drinks, rubbed our happy bellies, listened to the waves and counted my lucky stars.
This was an incredible night, but not the only happy one like it. I look forward to going back in time again to share with you another great meal. Next time you will be familiar with the names of guests but less familiar with the tasty treats served up.
All my love,
*More on this fresh olive oil in a later post.