One of the greatest joys of visiting a new country is delving into its cuisine. In fact, we would argue that it is impossible to truly experience a country without sampling its traditional culinary dishes. Unfortunately, dining on typical Kenyan fare is a joyless affair. The aforementioned staples of ugali and sukuma wiki (See diverging paths) are unlikely to cause one’s mouth to water, and much of the rest of Kenya’s traditional cuisine is equally bland.
Some Embassy personnel attempt to overcome the apparent aversion on the part of Kenyans to flavor and spice by instructing their cooks to follow specific recipes. While we briefly considered employing a cook, S quickly discarded the idea. Not only does she enjoy cooking and experimenting with new recipes, but she is also a somewhat particular eater (prior to meeting D and falling entirely off the vegetarian wagon, S eschewed all meat except for certain varieties of fish). More importantly, food acts as a keystone, providing an important link to the home we left behind when we embarked on this nomadic lifestyle.
The power of a familiar recipe or a favorite food to ameliorate one’s feeling of homesickness cannot be overstated. That is why most embassies will have a commissary that imports all kinds of typical American junk food in order to boost employee morale (in fact, the commissary at Embassy Nairobi is actually referred to as the “Morale Store”). For those not satisfied with the kind of quick fix the Morale Store provides, there’s Amazon and Netgrocer. We have learned the hard way that the diplomatic post office is not 100% reliable. A few of you seem to have never received the thank-you cards we sent out after the wedding, for which we apologize. Also, at least one of the packages we ordered never showed up. That said, diplomatic post does work fine most of the time. We were initially surprised at some of the things people order, but now that we’ve been here for a few months, it’s hard to deny the convenience of online shopping. While we have largely abstained from ordering foodstuffs online, we have not deprived Emmie of that benefit. Pet food is hard to come by in Nairobi, so all three of us were excited when two forty-pound bags of Puppy Chow arrived last week.