Monday, July 27, 2009

Roast Pork in Zambia

Three years ago when we were hosting our first Mutomboko and were going to have 50 people for dinner we decided to roast a pig. Some Peace Corps friends introduced us to a way of cooking the meat underground. It is a 24 hour process but well worth it. The first step is to get a six foot deep hole dug in the ground.

Next you build a raging fire in the bottom of the hole.

Here is the slaughtered pig. The ball of sunshine is to protect the innocent. The first year we got a live pig from the Chief but after a traumatic slaughtering experience that left me in tears we have opted for the last two years to get the pig already dressed from a nearby farm.

Next step we slip the pig inside two pillowcases and then wrap it in a chitenge which is the traditional African cloth.

It then gets all trussed up with twine. Between the six foot hole and the shroud it's all a little morbid and creepy. Is this why people become vegetarians?

Another fire is started outside the hole. You'll soon see why.

I almost forgot the step below this year. Thank God for our gardener, Peter, who came to my rescue and rigged up a wire frame to hold the pig so it can be lowered into the hole and pulled back up again later.

Now that the meat is wrapped and ready Peter shovels dirt over the hot coals left by the fire. It takes about two wheelbarrows of sand to cover them well.

In goes the meat.

More sand....

And now the outside fire. In go the hot coals and even more small logs to get the fire really hot again. Once this dies down we'll bury the whole thing with dirt.

Now the waiting starts. We won't touch this for 23 hours. Now the agonizing starts. Were the fires big enough? hot enough? Will the meat cook or just sit in the ground and rot? There's no way to check at this point. It's all by faith, my sister.

I console myself for the next day as I go about my business...."there're always eggs. Scrambled eggs taste good with Spanish rice, right?" "Maybe there are lots of vegetarians attending this year. They'll prefer lentil curry anyway." But none of these statements curb the twisting of my gut as I wait and worry and worry and wait.

Up comes the bundle. Doesn't look appetizing at this point.

It's shaken free of its sand blanket and visitors begin to comment on how good it smells. I allow myself a hint of optimism.

Off comes the wire and then the cloth wrappings. Now you can see how the fat and grease have melted through.

And, voila, the final product! Meat so tender it no longer resembles anything like the pork that went into the ground. It falls of the bones on its own and mixed with a gallon of our homemade barbecue sauce it becomes a truly delectable dish!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Welcome to my blog

It's always hard to know how to start on a new writing project. I opened this blog months ago and typed one post. I wonder what you, my friends, will find interesting and as I wonder more and more months go by.

So my resolve today is to write about my life. Plain and simple. I'll introduce you to the people around me--our staff, the children, my own kids. I'll show you through words and some photos a glimpse into the life I lead here.

Some of the photos I post will have been taken by Tom since he is the better photographer in our partnership. I'll write about them since that is what excites me and you'll reap the benefits. How does that sound?

Please share with me your thoughts and questions. What would you like to know more about?

First up: The traditonal tribal ceremony--Mutomboko


Every year in July our village celebrates its history by holding a ceremony called the Mutomboko. You can learn all about this event by visiting Tom's website. He goes into great detail about all the parts of the two day event and has great photos. Here's a sneak peak:

Mutomboko takes place in the last weekend of July and is a huge boost to the economy of this little village as 10,000 visitors swarm in. Preparations start early in the month as roads are repaired, the main arena has roofs and walls added to it, and businesses receive face lifts.

Our property happens to be located right next to the main arena which gives us an excellent vantage point and a really grea
t place to host visitors to this annual event. The first year we were here we had 30 people camp out with us and 40 people were with us for dinner. Along with our family and visiting volunteers that brought our dinner crowd to 50!
Since I am a highly social person that happens to despise crowds, staying at home and prepa
ring the feast makes perfect sense to me. Therefore, if you want to learn more about the Mutomboko visit Tom's official site but here you can see a different perspective.

Preparations start early here as well as we work hard to get the property ship shape for all our visitors. We give numerous tours of the orphanage and Tom's 'safari'. --More about this in future blogs.
I like to keep things simple in the food department. For three years running we've had the same menu. I like to call it tradition but it's really laziness. I don't want to have to think too hard so I do the same thing year after year. KISS is my philosophy in life: Keep It Simple, Sweetheart!

Here is my Friday and Saturday to-do list. Lest you think I work really hard and pity me or something, one of those entries says: Watch ER at 10 AM. I have priorities!

I'll write more about Saturday's meals tomorrow.

Friday night is all about Tom's secret chili recipe. He reluctantly gave it to me 3 years ago so I could serve it for Mutomboko. He created this recipe in 2005 and has only given it to one other person. She had to bribe him with a cake and another recipe.

What's that? No, I can't share it with you. I can serve it to you if you happen to come over here one fine July weekend. I'll tell you this much. It's worth the trip!

Making chili here in Zambia means starting out with dried beans. We bought these in the local market. They sell them by the handful, cup or gallon. For the crowd I was expecting we bought a gallon which worked out to be more than 10 pounds. I ended up using 7 pounds.

Buying them at the market means having to sort them so that we don't end up with rocks, bugs or moldy beans in our final dish. It's time consuming work but necessary.

We also bought enough drinks for an army. Here in Zambia, while you can buy sodas in cans it is cheaper to buy reusable bottles. And, hey, it's better for the environment.

I spent Sunday going around our property collecting discarded bottles. I love cleaning up after parties. That's a little known fact about me. Picking up debris left by a night (or day) of fun is one of the joys of my life.

Tomorrow: Roast Pork Zam style

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