By Joseph Muchiri
In many communities, brew and meat were the hallmark of many cultural ceremonies like circumcision, dowry negotiations and weddings. However, the Mbeere did it with a special type of semi-liquid food called ‘kimere’, which was made from millet.
It was the central food in many ceremonies. Thus, before marriage talks began, the wife-to-be had to prove to suitors she could make good ‘kimere’. This was one of the top ‘qualifications’ for marriage.
The skills to prepare ‘kimere’ were used as a pointer that the woman would manage to take care of her family. Suitors shunned a woman who was unable to grind ‘kimere’.
The woman had also a say on who she chose and she had to give a sign by preparing ‘kimere’ for the man she had picked among her many suitors using millet only from her father’s granary.
Tell tale signs
On the day to announce the man she had picked among her suitors, she scooped the millet and prepared the food. Once her father noticed his ‘kimere’ had reduced, he would then know his daughter had picked a husband.
‘Kimere’ also played a significant role during dowry negotiations where parents of a suitor would send a boy and a girl to the would-be wife’s home with goats.
To show they were welcome, they would be served ‘kimere’, if they were not. It was assumed the negotiations had broken down on the would-be wife’s parent were not pleased with their daughter’s choice of a husband.
To date, in some parts of Mbeere, the symbolic expression of love through a girl giving ‘kimere’ to her lover is still practiced. Only women were and still are allowed to prepare the millet meal.
To prepare it, women would grind millet between two stones called ‘ithiga na thio’ in a labourious process called ‘gukia kimere’ to get fine flour.
The flour was then soaked in a calabash, shaken well and it was ready to drink.