I believe every home has a food, or foods, that are staples. These are food items that everyone eats, that move fast and whose presence in the kitchen cupboards or fridge keeps everyone calm because it means there’s food in the house, even if there’s nothing else available.
For some people, the staple is bread. As long as there’s bread, everything is fine. Growing up, this was a staple in our house and we went through four loaves daily. Mum usually bought freshly baked bread on the way home from school, and one loaf would be demolished by the time we reached our gate. The kitchen cupboards could be empty but as long as there was bread, it was generally considered that there was food.
Thankfully, those were the days when one could afford to buy four loaves daily. Anyone whose staple is bread in today’s economy must either own a bakery or personally know a baker!
For others, Ugali is a must at any given time. When there is no ugali in the house, then there is no food. As long as there is Ugali, one can always find something to go with it – besides leafy vegetables, I’ve picked up some great accompaniments over the years including eggs, raw sliced tomatoes and/or avocados.
Ugali is a staple in my house, and everyone, including our youngest, knows how to make it. By the way, ours is the 10-minute variety (which includes boiling the water) as opposed to my mother’s one-hour offering, which includes throwing a little on the wall to test for readiness. But as much as we love Ugali, it is not our real staple. More about that later.
I have also met many, many people who swear by Githeri. These are people who can eat it every single day. When you open their cupboards, you find beans waiting to be cooked. In the freezer you’ll find boiled maize as well as several batches of pre-cooked Githeri.
In their fridge is the githeri they didn’t finish last night. These people cannot go three days without this dish. Githeri is their go-to meal; their comfort food. I especially admire the ones who prefer the plain-boiled-with-only-salt-to-taste variety. When they go all out, they’ll wash it down with a cup of black tea.
Boarding school githeri
As for me, after six years of eating the boarding school brand of Githeri, I gave this dish a very wide berth – not even cooking it in my house – until recently when I introduced it on the family menu. Now, the only Githeri I truly enjoy is the one I cook myself, with every condiment I can lay my hands on thrown into the sufuria to keep the high school memories at bay.
Speaking of memories, I also remember eating lentils every single day for three months at the boot camp we attended just before we went to university. When we left boot camp, it was many years before I could bring myself to eat lentils. And although today I can eat them without a problem, this remains one of my least favourite dishes.
Flavour of the year
So what is the staple in my house? Eggs. When there are eggs, there is no problem relating to food. We can easily go through one tray in a week, eating them in various forms and with anything – bread, Ugali, rice, noodles, Nukimo, and yes, even Githeri!
Eggs are so big in our house that they are almost considered currency. Our oldest buys his own because his fitness regime demands it. When he first started out, he was eating as many as five a day – until I sat him down and told him I couldn’t sustain this trend. So he started buying his own and today, it is normal to find both ‘sides’ (him and the rest of us) borrowing eggs from each other.
As I write this, the fruits have dwindled to one or two, the bread is almost gone and no one is fussing about meat. But there is only one egg left in the tray, so as soon as I type the last full stop, it’s off to the shops for more.