My village resisted 'GMO foods' long before the activists came

In the 1970s, each December, and regular as clockwork, news would filter in that a piece of raw liver had chocked some geezer to death.

The news used to break from the direction of a neighbouring village renowned for rampant gluttony. As happens, we would be minding our own business when a passerby would volunteer the obituary after exhausting an entire syllabus of greetings.

“Do you know what happened that side?” she would whisper, pointing. “Do tell,” my mother would respond, eyes gleaming with excitement.

“They were eating raw pieces of liver, intestines, kidney, the heart and (giggling) those things of a bull mixed it with bile ...”

“Who?” my mother would enquire, ears primed for the lowest decibel.

“Two old men. You know that knock-kneed man, the one whose wife left him for that useless mono-eyed drunk who walks around the market holding a smelly fish in one hand? That one! Him and his brother, the one who beats his wife like a dog... Anyway, as they were talking, the one with knees like a giraffe put a piece of liver in his mouth. Then his brother cracked a joke. When he laughed, the piece slipped down his throat and got stuck. Kwisha!” she wound up the bulletin.

Crazy as it sounds, those geezers who used to chew raw meat were the last of a stubborn generation stuck to traditional foods even if it meant dying while at it.

A decade or so earlier, when my mother was installed in the village straight from boarding school, she came home with a loaf of bread. But when she tried to interest her mother-in-law into a bite, she was waved away with disdain: “I don’t eat things that I am not sure in whose pot they were cooked,” she scoffed.

Shocking incident

But by the time she passed on 30 years later, she used to chew loaf like nonsense. She explained, as we winked knowingly, that much as she had not discovered the owner of the pot in which bread was cooked, it was all her non-existent teeth could chew.
It is about this time that my village was discovering cooking fat.

My little eyes remember watching my grandmothers boiling githeri without a globule of cooking fat going into the pot. Meat and chicken were stewed in a special pot, which was never washed and without cooking fat being part of the equation. And who didn’t know that women who had just given birth were fed on lipuoka, veggies that were steamed and not salted so that blood could come back?

Today, walk into my village and even the poorest of the poor cannot countenance boiled foods going down their throats, least of all that shenzi but iron rich vegetable called lipuoka.

Speaking of salt, traditional salt was the thing. The best salt was sold by an old woman who manufactured it from special reeds in a nearby swamp. People loved that salt because it was good for the bones of the aged.

Then the old woman died, and the swamp where she sourced those reeds became a sugarcane farm. Now when two old men meet, they complain about their aching bones, and say, “It is this fat we eat. This bad fat and the salt...” This, while quaffing oily Sukuma wiki (which was hated with a passion when it first landed in my village).

But something more shocking happened in 1979 or thereabouts. A son of the village died just after passing his Form Four exam with a Division Four. An illustrious boy, it was universally agreed that he had a bright future. Reeling with shock, villagers gathered to discuss his passing in low tones. Witchcraft, everyone nodded knowingly.

Then his uncle, a man who had travelled far and wide spoke. It was not juju that had done in his nephew but that confounded avocado tree he planted outside his hut, he explained.

“That tree is cursed. No one in their right senses plants that thing. I warned my nephew but he wouldn’t listen. The moment that tree starts fruiting, someone in the home must die. Now see? We have lost him,” the sage announced, his face wrinkled with pain.

For a decade, no one dared plant an avocado. Until a young hot-headed fellow with a history of being unruly and a ‘much know’ planted the darn thing. We held our breaths and waited for the bugger to die. But as we speak, he is not only alive but is now bouncing a couple of scruffy grandchildren on his knees.

We are, however, not about to forgive him for dragging a donkey into our village. A donkey of all things?

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