Tanzania, formerly called Tanganyika, on the east coast of Africa, is known, for its tropical beaches, great lakes, huge game areas, and majestic snow-capped Kilimanjaro. Food throughout much of East Africa is similar and, at first, we found the food to be much like that in Kenya. Yet there are subtle differences. Whenever a dish has a Swahili name, it invariably contains coconut and/or bananas. There is coconut milk and curry (made with home- grown curry, differing from the Madras types of curry in its flavor and bright orange color), coconut milk in soups, vegetables, egg dishes, fish, meat and poultry, as well as in dessert dishes. The bananas are used in meat stews as well as with fish and poultry. Ugali, the perennial cornmeal porridge, is the major staple. Rice is also frequently eaten. A visit to the outdoor market of Dar Es Salaam is a rare experience. Under a huge roof vendors sit cross legged at the sides of their low stands and sell a great variety of fruits and vegetables, chickens, live pigeons, meats, freshly caught fish, and myriad spices. At the "pharmaceutical stands" you can buy many mysterious potions; little bottles: to cure you of snake bite, insect bite, or an unwanted lover. There are also brightly colored powders which you can sprinkle on your lover's Ugali to make him (or her) more amorous, as well as to heal all manner of other ills. Little shops abound where you can buy kitchen utensils. We brought back a reed sieve for squeezing coconut, a small seat with a round metal edge upon which one sits to grate the fresh coconut, coconut shell dippers, and a metal brazier. The people are friendly and hospitable, and a guest is shown great deference. It's hard to leave Dar, and when the time comes you say regretfully, "Kwa heri ya kuonana." (Farewell, 'til we meet again.) How a Dinner is Served in Tanzania "Jambo Hodi?" (Hello, may I come in?) you ask in Swahili as you enter a Tanzanian home. "Karibu" (Draw near, you are welcome) is the reply. To partake of the Tanzanian repast properly you need to be comfortably dressed, perhaps in slacks and a loose shirt, as you will sit on a mat on the floor in the home of your host. Your host will dip into the Ugali or cassava or rice or other dish with the three fingers of the right hand, and once you have mastered this you will find the taste of the food quite different. You discover how to "work" the stew and vegetables into a loose ball of the right texture so that you can bring it to your mouth without dripping. The first taste burns your throat slightly, the next taste less so, and you are soon adjusted to the hotness, trying the many dishes spread before you and eating far more than you normally do. If you are an "honored" guest, as they say in Africa, your hostess has personally selected the duckling which she has cooked with coconut milk. There will also be a banana and meat stew, Ugali or rice or potato or perhaps all of these served in huge bowls, and also a vegetable dish like our braised cabbage. Some of these dishes will be cooked with coconut milk and some with groundnuts (peanuts). Dessert is always fresh fruit of the region. Tanzanian honey is featured at the Kilimanjaro Hotel of Dar Es Salaam, one of the loveliest hotels in Africa. Honey and coconut are fitting accompaniments to Tanzanian fruits and are especially good with pineapple slices. Any fruit drink is called Squash throughout Africa. The concentrate may be purchased at the market and is always served at dinner. Hands are washed before and after the meal and wiped on a towel which is passed around. The hostess and her family are most gracious. When you leave their home you are accompanied right to the door of your car by the entire family. "Asante sana" (Many thanks for your hospitality) you say. How You Can Present a Tanzanian Dinner Of course you are not expected to serve this dinner on a mat on the floor unless you really want to be authentic. Set the dining-room table with a plain white cloth as a buffet. A hand of bananas might be the centerpiece, decorated with fresh whole coconuts and interspersed with leaves and flowers. Make it look like Africa. Arrange bridge tables with the necessary number of settings. Napkins should be bright prints. At the end of the table closest to guests as they come in, stack small soup bowls next to the tureen of coconut bean soup. Ask your guests to serve themselves with soup first and to return for the entree dishes. Use large soup dishes for the main course. The Indian Chapati bread is eaten in Tanzania as it is over much of East Africa. Recipe is on page 209 should you want to make it. Have small compote dishes next to the pineapple, and the fruit squash in pitchers on the bridge tables. Coffee or tea may be served later. Thin pancakes called Chapati Majis are often served as a cake or cookie for dessert with tea or coffee. Make up 4-inch thin pancakes from a pancake mix. Sprinkle with sugar or spread with honey. Fold in half and then in half again. Sprinkle the top with cinnamon sugar.
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