My distaste for boiled maize and beans meal, especially if mixed with any kinds of vegetable(s) (especially carrots, cabbage and potatoes) can be traced to my formative days at the Remoteroute village.
My encounters with the colourless mixture, variously known as murram, pebbles and more commonly referred to as Githeri was dramatic, abusive and traumatic. It began at an early age, when the then no so permanent teeth could not handle the real deal, a selection of the softer bit- beans in this case, was selected for my palate pleasure. Those were the formative days of the now pervasive lines in my face.
Meals pretending to be githeri
Today, when I look at the meals that pretend to be githeri, I shake my head in wonder. What, in the name of all that is edible can they describe a sea of beans and a smattering of maize as githeri?
In our days githeri was a meal and half.
First, it was an extended ocean of maize, with scattered rumours of beans. Often, and especially just before the beans matured in the farms, it was not uncommon to enjoy a clean white meal of boiled maize. The meal was often known as one – one, mimicking the winnowing like action which preceded the enjoyment as githeri sautéed with salt.
And that would be the meal of the day.
Sissy and Wimpy
Githeri was a versatile meal, eaten for supper, lunch and often as the breakfast accompaniment. In primary school, once it was made compulsory to carry something to school for lunch rather than rush home and find githeri has just started to boil, it was the meal of choice in those plastic containers . It was, however, sissy and wimpy to carry food to school. It was imperative therefore for the tough fellows to get creative. The plastic food containers would be three quarters filled with soil and a smattering of Githeri at the top. This was for the inspection purposes when the teachers would confirm if all students had carried something for the stomach.
nothing at lunch hour
The smart fellows would then sneak through the barbed wire and like hounds with tails on fire, rush home to eat the food their didn’t want to be seen by the peers eating. Food secrecy was a big deal then. It was an offence punishable with a fight to peep unto what your fellow pupil carried to school, especially if it was common fare like githeri or nduma. However, anyone had carried civilized food like rice or better still chapo as lunch, one would be culinary hero. He could crow around and show off. Only that it was an almost foregone conclusion that by lunch hour, someone would have broken into the container and disaparated ala Harry Potter with the delicacy. What a source of tears such a misfortune produced!
Apart from chapatti snatchers, it was almost impossible to hold such food in the container up to lunch time. Ditto ugali with meat. A bite at first toilet break, a big bite at break-time and nothing at lunch hour.
Woe unto you, oh uncivilized African if you carried cassavas or yams. Worse off if you had them boiled. Surely, from what hole had you been dug up to carry such low class, unappetizing roots and tubers to school?. Sweet potatoes or nduma also were forbidden by the unwritten rule of civilization.
Never in history of food eating has ever been a food to foul thy stomach like undercooked Githeri. However tough we were then, we still suffered innumerable times the pain from hurrying to eat semi cooked murram. By strangest coincidence it seemed that anytime we rushed home, hungry, sore , tired and looking forward to a good bite, we would find githeri half cooked. And all firewood to power it for just that final last boil just finished. We would gather tiny straws to hasten the process, which to no avail.
So thirty minutes later, the food remains just half cooked and stomach growled. Since at that point one would be ready to swallow an elephant, a bit undercooked githeri seemed a fair bite. An hour later, the stomach would be rumbling. Two hours later, after having noisily expelled all manners of odious gases and drank tones of water, whole undigested maize would be excreted, pushing and scratching the unmentionable.
It no wonder that my stomach starts making strange noises whenever I encounter githeri.