Science - January 27, 2005

Food / Local chicken

This week, the food correspondent entered the world of African chicken.

Margareth Msonganzila from Tanzania pinches the leg of the chicken once more. As a PhD student, she is trying to find an effective methodology for enhancing gender equality in people based organisations, but now she dedicates her attention to the deep freeze in front of her. ‘I’ll take the other one,’ she decides. ‘No, you know what, I’ll take two small ones,’ and she puts two whole pink frozen chickens in a plastic bag.

‘Soepkip’ the package mentions, ‘soup chicken’ in Dutch, which is actually rather peculiar, as Dutch people would never use this type of chicken in their soup, actually they would not use it at all.

Western chickens are too soft, says Margareth: ‘African chicken meat is much tougher and has a stronger taste. Just like the chicken meat I buy in this shop – I always call it the ‘local chicken’. It takes a lot of time to cook it, but this chicken produces a fantastic soup, strong and tasty. We also use it for sauces and for boiling.

Margareth’s local chicken is one of the specialties of ‘Little Africa’, a shop selling African products including huge sheets of dried salt cod and cassava leaves.

‘I am going to make chicken soup: first I boil the chicken until it is ready – last time it took me three hours, but it depends on how tough the meat is – then I fry tomato and onion and add them to the soup, together with garlic and pepper.’

The soup is eaten together with ugali, a fine maize flour dish, made by gradually adding flour to boiling water and stirring thoroughly so there are no lumps. ‘I use a hard wooden spoon that is strong enough to stir through the flour. You can add flour until the mass is stiff, but I like the medium hard best. Just take some ugali from the pan with your hand, soak it in the soup and enjoy.’

‘Ugali is the food I miss most. We have many different ugalis, for instance with cassava or banana. Maize flour is available here, but it is very expensive. I try to eat ugali at least once a week.’

Margareth continues, ‘In African societies, women do all the cooking and they do all other domestic work. I have not experienced the Dutch division of labour in the household, but I guess it will be more fair than in our societies.’

Margareth usually eats alone here because she came alone. Back home that would be out of the question: ‘How can you eat alone while you have extended families? Here we do sometimes have a party with African students and then we eat together.
Tomorrow I will have visitors and we will eat together too; I will prepare the chicken soup and ugali and we will have a great time.’ / TS

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