Monday, September 3, 2018

It's all about the Maize!

Let me introduce you to David! Quiet, hardworking and very casually witty! David was a fun young man to spend time with!  On this day, I had a last minute opportunity to make a quick trip up the the staff quarters with him to grind maize into flour.  

Some back story about the maize.  Before the maize is put in the sun to dry, it has to be sorted by hand, weeding out the kernels that were broken or "popped" or off color (like brown or black).  After the hand sorting, and the washing it was then placed out in the sun to dry.  Our team of ladies, had the privilege to sit with the ladies of Fiwagoh the day or so before and sort the maize.  If memory serves there were about 8 of us (and a few younger boys joined in too towards the end), and it took us about 45 minutes or so to sort.  I got the distinct impression that while these ladies never stop working, this work, the sorting of the maize was also a nice time of the day to sit still and chat.  During this time shared some laughs, and listened to some stories during the sorting time, however most of it was spent in companionable silence.    

On this day, the sorting and washing was already done, so David and I just had to gather the maize that was drying in the sun, and place it in a sack. I told David that I would be happy to carry the maize, and off we started up the hill.   I was carrying the sack of maize on my hip (like a toddler) and as we started the walk, another older youth stopped me and said if I was in Africa carrying things and working, "I had to do it like the Africans"!  He proceeded to show me how to toss the sack over my shoulder and use my back to carry the weight of the sack.

As David and I walked, we talked about the process of turning the maize into flour.  He said that the machine that they used was housed at the staff quarters, up the hill. It was in its own room because of how loud and messy it was. He indicated that now that they had a machine on property, they could grind the maize a couple times a week. He shared that before they got their own machine, they would have to make a plan to take it all to town, and then wait in line to grind what they would need for the month.  He also indicated that there was a big fee for this service.  I asked him what the difference was between the maize we eat (sweet and succulent) and the maize I was carrying on my back (dry).  He indicated that the field maize is grown for the specific purpose of drying and grinding into flour.  The flour is then used in recipes for cooking the rolls for the kids on the Sabbath. 

I wondered while I was visiting why they never referred to the maize as corn.  Obviously it was the same vegetable, and they clearly spoke English, but the word for this vegetable never changed in conversation from maize to corn.  It was always maize.  When I got home I looked up the word maize, and found out that it is the British term for corn.  Since Kenya was a British Colony until 1963,  this is just one of the British words that just stayed with them all this time!  

The walk was about 1/4 of a mile each way.  Once we arrived David unlocked the door to the room that the machine was housed in.  This machine is under lock and key due to its value.  Clearly this machine could/would be something that others would desire to steal or take a part for parts. 

Once we entered the room, David poured the maize into the machine on the one side where there was a holding tray.  

David then tied a sack to the end of the machine opposite of where the maize was placed. He  gave me my instructions for using the machine.   This included the overview of the on and off buttons on the wall, how to direct the maize with my hands towards the chute.  Once the machine was turned on, I would send the maize through the chute, the machine would grind it and then send it out the funnel at the other end into the sack!  

We repeated the process four times.  Taking the ground maize from the sack, back to the original tray, re-grinding the maize until it was a fine flour/powder.  

We completed the task in under 15 minutes and headed back to the orphanage.  David grabbed the bag as we exited and tossed it over his shoulder.  I asked him if he needed me to carry it back, and he looked up at me and smiled and said, "No I got it, it is lighter now!" Which of course had us laughing all the way back.  

Once again, so fortunate that I was able to live this and experience this.  Clearly the best field to table experience I have ever had!  

The next night, we were treated to chapati, an African flat bread.   It is a very labor intensive endeavor to watch the ladies make (kneading, rolling and cooking one at a time), so knowing that the chapati were made with fresh ingredients and love, made it all the better to our taste buds!  

Everything tastes better when love is the main ingredient!   

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