Tuesday, May 1, 2012


Since we've been here, we've had guests over for dinner at least once a week. We have been dinner guests several times ourselves.

The most striking difference between our way and theirs is this: if you go to dinner at the home of a Kenyan family, you won't really spend any time with the wife.

When guests arrive, the wife starts cooking. If the husband is home, he will sit with the guests. If he is not home, the guests are kind of left on their own. Drinks will be served while the guests wait and sometimes a little something extra. Often, they will send one of their children to get sodas for the guests. At my mother-in-law's house, we have had roasted corn on the cob and roasted cashews served while we waited for her to cook lunch.

When the meal is ready, a table will be set up wherever the guests are sitting. This is odd. We have been to homes which have a dining table and chairs, but if we were sitting on the couch when the meal was ready, the meal was served on a coffee table.

The meal is set out on the table. Sometimes there are forks to use for eating, sometimes spoons, and sometimes nothing at all. There are no napkins. The wife will carry a pitcher of water and a basin around the table, so that each person can wash their hands. Then, she leaves.

Many times, there is a community bowl of ugali, from which each person can take a handful when they need some. The rest of the meal is served into bowls or plates. A lot of times, people who've had more exposure to westerners will offer me a fork. If they are eating with a spoon or hands, I try to follow suit. I do need more practice eating with my hands without making a royal mess. I like to bring one of Ben's burp cloths to clean myself up as I eat.

The husband eats with the guests, while the wife and kids either eat in the kitchen, off to the side somewhere, or not at all. In one rare case, the husband was out of town, and the wife actually sat with us while we ate. She would not eat with us, though.

The water pitcher and basin are brought around again after the meal for more hand washing, and the plates are cleared. Then the wife returns to the kitchen.

I often wonder what our guests think of our method for serving them dinner. The meal is generally prepared when they arrive, though sometimes it needs a few finishing touches. We don't buy them sodas. Rodgers and I both cook and clean up afterwards. We offer them the sink for washing hands. Also, the boys and I stay with them the whole time, unless it's naptime or bedtime.

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