Food and the African Nostalgia

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When Marcel Proust wrote his famous passage of the Madeleine dipped in tea in his In Search of Lost Time, he was describing an experience quite common to all of us: How food can take one back in time to a very nostalgic place.

Today, Hai Afrika talks to Meshack Omondi about his understanding on comfort food through the eyes of someone who works far away from home….




Finding Your Comfort Food

Comfort food is all about the  consolation or a feeling of well-being, often having a slightly higher sugar or carbohydrate content. It may also be associated with childhood or home cooking. When you sit down at the table, ready to dive into a plate of comfort food, that feeling of nostalgia erupts. You remember the first time you tasted the dish, together with memories of your childhood, the feeling of calmness and comfort as you enjoy every bite.

Everyone has their own favourite comfort food – ice cream, popcorn, chocolate, and so on. Comfort food is a meal that makes you feel at ease. When you are feeling down, that dish will make you forget your troubles and take you back to when things were just less complicated.





Chips sandwich and many others

I have a few comfort foods  – chips sandwich with an ice cold soft drink, roast maize with chili sold by the roadside, stewed beans and soft maize with avocado. My mouth is watering right about now.

Let me share with you my all-time favourite, chips sandwich and an ice cold Fanta (orange flavor is best). I like chips and I like bread. As crazy as it may sound, the moment I put the fries between two slices of bread, the whole experience just feels so magical. I discovered it one time when I bought chips, and I thought it wouldn’t be enough for me. So I got bread from the shelf and made a sandwich with chips (and not forgetting the ketchup). It tasted so wonderful. Since then, whenever I buy chips, I will buy bread too. As much as this dish will be viewed as junk food, it just brings happiness, and when I’m done eating, all I can do is smile and wish that I can rewind again. Rewind to being hungry, just so that I can eat that sandwich all over again.




As for roasted maize, I usually eat it in the evening. That’s the time the vendors prepare to sell them to guys coming home from work.The vendor always has half a lemon and chilli powder on the side, so you can help yourself to the lemon and chilli rub. It gives the maize a nice citrus spicy taste. As for the stewed beans, soft maize, and avocado, well, the good thing about this meal is that it can be eaten at anytime of the day. Breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and accompany it with a hot cup of tea.




Away from home

I work away from home, in a place called Garowe in Puntland, Somalia. Getting homesick is something that I cannot deny. I make sure that when I’m home, I host friends and family for a meal and I always capture these memories by taking photos. Like the last time I went to pay for my wife’s dowry. It was as magical as I last remembered, as the food was really good. That creates wonderful memories that I can carry with me. To me, any ceremony has to have good food aplenty, apart from dancing and celebration. I believe that people have to eat and enjoy what they eat, and be fed well. This helps in livening up the mood.

I was home in April and I will be back in July again. So, to all of us who work far from our loved ones, one piece of advice: Carry with you what you can from home, and cook. Make that place a home away from home. It will help. Carry your ingredients and they will carry along your memories too.