Culinary Kenya!

The first thing my son asked me and Richard upon our return from Africa was, “What did you eat?”

The “Big 5” includes lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos and Cape Buffalo.

Not, “Did you see all of ‘The Big Five’ animals?“, or “Could you sleep knowing that lions were outside your tent?” No, nothing so pedestrian.

He was curious about our culinary options while we were on safari in Kenya and Tanzania. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Our safari guide, Matandeeka.

Let me set the record straight. We didn’t go there for the food. A top of the bucket-list trip, we went there to witness self-contained ecosystems where elephants, giraffes, monkeys, rhinos, zebras, hippos–just to get started–roam free.

On numerous photo-game drives, our savvy guide navigated us  through the great  parks in the Subsaharan, enabling us to glimpse how life may have looked before us humans arrived on the scene.

Lori’s and her conservation foundation, Amara, have spent the past 20 years engaging with Kenyans and helping them to preserve their environment.

African version of the American’s South, Meat and Three.

Another (more humbling) reason for this trip was to view Amara Foundation in action. The woman who spearheaded the foundation, Lori Bergman, is a good friend I met many years ago in Ann Arbor.

About eighteen years ago, she went on safari with her sister to Kenya. She returned to town, quit her job and  told us her plans were to engage with Kenyans to be of assistance in  preserving their amazing environment; to help eradicate, for instance, bush-meat and ivory poaching.

She moved to Kenya and founded Amara Conservation. The results of her efforts have been awe-inspiring. My Ann Arbor pals and I are so proud to be her friend. I could go on and on about her fascinating work, esp. in vulnerable Tsavo, but it’s all on her site.

But back to my son’s original question. What did we eat?

Aside from the heavy Indian influence of options (think dals, chapati, biryani) in Kenya, the typical offerings we enjoyed in Kenya and Tanzania transported me back to my childhood.

Having grown up in Alabama, what us Southerners  consider our heritage dishes were actually brought over via the Atlantic Slave Trade. For during the 16th through 19th centuries, with the slaves came their agricultural  practices and recipes.

Hop 'n John (Good Luck Pea Dish)

Hop ‘n John, a beloved Southern Rice & Pea Dish, had its roots in West Africa.

Yep. That lip-smacking Meat & Three found at every Southern diner worth its salt has it’s genesis with the roasted meats (Nyama Choma), sautéed collards (Sukuma Wiki), and an assortment of legume concoctions such as Beans and Corn (Githeri) served  in Africa. Let’s not forget the okra, black-eyed peas (I’m looking at you Hop ‘n John), peanuts and and a cornmeal staple (oh well, grits) on today’s typical African plate.


Uncomfortable to be sure that an enslaved people brought me my beloved soul-foods, at the very least I give credit where credit’s due. And the feasting continued upon our return to Ann Arbor.

Kenyan Fish Stew

Good friends, Terri and Frederic, hosted a dinner party upon our return featuring African fare (see lead picture). Terri made a delicious Swahili Seafood Stew.

She found the recipe online and for good reason the dish tasted so familiar; the recipe was crafted by a Kenyan chef.  It was superb (she used tilapia, a sub-Saharan staple), and I look forward to making it again before hot soup season disappears.

Other recipes we enjoyed–a colorful couscous salad and Apricot Chicken Stew— took their influence from Morocco. A cuisine unto its own, it does, at least, share the same continent (-: I took further license making a classic Indian Dal, which as I mentioned, was served throughout Kenya. Terri’s table was truly a melting pot of colorful and exotic flavors, like the great continent itself.

 Happy, as always, to supply travel or culinary details, if you desire! Happy Trails!

Education is key!





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