Updated: Jun 30, 2020
Is it possible for bread to act as an international peacemaker?
“Eating is so intimate. It’s very sensual. When you invite someone to sit at your table and you want to cook for them, you’re inviting a person into your life. – Maya Angelou
I love to cook! It's been passed down from generation to generation in my family. We make it a priority in my family to share our meals together and happily cook our favorite recipes for our friends.
When I lived in Uganda as a Peace Corps Volunteer, I lived with a host family in the beginning of my service. They had never spoken to an American before let alone let a "mzungu" stay in their home.
I was thrilled to quickly learn that my host family also loved to cook.
After getting semi-acquainted with Ugandan food, I started to love chapati. Chapati is like a tortilla, but chewier and heavily fried in oil. Chapati is served all over the world, but how it's prepared is specific to East Africa.
Just thinking about eating fresh, hot chapati makes my mouth water.
Once I told my host family about my love of chapati, we had it with our dinner every single night until the day I left. Before I left their home to continue on with my service, my host mother and sister insisted on teaching me how to make it so I "wouldn't starve". The pictures you see under the title are the pictures I took to remember their recipe. Those hands belong to my host sister, Winnie.
In exchange for the chapati lesson, they wanted me to teach them how to make an "American meal". I taught them how to make spaghetti, with a homemade tomato sauce. (The ingredients were easy to find.)
The sauce was terribly runny, almost like tomato soup...It was not good. But, watching my 4-year old host brother scrunch up his little face, refusing to take another bite was priceless.
Although there was certainly a language barrier, we all understood the value and appreciation of our cultures' the food we shared together, brought. Food is universal. Food tells our stories for us.
It's not just what we eat, but the way it's gathered or harvested, how it's prepared, how it's eaten, and who we are eating with tells the world about our cultural background.
Chapati bread does not have superpowers and can not literally act as an international peacemaker. You're missing the point if you think I am going to dispute that fact.
But, being able to bring the chapati bread experience back to the state of Kentucky (of all places) is undeniably meaningful.
Why do I say that?
When I get to bring up chapati in a conversation, I get the opportunity to educate people from time to time that Africa is indeed not a country. (Yes, I know what you're thinking...Me too.)
When I talk about chapati, I get the chance to bring up how absolutely, breathtaking, Uganda is.
This was the view from my front porch in the village I lived in. Those are the Rwenzori Mountains in the background. I promise this picture does not do this view justice.
When I talk about chapati, I get to talk about my host family and how understanding and loving they are. I get to talk about my friend Sam and how he helped me learn the local language and how he helped me fix my bicycle when I had no clue what I was doing.
When I talk about chapati, I get the opportunity to flip the narrative. I get the opportunity to change this false perception of a country (and generally speaking, the African continent) that has been deeply scarred from both generational racism and the "white savior complex".
I implore you to watch Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's TED Talk about The Danger of a Single Story.
The World-famous novelist explains how critical it is not to accept any single-sided story and even goes on to tell her own experience of falling victim to accepting the single-sided story.
I have watched this TED Talk countless times now and it never disappoints. That "one story" is not the only story. Don't limit yourself.
I hope and pray that whoever you are and wherever you are that you also are using your "chapati" to change the single-sided story.
Here is a link to a fantastic chapati recipe. Double the salt. Add 1 teaspoon of baking powder to the dry mix. Use warm milk instead of water.
This is a Ugandan Rolex, a fried egg with vegetables wrapped in a chapati.
As you may have noticed, this is blog post is part one of two. Because of our love of food and the shared mission to stop the single-sided narrative in Uganda (and throughout the African continent), I have teamed up with the internationally recognized food blogger, Sophia Musoki from A Kitchen in Uganda to further discuss the single-sided story and how to be allies in flipping the narrative. We will also discuss food recipes and more! We hope you join us in Part II!