Updated: Oct 12, 2020
I talk with Sophie Musoki from "A Kitchen in Uganda", a world-renowned food blogger to discuss Ugandan culture, food, and more! Join us!
Here is Sophie's recipe for the Minced Beef Jumbo Rolex (pictured above).
This conversation is a follow up from the "How Chapati, an East African Bread Dish, Can Change the Single-Sided Story (Part I)" blog post. Part I discusses my love for Ugandan food and the opportunity to share my wonderful experiences revolved around my favorite Ugandan dish, chapati, with other Americans (or those who have not been exposed to Ugandan cuisine). Part I also explores the idea of cultural competency and being able to look beyond the "single-sided story".
To give you more of an insight into Ugandan culture and food, I asked Sophie Musoki of "A Kitchen in Uganda" about her experience as an entrepreneur and how she has been able to use her blog as a catalyst for Ugandan cuisine.
"Sophia Musoki is a Ugandan food blogger, writer, and photographer. Sophie's work has been featured in Cuisine Noir, CNN, City Press, and other notable publications.
She has self-published 3 e-books, one of which won the Gourmand World Cookbook Award in 2015. Her blog has been nominated for the prestigious Saveur Magazine blog award in the food culture category.
She is a strong advocate for eating local, exploring Ugandan food and way of cooking, and using indigenous produce to make scrumptious meals. As a self-taught food photographer, she is on a mission to photograph African food and document food experiences in a positive light. As a food writer, she is passionate about experimenting with and writing about local indigenous produce on her blog while giving her readers practical ways they can incorporate this food in their daily lives."
Let's get started!
I know you started cooking at a young age, but how did cooking become such a great passion of yours? What motivates you to continue as a food blogger and entrepreneur?
"What fascinates me the most in cooking is the ability to take seemingly mundane everyday ingredients and create amazing flavors with them. As a child, I grew up mostly on plant-based foods so in my mind I knew people planted, harvested, and cooked their food. The process was simple. So when I was presented with complex foods like cakes and breads, I always used to wonder what plant they came from. The alchemy of different layered flavors and textures is very interesting to me which is why I love recipe development."
Specific foods mean different things in different cultures. Can you tell me about what is usually served for celebrations in Uganda? Are there religious holidays specific to Uganda that are celebrated with certain foods?
"The best celebrations to experience the best of Ugandan food are weddings ( both traditional and church). Since each region in the country has its own unique way of eating, there is not one specific food that I can mention but you will find elaborate spreads of traditional foods ranging from maleewa, banana leaf steamed matooke, akalo, malakwang, luwombo, eshabwe, groundnut stew, etc."
A lot of people who are not familiar with Ugandan culture do not know there are several different languages spoken throughout the county as well as regional customs in place. Can you tell me if there are specific foods or dishes that are more regional rather than national?
"Yes. Actually there are many such as maleewa which is smoked and dried tender bamboo shoots, banana leaf steamed matooke (green bananas), akalo which is millet and cassava flour mingled together, malakwang a green leafy vegetable prepared with simsim (sesame) paste, luwombo which is meat steamed in banana leaves, eshabwe which is, to simplify it, whipped ghee (clarified butter) with rock salt, groundnut stew and so many more."
If you could serve someone who is completely unaware of Ugandan food and culture, what would you serve and why?
"This is tricky. When a person is visiting Uganda, the central is their first point of contact. So I would serve them some great dishes popular in central Uganda like matooke, luwombo, Samosas, chapati, and the coveted passion fruit juice."
How is food usually gathered in Uganda? Who usually prepares meals for the family?
"Like anywhere else, food is gotten from markets and supermarkets in urban areas and in rural areas where there is space to farm, food is gathered from personal farms and gardens. Most people raise their own animals for food and for those that don't, there is a community butcher who supplies meat. It is usually the women of the household that prepare most food although most restaurants have male chefs."
It’s interesting to see that the woman of the household prepares the meals, but yet men are the ones who make careers out of it. How do you think it would be possible for women to overcome this issue across the world?
"I think it starts with recognizing and acknowledging the contribution women have provided the society as a whole and putting systems in place to support women. This includes being given a wider range of job opportunities and being paid what we are worth. Clearly we have a long way to go but it helps to have advocacy in place and I am glad we are having this conversation."
I (Kaycee) am screaming in the background, "YES, SIS!"
In your article, "How to Eat a Rolex" you mention the history of the Ugandan rolex and how it's gaining traction as an international food icon. Do you think the Ugandan rolex would be the best option to represent the country in the food industry? What other dishes would you suggest to best represent Ugandan cuisine?
"I think the rolex best represents the current generation of Ugandans: The youth who are hardworking and trying to make the most of what they have despite the many setbacks.
Other foods that are popular country wide-are katogo, chapati, beans, groundnut stew and mandazi."
You mention the youth of Uganda. Uganda has one of the highest rates of youth in entrepreneurship in the world. Why do you think that is? What drives you as a young, female, entrepreneur?
"It is so amazing the entrepreneurial spirit that drives Uganda! I don't think we do this to break world records though, it is a means of survival for most of us. With a weak economy and a government that has multiple agendas, we have no choice but to fend for ourselves and find ways to make things and life work. The desire to be financially free, to create art and support my family will always be the driving forces of everything I do."
Why do you think it's important for people to understand and accept diversity through food?
"I believe the willingness to be diverse and accept diversity stretches one's thinking. We get to realize that the world is so much bigger than what we know. Ugandan food is uniquely diverse and it wouldn't surprise you if a person from the Western region of the country is completely unaware of what people in the Eastern region eat. So I believe going out of our ways to understand and appreciate our ways of eating and those of others unites us as a people."
Read that last sentence again...You can't tell me that doesn't just resonate with you!
Personal Reflection from the Conversation
First of all, Sophie Muoski is #goals. Sophie is a great leader for #entrepreneurs (like myself) to follow as well as an extraordinary representative of the country at large. After exploring her work, you quickly notice she puts her passion into her work and loves doing it, something I strive to do in my own work.
What we personally hope you take away from this conversation are these four things:
1) A stronger idea (or appreciation) of Ugandan food and culture.
Uganda is full of life, opportunity, and wonder. Because of the regionalism, the county as a whole has similar, but different food, social culture, and norms (much like the U.S). It's guaranteed you are going to have an enriched experience when you visit. Beyond food, you are going to see why Uganda is known as "The Pearl of Africa". Here is the link to Uganda's tourism board if you want to check it out!
2) Women in business should be a priority, universally.
#WomenInBusiness is not a new trend. However, I 1000% agree with Sophie that we need to continue to support opportunities that uplift women and girls, especially those that are considered vulnerable and minorities and/or business owners and entrepreneurs. I love this short, but informative Harvard Business Review article, "The Trillion-Dollar Opportunity in Supporting Female Entrepreneurs".
3) Youth in Entrepreneurship is a thing and should be globally supported and celebrated.
Again, #YouthInEntrepreneurship is not a new thing. But like women in business, we also need to support the youth engaging in entrepreneurship. I love this Forbes article on "10 Different Ways To Encourage Youth Entrepreneurship".
Junior Achievement Worldwide is also a great resource for youth to globally engage in work readiness, financial literacy, and entrepreneurship skills!
4) Embracing diversity and cultural acceptance is a beautiful thing.
To put it simply, we are all human. I wholeheartedly believe there is not one race, gender, or ethnicity greater than the rest. Coming from the Southern region of the United States, that was the opposite of what I was taught in my upbringing. I understand that being #CulturallyCompetent is not a natural skill for everyone. However, everyone can be willing to embrace it!
Food, like many other ways to connect with someone, can speak the words you may not be able to. Food can provide the opportunity to show love and peace. Sharing a meal with someone is the universal language like Sophie said, to understand and appreciate our ways of eating and those of others unites us as a people.
I want to thank Sophie for working on this piece with me! I cannot express enough my enthusiasm working on this piece together and forever grateful for the opportunity!
You can find Sophie and her blog, "A Kitchen in Uganda" on these platforms: