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  • Bettina Applewhite

Corona Chronicles: Trip Back to Tanzania

Updated: Jan 28, 2021

This was a trip I was anticipating because I had so much fun there. I completed an internship that was a joint effort with Hampton University and the University of Dar es Salaam. I spent two and a half months of summer there. I did some research and had lots of fun.

This trip to Tanzania was my longest time living out of the country and it really made a great impact on my life. I met friends that I still keep in touch with almost 20 years later. I went on my first safari and I just burst into tears watching an elephant family cross the street. There's so much beauty in nature.

While I was there, we lived in university housing. Some people in our group had so many food restrictions that it was a lot easier for the kitchen to make these repetitive simple meals of fried chicken, rice, and sauteed cabbage. Initially it was tasty but after having it so often, I would have to use whatever condiments I could find to dress up this meal.

On occasion some kind souls would invite us over for dinner and we would have a home cooked meal. One of my favorites was sweet potato leaves or something like that. I can't exactly remember right now but it was so good and something that I had never even heard of.

Often ugali would accompany a meal. Ugali is a starchy dish made of cornmeal. It's stiff and is used to scoop up graves and curries with your hand. It feels you up quickly which is the point. It helps makes a meal last longer. Ugali is to East Africa what Fufu is to West Africa.

I can't find the greens that they had in Tanzania but I did find a spinach dish called mchicha that was really tasty and had a bit of a kick with both fresh red chilies and cayenne pepper. It was kinda like creamed spinach but with coconut milk instead of heavy cream. I'd make it again and again especially because it was so easy to make. It's also #ketofriendly. It has crunch from peanuts so it really has everything you could possibly need.

I wanted to make ugali. During coronavirus I had to go to several grocery stores before I could find white cornmeal. I finally found it at a Latino grocery store. It was worth it just so I could get inspired to create some more dishes during #quarantine. The ugali was so simple to make I kept cross referencing recipes just to make sure. It's white cornmeal and water and salt. That's it.

If I'm making ugali I've got to make a saucy meat dish to go with it and I chose oxtails! I make an oxtail stew with lots of carrots and red wine. It's a heavy menu so I can definitely see myself adding this to my winter-time rotation.

My trip to Tanzania consisted of oxtail stew, ugali, and spicy creamed spinach dish called mchicha. I can't wait until I can travel again.

To see my travel through food adventures in real time follow my Instagram account @biteswithapplewhite for fun stories and posts.


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