Tuesday, February 25, 2014


While in Malawi, I had the chance to learn about the traditional meal that is served for every meal of the day, nsima. Nsima is basically watered-down, processed corn meal, the consistency reminds me of grits. Most rural Malawians primarily focus on growing corn in the rainy season and hope to save enough to last them throughout the dry season. Nsima lacks much nutritional value and can actually lead to malnutrition. I was shocked to see how much of a staple food corn was in Malawi, the children and adults I met seemed to consider it as vital as water. They were incredibly shocked to hear that I do not eat nsima everyday. On kid even asked how I was alive and healthy if I didn't eat nsima. Children in Malawi are taught that if they do not eat nsima they will be unhealthy and more likely to become sick. They are not aware that when eating the meal, most of the nutrition comes from the relish rather than the nisma. What I found most interesting was that Malawi's dependency on corn resulted from European intervention. Before having contact with Europeans, Malawians grew a diversity of nutritious crops that were native to the land. Malnutrition hardly seemed to be an issue. When the Europeans came to Malawi they also brought mono-cropping and corn from the Americas. Now most Malawians are dependent on corn and have forgotten about other nutritious crops which were once abundant and native to the land. While in Malawi, I had to opportunity to make and eat nsima. After the corn has been processed into a flour, it is mixed with water and cooked over a fire. As it cooks, you have to continue stirring it so that it eventually reaches the right consistency. After a while it becomes very difficult to stir. I  eventually had to give up and allow one of the other women to take over. When it is finished, it is served with a relish and eaten with your hands. Here are some pictures I have from when I was in Malawi and made nsima. 

1 comment:

Ian Kuehne said...

European colonizers made a practice of introducing crops from the Americas into their colonies, which often became staples because of the ease with which they could provide calories. Potatoes, for example, are pretty much synonymous with Irish and German cuisines, but they are native to South America; similarly, Things Fall Apart has references to cassava, which is also originally South American and which is an even bigger problem in terms of malnutrition than maize--cassava has supplanted yams in some places for making fufu, is less nutritious than maize, and can cause cyanide poisoning over time.