June wa Ranja: Interview, part 1

It’s guest post day! Yaaaaay!

Have you ever met someone that just has you beaming in joy from the moment you meet them to the moment you part? Well, June is exactly that sort of person. I know she has no clue that she has that effect, because often, she will have you rolling in laughter as she gives the simplest story with such a straight face! She is such a delight to be around and it was great fun learning these recipes from her — yup! you read right, there are two!!

The first recipe will be up in a bit, in the mean time, get to know her a little bit…

Tell us about the beginning of your cooking journey…
Wow! I am surprised that my usually very sharp memory is failing me today….. But, I think I started with tea at 9 years old (Std 4.) I was taught by our helper then… Joyce. My main motivation for learning was so that I could wake up (very) early, prepare for school, make and have breakfast, and leave by 6:30 am to walk to school. Crazy, I know. My mum and I used to fight about me leaving too early all the time.

One of the other first memories I have about cooking was cutting out recipes from the Sunday paper with my mum and trying them out, with me as her sous chef. My favourite one that became a huge hit at home was the mahamri recipe which was even hung on our kitchen wall. Eventually I started making whole meals during the long holiday between primary and secondary school under my mum’s tutelage.

And the first meal you made for hubby?
Very funny story…. We hadn’t quite started going out yet; it was that awkward time when you both know you are more than friends but one or both of you won’t admit it (in our case it was me, lol). Anyway he came over to our house for lunch and I had prepared fish fillet which I had coated in breadcrumbs, deep fried it, then layered it with fresh tomato sauce and coriander and baked in the oven. This was made with roast potatoes and a side of vegetables. I wasn’t nervous because my neighbour and I had perfected this dish for our friends several times before.   

However when we were ready to eat, I invited him to go serve himself in the kitchen as was customary in our house of only females (gasp!)! He hesitated looking confused and stressed; my mother feeling embarrassed on my behalf urgently called me into the bedroom and whispered… “Go serve him!” The feminist in me wanted to protest and say that he doesn’t need to get special treatment just coz he is a man but my mother shut me down…“JUST go serve him!” I grudgingly did so and he enjoyed the food so much that the whole “self-service” fiasco was forgotten.

You see my mum, being a single mum with two daughters ran a very uncomplicated household; especially as we got older. We could eat when we pleased and in any room, we always served ourselves from the kitchen. Other unrelated lessons from her indicated that we were equal to and could do just a well as any man. Our culture and many others in Africa place the man, as the head of the home on a pedestal of importance where he gets the best of everything at home as the leader and provider. That is something I had no concept of hence my misguided instruction to my future husband. The long and short of it is that it was to be the first of many meals I was to prepare for and serve him.

sneak peek of her upcoming recipe post
sneak peek of her upcoming recipe post

Is there anything that shocked you that everyone seemed to know but just never mentioned?
Yes! That men in our culture should be served their food; preferably in the best dishes that you and the best parts/portions of the meal. I am now very happy to do it despite my history. My husband explained that rather than viewing it as a man’s stamp of authority over me, I should realize that the effect it has on him is the same as when he opens doors or pulls out a chair for me in a restaurant. He feels highly appreciated and it helps him relax after a difficult day out in the world. This really helped me change my attitude towards that task.

What’s the biggest difference between what you like to eat and what he likes to eat?
We really like a lot of the same foods. However he really appreciates nyama choma and I generally don’t, except when I am pregnant. I also appreciate more vegetables and pulses than he does. However everything can be made better for him when served with Chapatti! Those he can eat, in every meal, for a week, maybe even longer. I on the other hand cannot even confidently make Chapatti due to lack of interest.

What has surprised you the most when it comes to cooking for family?
How expensive it can be! I constantly get shocked at how much is spent on food items especially the recurrent purchases; milk, bread, eggs, flour, meats, cooking oil, fruits and vegetables. To maintain a healthy balanced diet especially once children come into play is quite a costly affair.

Where do you look for inspiration for your meals?
Food Network! I love watching TV and for almost 3 years now I have had access to the Food Network Channel. I love watching the chefs there and trying out their ideas. I especially like Ina Garten, Siba Mtongana, Jeff Mauro, Jamie Oliver, Ellie Krieger, The Pioneer Woman, among others. I just learn so much about how to create flavours and how different ingredients can be mixed, without necessarily replicating specific recipes.

Before Food Network and even after, I sometimes just google recipes I can make by typing in ingredients I have in my kitchen that I want to make in a different way from the norm.

Isn’t she awesomely sweet?! Well there’s more sweetness coming, if you read all that the first recipe post is already up so go back to the homepage to check it out! And stay tuned, part two of the interview and the next recipe will be up in the next few days!

About aika

Making, eating and sharing good food are a splendid way to start, brake and end a day! I post good eats on www.pendolamama.co.ke. Life is a feast, eat up!


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