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I have been on a taco salad kick lately. While driving to Cleveland for the holidays, and multiple times on that trip, I wanted and then consumed taco salads. Upon my arrival in Malawi in January after 25+ hours of travel, my lovely housemates were making taco salad. We took turns cooking meals for the guest house, and when it was my turn I chose to make a taco salad spread! So when you are in Malawi, or other similar places, tortilla chips may be hard to come by. As such, tomato Fritos stood in. In addition, you may end up spending $3 on taco seasoning, which I usually would abhor using, as I’m in to making my own seasoning mixes (without MSG). You also may find a bug crawling out of your (already cleaned and dried) lettuce, making you want to wash it 5 times and with soap for two of those times. Those things of course, didn’t happen to me 🙂

In brief, I browned ground beef with the taco seasoning until cooked and served with a plethora of goodies including (avocado, tomato, cheese and green leaf lettuce) and some stand-ins such as plain yogurt for sour cream and Fritos for tortilla chips. We also had a wonderful homemade ranch dressing made with a Hidden valley ranch packet that my house-mates brought back from the US. I also concocted a wonderful salsa with tomato, red onion, jalapeno pepper and seasoned with salt and pepper. It was a wonderful meal!! Too bad my stomach was unhappy from drinking bad water or eating something that didn’t sit well (requiring a full course of antibiotics). C’est la vie.

Mwasera bwangi (Good afternoon in Chichewa, the common language in Malawi, other than English). So as some of you know I am in Malawi for work for a few weeks. The trip has been great thus far. I am staying in a guest house with surgery residents and we have dinner together every evening.  The Malawians I’ve met are very kind and generous, and are helping me learn Chichewa. It is rainy season now, so everything is lush and beautiful, and there is an abundance of produce at the markets.

As part of my trip, I am working with an amazing nutritionist Martin. We’ve hired six wonderful Malawian women to help us cook many foods for our food composition tables for the amazing study I work on at UNC Chapel Hill. Anyways, I’ve been able to watch these women cook, and learn how to make some of the traditional dishes. We’ve made so many of them. The primary dish that most Malawians regard as their staple food is nsima, which is made from corn flour (we’ve mainly made ufa mgaiwa). Most foreigners have mentioned that they don’t like nsima much and that it feels like a rock in your stomach, and I actually really like it! Next to nsima, a relish is always served. This one is pumpkin leaves and groundnuts, and we also had red beans next to it. More post  to come. Stay tuned!

nsima with beans and pumpkin greens (with groundnut flour)

nsima and cowpeas with tomato and onion relish

Note, this post is not about food.. it is about sustenance while hiking. We hiked the Grand Canyon over the holiday, and oh my it is grand! We hiked down to the Bright Angel campground on the South Kaibab trail and then returned to the South Rim the next day via the Bright Angel trail, a 9 mile uphill hike at >10% grade. The sights were fabulous! While hiking we consumed usual hiker food such as beef jerkey, peanut butter and honey sandwiches, power bars, and trail mix. At the bottom of the canyon, we were ravenous and immediately went to the Phantom Ranch canteen for snacks, postcards and card games. We then feasted! I had brought a dried beef stew, Joey brought packaged Indian food from whole foods, and our friends were geniuses.. They made dried mashed potatoes with peas and canned chicken. This was amazing and highly recommended!! For breakfast, we had oatmeal and eggs. And then we started our grueling 9 mile (7 hour) hike to the rim.

Here a a few photos from our trip, enjoy!

View on the hike down.

 

Drinking wine and playing hearts at the Phantom Ranch canteen.

Me on the hike back to the rim.