In Summary
  • Nothing beats home-made fresh managu (African nightshade), or mrenda, with ugali or sweet potatoes with red millet gruel.
  • Could the acceptance of refined foods as a mark of sophistication be the reason why places like central Kenya have abnormally high rates of lifestyle diseases, like diabetes?

The recent government warning over aflatoxin contamination of a popular peanut butter brand should remind Kenyans how far things have gone wrong in our food cultures.

We have steadily lost our cultivation, preparation and cooking cultures. Cooking has become less common in households and, with it, wholemeal diets are disappearing from the dining table.

While our ancestors thrived on natural foods, we have embraced poisons in the name of processed foods, for the ‘progressive’, which shorten our lives.

Reasons for this trend include Kenyans having become richer (not necessarily wealthier). The rich do not cook and tend to eat more processed foods.

In the past 20 years, the middle class has ballooned from less than 15 percent of the population in 2000 to 45 percent in 2018.

According to the African Development Bank, you are in the middle class in Africa if your daily individual expenditure is Sh200 to Sh1,000.

WORKING CLASS

This busy bee has no time to pass by Githurai or Marigiti green markets for fresh food to cook at home. The trend notably afflicts the 30-40 age blanket, the married included. This class eats out.

After a day’s work, these workhorses are in no cooking mood — a boring chore among the youth, rich or poor.

If they don’t eat in some high-end or mid-budget restaurants, they buy hot, ready-to-eat meals in supermarkets.

Now any supermarket worth the name has a kitchen and, sometimes, restaurant. And the queues only get longer.

They eat in the vehicle or warm it in the microwave or some sous vide gadget at home. Then the workaholic is soon back on the laptop.

Then is the emerging gourmet class — a hippie lot that enjoys fine food and drink accompanied by their hairy friends, 'Chihuahua'.

NUTRITIOUS

The food prepared in these (high-end) restaurants is not necessarily bad nutrition-wise.

However, nothing beats home-made fresh managu (African nightshade), or mrenda, with ugali or sweet potatoes with red millet gruel. The aroma of terere (amaranth) or stinging nettle is therapeutic.

In addition, buying and cooking your own food puts nutrient preservation under your control. All you need are some basic hygiene and nutrient-preserving skills in cooking and you put clinicians out of work!

Interestingly, the ancient Doctrine of Signatures (aka homeopathy) has it that a particular food heals the part of the body resembling it.

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