Stuff African People Like: Meat

An African's version of heaven

Whereas Westerners now have to be convinced to even touch red meat, Africa would need the propaganda of the Nazi empire doubled over to convince them to leave their precious cows, goats and chickens for even a week.

Africans love meat. Always have! By the looks of things, always will. In almost all African communities, since centuries gone by, the slaughter and consumption of animals is always a special event in and of itself. Africans even have a hierarchy on how special the day of slaughter is and it goes a little something like this:

The bigger and fatter the animal and the redder their meat, the more special the occasion.

That means that to slaughter a chicken is basically an indirect way of insulting a man; slaughter a baby chick and you are declaring war. On the other end of the spectrum, slaughter your fattest cow and it is clear to your invited guests that you mean business and your house is one to be returned to.

For those misguided souls who for a variety of reasons chose to go without meat, such as yours truly, we are met with looks that can only be described as:

bewilderment-mixed-with-a-feeling-of-being-bamboozled-and-

inability-to-understand-such-an-alien-concept.

For you see, a diet consisting of fruits and vegetables has always been an indication of either poverty or getting by. If you can afford many cows AND you have so many that you can slaughter some on a regular basis and you are the King Mswati of your constituency. You should know by now how much Africans love to keep with the Jones. And never forget dowry was paid in cows, not wheatgrass.

The key to this one is simple. Don’t EVER bring up your veganism or vegetarianism unless asked. This will cause the African to look down on you with such pity and aching in their heart that they will immediately work to “bring you back to the light” in the same way a Jehovah’s Witness would.

In addition to that, never ever blame any health problems on meat. By now you should have learned of a great Scape goat (me likes that pun) in the statement, “It’s the work of Satan !” Use that liberally.

Finally, the African has built entire societies and communities around meat. Learn how to cook meat right like only the African can.

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  • By Mo Ma, May 24, 2008 @ 3:35 am

    We LOVE our meat.

    When I was younger, we had a mboch who wouldn’t eat meat and cooked her meals separately. The poor thing was mercilessly ribbed and relatives that dropped by would often express shock; from the tone of their voices, it was like she had to justify her reason for living then if she didn’t eat meat. :) ))

    Nyam chom, Fanta and Chapati…mmmm…la la la

  • By Mwangi, May 24, 2008 @ 3:38 am

    @Mo Ma: I am living your mboches life right now….how someone with love handles that can wrap round me ten times can look at me as the deluded one because of not eating meat constantly makes me smile.
    Lol! “She had to justify her reason for living….”
    My dear goodness, I can’t even imagine that dietary nightmare…chemical juice, red meat, white flour and flour……eish kweli when I was a teen I toyed with death.

  • By Mo Ma, May 24, 2008 @ 4:19 am

    Here’s the obvious question; do you ever get a craving now and then…slip up a leetle beet?

  • By Mwangi, May 24, 2008 @ 4:23 am

    @Mo Ma: Nope! I think there have been two occasions since where I consumed meat and both times it was pretty much by accident (the perils of living with carnivores) and I immediately corrected course without feeling anything really. I realized after quiting that all my life I never had any “meat cravings” as I do for bread for example: All the smells and textures of meat can be found in other things like eggplant, chickpeas, legumes etc etc.
    I am fond of saying, and know sadly, that I love bread and sweet stuff way more than I’ll ever love meat.

  • By Nigerian, May 24, 2008 @ 4:24 am

    Bring out the fattest cow it is time for celebration. All those talks about cholesterol is just a stingy man’s way of dodging from entertaining guest properly (lol)
    A wealthy man is often judged by how many cow he can lay to rest whenever there is a reason to celebrate, wedding, burial you name it.
    Quite an interesting write-up. By the way, I am not a vegetarian, I am proudly Nigerian and Nigerians love meat especially COW meat.

  • By Mwangi, May 24, 2008 @ 4:25 am

    @Nigerian: The same applies in Kenya and probably all through sub-Saharan African. The most popular bars are always the ones that roast the best cow, goat and chicken meat……

  • By Mo Ma, May 24, 2008 @ 4:26 am

    Ah, well it’s impressive then that you can make a resolution and stick to it…Lord knows mine go out of the window after a week.

  • By Mwangi, May 24, 2008 @ 4:28 am

    @Mo Ma: Thank you! People often think I am joking but I haven’t touched biscuits or cookies of any kind for many months now….I probably had dozens of false starts and resolution breaks for that one, it was pathetic how much harder it was for me to give up $2 cookie packets than it was meat.

  • By acolyte, May 24, 2008 @ 6:44 am

    Im on the vegan train too. Havent done dairy in months, no white sugar for me but I will admit once in a while when I am among Kenyans and am offered meat just to save myself the drama I shall partake :( It’s hard trying to teach people about diet and such so I partake, and then detox at home.
    But yes the mark of a true Kenyan who has made it is eating meat daily!

  • By rags, May 24, 2008 @ 7:43 am

    I must say, i eat meat with everything. Even chai. Did you check out my http://gengewear.wordpress.com/2008/05/20/africans-vs-african-americans/ entry?

  • By Mwangi, May 24, 2008 @ 1:35 pm

    @Acolyte: :D I am not alone. I find another African who is interested in improving their health via diet too. You actually gave up my Achilles heel, white sugar. That one will be tricky for me, I’ll probably post about it but I foresee some challenges there.
    Me and Dairy have a very odd relationship…I eat cheese about once every week though I have officially “quite dairy” so I am definitely slipping there…reading your comment has inspired me to grab the cow by the udder’s and throw away the dairy.
    It’s one of those things a foreigner wouldn’t believe is how much we value meat, especially red meat. Apparently when Gandhi was going off on racist rants against blacks his complaint was Africans “just want to accumulate many cows so they can accumulate many waver” and that’s about it for us….

  • By Mwangi, May 24, 2008 @ 1:39 pm

    @rags: Even with tea…..there you have won hands down. I can’t even consider doing that. I did read your article, didn’t you see the comment I left. I actually noticed Sokari left a link to a Chinua Achebe interview so I’ll just link to that here:
    Excerpts from Black Looks
    Full interview from Sahara Reporters

  • By gal africana, May 24, 2008 @ 9:40 pm

    So true! Funny too, how no one finds it odd to eat a meal consisting of nothing but meat…and greasy meat at that lol My trip home this Dec and the ensuing nyam chom orgies were quite an experience!

    I’ve eaten meat once this year…and that was the last time. No dairy either…on its own anyway (haven’t gotten rid of cakes so….)

    Just had my first shot of wheatgrass today…and have ordered some capsules…waiting to see if I’ll feel a difference with them.

    Did they do the firewalk thing when you went for AR seminar?

  • By Mwangi, May 25, 2008 @ 3:57 am

    @gal africana: Yup, I walked over the bed of hot coals….the most amazing thing was it was far from the highlight of the weekend.
    I actually have the equipment necessary to grow wheatgrass but I have little time outside of this blog to cultivate my garden.
    I just came from an African party and as was to be expected the only thing on the menu was….meat. Beer and meat and that’s about it. It’s uniquely African that culture.

  • By kelly, May 25, 2008 @ 7:50 pm

    First of all, congrats to you all doing the vegan thing. I’m not a meat person, but the other day my pals decide to throw me a bash, so here I am envisioning this day of eating fat food like pizza,fries, cake etc etc, thinking that the dudes knew me well enough! The bash was a day at Ole Polos (a joint on Magadi Road where every Nairobian spends their holidays these days), and all they serve is meat. I was actually pleasantly suprised to find the meat quite good, but I’m not a convert as yet. I have also come to learn over the years, to impress any Kenyan Man, whether business or pleasure, cook/take them to a meat joint!

    Hey Mwangi and Gal Africana, please share those healthy recipes! I made a resolution that once I was nearer to 30 than 20 yrs old, I’d actually start eating healthy, and I have a few months to go. The prob is all my recipes have cream, margarine etc. I need ideas. Wheatgrass????? I’m smiling cos I can’t imagine myself drinking any sort of grass! Anyways please share.

  • By Mwangi, May 26, 2008 @ 12:45 am

    @kelly: Thank you. I have heard of Ole Polos and the way I have heard the place described you would think it’s Mecca so I’ll definitely check it out next time I visit the motherland. The Kenyan man loves his meat, that’s for sure. If you want to pull a Kenyan crowd to a party in a hurry down here: “barbecue meat” and free beer is all you really need to pull some ridiculous numbers. Wheatgrass is taken like a vodka shot so you don’t need to worry about it too much but it’s flavour is strong first time you take it.
    I wrote articles for Ezine articles where I cover some quick ideas for folk on the run out here and perhaps they may be useful to you…..I may also post this up on the blog in the near future if there is nothing else pending……here’s the article:
    The Lazy Immigrant’s Guide to Eating Healthier

  • By Mwangi, May 26, 2008 @ 6:39 pm

    @kelly: For some reason gal africana couldn’t post her response to you and so I have posted it below (thx gal):

    @ Kelly I think the article Mwangi links to is great and it covers all the basics. I find it easy to eat veggies, pestos and smooties if I have easy, fun recipes and my fav websites for that kind of inspiration are:

    http://uktv.co.uk/food/homepage/sid/5428
    http://www.bbcfood.com/Default.aspx

    Good luck with it!

  • By Kelly, May 26, 2008 @ 11:42 pm

    Thanks y’all for the resources. I wish I could eat healthy bila cooking but well…

  • By Mwangi, May 26, 2008 @ 11:49 pm

    @Kelly: There is the raw food lifestyle which is uber-healthy, but ironically, apparently half of folks who are raw foodists take hours to prepare their meals. Check out Steve Pavlina’s articles on his raw food trials for more information on how to up the health without cooking your food.

  • By Kelly, May 26, 2008 @ 11:51 pm

    Will do. Thanks Mwangi

  • By Mwangi, May 26, 2008 @ 11:53 pm

    I wish I knew how to type out the “thumbs up” sign but instead I will simply give you the smiley sign to say you’re welcome :D

  • By liberiangirl, July 15, 2008 @ 12:56 am

    You forgot to add RICE…A meal is not a true meal.. without rice for me.

  • By Mwangi, July 15, 2008 @ 1:08 am

    @liberiangirl: That varies very much from region to region. I think it can’t exist without a starch. In East Africa it can be rice or chapati or ugali. In Southern Africa it can be sadza, in West Africa it can be the immortal fufu. I think the meat is typically consumed with some carbohydrate/starch.

  • By liberiangirl, July 15, 2008 @ 1:16 am

    You are right..I just had some fufu last night :)

  • By Mwangi, July 15, 2008 @ 1:24 am

    @liberiangirl: Lol! What are the chances of that?

  • By lovesculture, November 24, 2008 @ 4:44 am

    I have to wonder if there is any culture aside from Indian, that actually celebrate vegitarianism? As a person who was a vegitarian for over thirteen years, almost every person that I have come into contact from other cultures had looked at me like I was crazy for not eating meat (literally from China to Brazil).
    I did find that during that time when I slipped up and ate meat two times, once prepared by a man from Cameroon and the other time a man from
    Brazil; they were the most delicious tasting meals I had ever tasted with meat.
    Although, I prefer not to eat meat at all, I have slipped up enough where I no longer call myself a vegitarian. However, I wonder if I am alone thinking that across the globe, if not eating meat seems taboo?

  • By Mwangi, November 24, 2008 @ 8:58 am

    @lovesculture: I have this running theory in my head that the reason that veganism and vegetarianism took off in such a big way in the West and is largely considered a joke elsewhere is two fold:
    1) That folks in the West because of living in industrial societies lost touch with how food is produced (i.e. that an animal must be slaughtered to be eaten). Combine this with being sheltered from all forms of violence and the first time someone is aware or worse watches how an animal is slaughtered, its sure to be a huge shock to the system. Personally, the arguments for ethical treatment of animals, whereas I love them for their spirit,rarely strike a chord with me because I grew up slaughtering and so have an appreciation for the fact that that’s how carnivores and omnivores get their food the same way a vegetable farmer plucks fruits and extracts vegetables.
    2) The pet culture and the exaltation of animals to equality with human beings.
    These two things simply don’t exist in most countries and in Africa eating meat has so much history and positivity – a sign of wealth, taste, parties based around it-surrounding it that its understandable why the movement is taken seriously.

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