How Do I……Cook?

Cooking can easily take all day in Kenya if you cook Kenya food.  Every once in a while I make chapatis but that’s usually the only Kenyan food I make..


My second host sister teaching me how to make chapatis on a jiko stove (my first host family had a family emergency so I ended up getting moved to a second host family during training).

If you want green grams or beans with your meal then you need to soak them in water the night before so that they soften up enough to cook.


Same with maize (corn), they need to sit out in the sun to soften up.


Like most PCVs, I stick with simple and food that’s quick to cook (e.g. spaghetti…I’ve never eaten so much spaghetti in my life before).  I also usually add Sossi which is soya (good source of protein) since it’s not exactly sanitary (by my standards) or easy to purchase meat in my village.  Meat is usually very tough and sits out in the sun for weeks until it’s all sold.  My school actually spent about 2-3 weeks eating meat from a cow that had to be killed due to an illness (no refrigerator or freezer….just tree shade).

Kenyans may cook outside or inside with gas, kerosene, charcoal (jiko stove) or firewood.


Most people in my village do not use gas tanks.  There aren’t any gas pipes that lead to houses, instead people travel to town to purchase gas tanks which can be a pain to transport back.  My first host family lived in town so they used a gas tank and a jiko stove.  My second host family lived out in the village and used wood to cook and a jiko stove.  They would chop down tree branches and carry them to the house on their back.


My second host family’s kitchen.  The red cup is on top of a pot which is where the stove is.


My first host family’s kitchen.  The gas tank is black, most tanks I’ve seen are about half this size.


My first host family’s jiko stove with charcoal


The school’s kitchen

I use kerosene which is around 80-90/= per litre, lasts for a while (around 400/= worth lasts a few months), and easy to transport.

I use a kerosene stove.  I light up all 8 wicks (it’s a pain to switch out the wicks when they get short) and hope a flame ball doesn’t shoot up.  Sometimes I’ll be cooking something before I realize I’ve just about ran out of kerosene ….this happens every once in a while and ends up doubling my cooking time.  I only have one stove so if I want to make spaghetti with white sauce and garlic bread then I time it so that I can still have warm food to eat after cooking one item at a time…it does take longer cooking one item at a time instead of all at once.  The downside to kerosene is when you get the smoke in your eyes and it’s a pain to clean the bottom of pots….ugh!


Yellow containers are reused cooking oil containers (Kenyans use SO much cooking oil) which are resold to be used as kerosene containers or to transport water.  You see them all over the place in Kenya.  When I need to get kerosene I wait 1-2 hours by the side of my dirt road for a vehicle, travel about an hour to town, hope I can get kerosene at the first gas station I go to (sometimes stations run out of kerosene), if the gas station is busy then I have to push my way through and stick the yellow container in front of the person who is doing the filling (they have an employer who does it and there is no concept of lines or going in order in Kenya….it’s all about pushing your way through) then it takes 0.5-4 hours to get a vehicle to leave town, and another hour back to the village.  I have spilled kerosene all over my pants before while traveling on the bumpy dirt road….am just glad no one near me lit a match!


One has to make sure they don’t run out of gas or kerosene completely….which is so easy to do. If I’m low on kerosene and I know I won’t be able to make it to town for a few days I’ll either eat a lot of PBJ sandwiches or something that’s very quick to cook (e.g. scrambled eggs).

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