Sudanese Welcome Feast

I got a phone call on Monday inviting us to a Sudanese feast….and also requesting the use of our church hall for that same function…….talk about last minute! So all week I have been super excited about being able to share some photos and descriptions of true home style food from Sudan with you guy. And then……my camera died on the eve of the feast. When I realized it was not going to come good, I threw a 3 point hissy and then assumed the foetal for a full hour, till someone else needed to use the bathroom , I put the catastrophe into perspective, in the light of how some people have it these days and decided to make the best of it. So the pics will remain small this week, and we will all just need to put on our imagination caps!

Sadly, the party venue didn’t work out and it all had to take place in the couple’s tiny home…but nonetheless I took the 4 year old along with me, to get his first true taste of African hospitality!
Please note: if you are the type of person who gets irritated at being put in the waiting bay at a McDonald’s drive thru, the African hospitality experience is not for you. Waiting is a big part of the process, the EXPERIENCE. This is sloooooowwwww slow food. In Kenya, we would go to a home for dinner, only to find that the main course was still tethered to a post outside, alive and well. I am talking slow food, people.
The party had begun at 4, and it was to welcome back my friend and her baby daughter after spending the best part of a year being nurtured in Sydney by extended family. This is a very common thing within a Sudanese family when the first child is born. The village mentality kicks in.
When we (we being: myself , the 4 yr old and 2 half-charged inferior, ancient point-and- shoots) got there at 4:45, the women had just finished their tea, and the men were having theirs made before their eyes…..I really wanted to watch and photograph it, but I felt a little intrusive. I did see that there was a tray of glass cups; each had only a mound of sugar at the bottom. I assumed the lady serving, would be pouring hot tea over that sugar.
The main living room was occupied by the menfolk…and all the ladies and little ‘uns were out back in the dining room. A large mattress hastily placed on the floor made up for the lack of seats….everyone was horrified that I sank down onto the mattress rather than try to oust one of them from their seats! HUH? And I sat there with a cheerful ‘I –have-no-idea-what –you- are-saying-or-laughing-about-but-I-will-pretend-I-do’ smile plastered on my face for ages. They all knew each other and my hostess was run off her feet. Half an hour in, once everyone realized we had Kenya in common (most Sudanese people in Australia have spent more than half their lives in Kenya) there were some sweet conversations.

I got my tea nearly an hour into the party. And it turned out to be chai, the very best chai I have had since I have being back in Australia…..not quite as strong in colour, but the exact same taste as the chai I used to queue up for at my boarding school in Kenya. ! No spices, just hot sweet milky chai with a thin film on top from the milk having boiled. When I got to the bottom of my glass (all too soon) I realized that it had been made on powdered milk. Mmmmmmm good. somehow, I made the pic of the chai into a video…it only goes for like 2 seconds, it is wobbly, but take a look and gnash your teeth that youdidn’t get some…. 🙂

Oh so many children there were in that dining room, all of us waiting! Beautiful children all swarming around us hungrily for the next 3 hours , during which time the great metal tubs of food sat on the table and mocked our hungry bellies.
The mattress was a Godsend. The 4 year old organized some somersault competitions on it, just before he started teaching some of his new friends his hand-clapping games followed by him initiating a lively round of Chinese whispers. All the fun petered out after a while though; the kids started hitting and biting; the chatting stopped and we all sat in silence for a bit, then we began to set each other off in bouts of yawning. My hostess, who had stayed up the entire night before, cooking, was worried about me waiting so long,( I left 3 kidlets at home, see) She said that soon the others would pray and we would eat.

I assumed ‘pray’ would simply be a quick-yet-heartfelt ‘grace’ over the food, but, nay, the reality was an hour-long prayer meeting which involved singing and much discussion and demonstrating of church choir dance moves and uniforms!
But finally, FINALLY!!!! … was food time. The men and older ladies went first and they certainly did not hold back . I was more than a little disappointed to watch the one plate piled high with pastries ( that looked like rustic samosas), disappear well before us women even got a look in!!!!
I was practically frothing at the mouth to see what lay inside the huge metal tubs. And it was worth the wait…..

We feasted on:
Sudanese injera (which I have to say I like far less than the Ethiopian or Somali injera….not as fluffy.)
There was a fragrant stew; tender cubes of beef smothered in rich tomato sauce full of garlic, and cumin .

Another beef stew ( background) which tasted of the same spices, but dry and cooked with potatoes and carrot.
To my palate (palate, palate, palate! )both those stews tasted exactly like Somali food doeswhen cooked by a non-Somali. Ummm maybe only .5% of you will have any idea what I mean….haha, sorry! They were delicious.

There was a green stew (foreground) also….and I cannot lie; the texture was like eating a bowl of slime….. it turned out to be lamb ( fall-apart-in-your-mouth-lamb, mind!) in okra sauce!. The texture was nasty, but the flavour! Mmmm, I am a big okra fan! Never had it all dissolved like this, although I DID lick my plate.

Desert was icing-sugar-dusted rounds that looked like shortbread; they were EXTREMELY sweet and had the 4 yr old besotted. I had a nibbled and could have sworn there may even hav been a little shredded wheat in there! Delicious! Pah! Curse the sugarfree-life!

Coming Soon: dinner at the CIT (Canberra Institute of Technology) training restaurant. Cannot wait to try it out!

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