After I climbed atop a chair to snap a few images, they generously offered to share, and we squeezed fresh lime juice over the dish and dipped torn pieces of baguette into the thick mixture, interspersing spicy bites with steaming sips of sweet Somali tea.
For millions (billions?) around the world, there’s nothing especially thrilling about this bread. But I cherish those foods that reach across continents, and infiltrate entire hemispheres, because of their practicality and facility as a template for local iterations.
A squadron of chefs from China pitched a restaurant concept to the Somali owners of a Hargeisa cafe. Their mission was to impress; ours was to stuff ourselves.
With contributions from staff, chef supreme Xukun prepares a daily office lunch. Our mid-day fare ranges from Somali standards like spiced rice and camel meat, to lentil stews, to my personal favorite, fried fish with chapati. Chapati is a bit time consuming, as it’s prepared piece by piece on the stove. But today we lucked out–Xukun turned out round after round of flaky bread. Around 1pm, we tucked into a goat stew, a creamy mix of chard, onions, and peas, along with chapati hot off the skillet, and salad. As they say around here, Qado wanaagsan – Bon appetit !!
A seaside lunch on Nungwi Beach in Zanzibar: Calamari and cabbage, Chicken curry with rice, naan, and roasted veggies.
I left my first job in Somaliland last week, to join a different organization just down the road. Serendipitously, my last day at the old gig coincided with the US Thanksgiving holiday, so all my gratitude was thrown into one bucket. To celebrate, our office hosted a lunch potluck. Some were concerned that things wouldn’t go off well, given this was an unknown holiday (by the majority) and a new dining concept (potluck). In the end, though, things went swimmingly, staff brought mountains of food, and we indulged to our hearts’ content: Somali classics, Ethiopian loaners, American standards, pizza and burgers (but of course@), and more. Appropriately, this post is an ode to gratitude, for a number of things perhaps elementary but also fundamental. Work | For employment, period; for a relatively seamless and drama-free transition; for 9-to-5s and side projects alike; for the organic relationships that grow from contrived collaboration and the friendships that develop among colleagues. Love | For the give-and-take, for the patience, learning, and maturing that emerges inevitably (though not always painlessly) from being in loving …