Deadly Nyama Choma..

This memory ruminated back early this week after I met some of my long lost friends from my time working at the IRC in Kenya, two decades ago. A quickly arranged reunion at our new home in Nairobi turned out to be such a pleasant afternoon catching up with everyone. It was great to see the same old faces with a new look — more mature, yet holding the same expressions, nuances and  innocence of twenty years ago. We talked and chuckled about all the time we spent together as colleagues. One memory from 1998 that we all fondly recalled and could not stop laughing about was when I had suggested hosting a small house warming party at our new home in Nairobi. This was going to be the first get together with just my finance colleagues. Reacting to my proposal, Gabriel instantly came up with the idea that we should have a nyama choma evening — a traditional Kenyan barbeque. It seemed like a good idea to me to do something that would introduce me to the local culture.

I was new to Nairobi so I asked them where to get the meat for nyama choma, Gabriel readily offered to arrange for it. I was relieved that I just had to make some Indian food to compliment the main dish. It was agreed that the meat would be sent to my home and I would marinate it to be roasted in the evening.

On the day of the party, I was busy cleaning and getting the house ready when I saw somebody coming in through the gate. They were accompanied by a hopping, healthy, breathing and very much alive 3-foot-tall goat!

Seeing the live and kicking mammal, it did not occur to me even once that this could be the meat that Gabriel had promised to arrange. I was in a shock. I could not visualize this live goat lying in tiny pieces in the evening on the small outdoor griller we had. I called him and shared my sentiments as best as I could without sounding too distressed or tousled. I asked how he could possibly help in the situation and what to expect next. To my respite he offered to arrange for the meat to be made available in the form that we are used to see it. Soon enough there was somebody who took the live goat behind the house and came back with a torso of the goat without the head. It was again a sight that I had not expected. So I asked for it to be cut into a size and form that could be roasted. It took a couple of hours and the sacrifice of two chopping knives to get the meat to be ready. I once again cringed when I saw the quantity of meat we had on hand, considering that we would have a maximum of ten people that night for the get together. I recall mentioning to Manoj that we needed at least 50 people to tackle this much meat. Nevertheless, we had a great evening and all of the meat was polished off.

We not only created some treasured memories, we got acquainted to the local custom of nyama choma in the best of company we could have had.

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