Cynthia D. Bertelsen's Gherkins & Tomatoes

Safari Cooking: Ingredients

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In 1928, the authors of The Kenya Settlers’ Cookery Book and Household Guide, with their advantage of having many years of lore and practicality to choose from, included a detailed list of what foods to take on safari. A smaller Swahili edition came out in 1935. The original 1928 English edition added a list of appropriate Swahili phrases for people striving to communicate with their Swahili-speaking servants, the first being “Clean all pots and pans well.”

Before presenting the list of foods and equipment vital to the proper workings of a safari camp kitchen, let’s look at the stove suggested by the authors. Lest you think that a few stones on the ground and some logs would suffice (which would do only for soup, stews, and porridges), the ambitious cook should:

Carry a piece of sheet iron, 3 ft. by 2 ft., in which holes have been cut for saucepans as in an ordinary range. Build three side walls with stones to height desired (about 1 ft.) and place iron on top. Build fire underneath.

What about the food?

Here’s what a well-stocked safari circa 1928 would carry, no doubt based on the wise counsel of those with experience, in an odd alphabetical order:

  1. a boiled ham
  2. bowls
  3. bread
  4. 3a. butter
  5. baking powder
  6. beef extract
  7. cups and saucers
  8. cutlery
  9. candles
  10. camp bath
  11. camp beds
  12. Chargals (for water)
  13. Curry powder
  14. cake
  15. cheese
  16. Dietz lanterns
  17. debbies (petro tins)
  18. dish towels and dusting rags
  19. dried fruit
  20. eggs
  21. flour
  22. fresh fruit
  23. 1 housewife (containing pins, needles, cotton, etc.)
  24. kettle
  25. lard or dripping
  26. matches
  27. mosquito nets
  28. methylated spirit stove with solid fuel or primus stove
  29. plates
  30. paraffin
  31. pepper and mustard
  32. petrol and oil
  33. rice, cornflour, sago, etc.
  34. spoons and forks
  35. shoe polish
  36. shoe brushes
  37. soap
  38. saucepans
  39. salt
  40. sugar
  41. side of bacon
  42. sanitary paper
  43. teapot
  44. towels
  45. tea, coffee, and cocoa
  46. tinned milk (sweetened and unsweetened)
  47. tins of biscuits (plain and sweet)
  48. tinned meat
  49. tinned fish
  50. tinned fruit and vegetables
  51. thermos flask
  52. tin-opener and corkscrew
  53. vinegar and salad oil
  54. vegetables
  55. water (drinking)
  56. yeast
Photo credit: Anjuli Ayer

The yeast is a bit of a mystery, since nowhere on the list do the authors provide wheat flour, except maybe in item #32. And they do suggest a recipe for a bread substitute:

1 cup flour
1 cup wheatmeal
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 egg
Milk to mix to the consistency of scones

Cook in a quick oven. When nearly ready to take out, split into halves, return to oven and bake till brown and crisp.

(Is this the English muffin concept or due to an acknowledgment that the baking set-up tilted a few degrees shy of perfect?)

© 2009 C. Bertelsen

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