Chakula cha Mchana!
(Swahili for, “Time for lunch!”)
Some resemble the Indonesian style lunch basket, while others are either bucket or somewhat vase shaped. Generally, whatever type of basket weaving is common for one’s area, will determine what kind of lunch baskets people carry to school or work. That is, if they carry a basket at all. Baskets have lost favor in the age of plastic and metal.
In some cases, lunch is a communal meal. Students or workers will each bring a dish they specialize in, and it’s all brought together to one meal, which everyone shares.
If you’re just starting out carrying African style lunches though, it’s best to do it as an individual, and then later include others if they’re interested.
You may need:
- a bucket shaped basket for the days you want to carry a stew and bread or porridge, a flat basket for flatbread days, and/or a colorfully decorated canvas messenger bag
- a soup thermos
- a screw topped air tight container that fits in your bucket basket
- a cloth for your bread
- a cloth for your fruit or to neatly wrap around your veggie bag
- a canteen, a drinking gourd, or a bottle for water and a colorfully decorated bottled water holder
- a collection of African, Arab, and diaspora recipes
- some biodegradable hand wipes or a packet of soft soap for before and after your meal
To decide what to put in your lunch basket, just decide which regional or cultural cuisine you like best, and select recipes that are portable. If you’re used to taking a sandwich for lunch, try making one with flatbread or griddle cakes instead of regular sliced bread. Injera and spicy chicken stew are a good combination from Ethiopia. Though it’s not technically traditional South African fare, you can fill a hollowed out half baguette with chicken curry. Be creative with it.
Also, you may want to research the eating etiquitte of various regions. In most of Africa and the middle east though, folks didn’t traditionally eat with utensils except perhaps a spoon for a thin soup. It is said that it was considered somewhat rude to bring “weapons” to the table. So utensils were for cooking and serving, not for the eating of meals. Africans in most areas eat with their right hand, and the left hand is kept away from the table. If one needs help tearing something, one asks others for help.
When you make things like porridges for your lunch, you may want to keep that in mind. Make them somewhat stiff and not soupy, so that they can be easily scooped up with the fingers, and dipped in whatever sauce or stew you make to go with them.
So basically your constraints are:
- to prepare a lunch that won’t require the use of forks or knives to eat
- to have some degree of consistency in regional style or to make it practical for your own region
- to be economical about it
- overly processed foods that are not made using traditional ingredients should be avoided
- not to use disposable items for carry or storage that aren’t easily degradable, since this would be bad for nature and if you believe, anger the spirits
- and to be ready to share what you have if one of your classmates or coworkers is in need