Where is Malawi?



So as you might recall from like a thousand years ago, which is when I was last actually active on this blog, I don't really love African food. That's not really a fair thing to say, really, because African food is a product of its environment--it includes a lot of root vegetables, not a whole lot of meat or seasoning, and that cornmeal stuff that is like polenta, which I actually don't really like either. But the meal I did from Malawi really was pretty good, despite the fact that Malawi itself is one of the poorest nations in Africa. That just goes to show you that simple food can be pretty satisfying, as long as it's prepared well.

Photo by Neil Palmer (CIAT)
Malawi is a landlocked nation in southeast Africa. It was once known as Nyasaland, which probably means about as much to you as it does to me. Its closest neighbors are Zambia, Tanzania and Mozambique, and it's kind of hidden there in between them all. Malawi is one of the smallest countries in Africa, and is actually even smaller than it first appears since a whole third of it is occupied by a lake (also called Malawi).


There are a lot of undeveloped countries in Africa, and Malawi is one of the least developed of all of them--in fact, it is one of the least-developed countries in the world. It's economy is based on agriculture and there is an appallingly high rate of infant mortality there, plus a low life expectancy of around 50 years. HIV/AIDS is common, and a lot of people die from it, so many that the country currently has a half million AIDS orphans.

So that's depressing, and now let's talk about the cuisine. Because the country has an agricultural economy, there is a decent variety of foods grown there including sugar, coffee, corn and potatoes. Cattle and goats provide meat, and Lake Malawi is a source of fish. And the staple is that cornmeal thing I mentioned earlier, which is basically a stand-in for bread or rice and does a good job soaking up the juices of whatever is served with it. Yes, I did make some of that with my Malawian meal, so stay tuned to find out how we liked it (I bet you can guess!)


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