Family, Friends, and Food-Filled Fun

Can you tell I like alliterations?

I went home to Nairobi for 3 weeks in December. I’ve spent Christmas and New Year’s in Kenya for the last 9 years – well, really I’ve spent every Christmas and New Year’s in Kenya with the exception of that one time in New York and another in Hamilton, MA. Pretty impressive considering how much I’ve traveled and moved around, but it’s not Christmas if it’s not 85 degrees, a party on the beach, and constant stuffing of the face with delicious foods.

The first meal I had when I got back home was BACON. Sure, there were eggs and kimchi jjigae and kimchi, but really all I wanted to eat was a plateful of bacon. And my mother, who normally fires some pithy remark or another about how fattening bacon is whenever I eat it, gladly obliged.  I had made it clear how much I missed bacon, and I think I managed to get the point across to the fam – I ate bacon every morning for 3 glorious weeks.

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bacon & kimchi. quite possibly the most important parts of the food pyramid.

Oh, and the wonders of home cooking for 3 weeks. It’s so nice to be at home and have your momma make you delicious meals all day, every day. I immediately turn into a 9-year old child incapable of fending for herself when I’m at home. Cooking and feeding myself? What?

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집밥 넘 먹고싶다 ㅜㅜ

And of course you can’t forget Korean bbq – best thing in the world. Marinated ribs barbecued over a charcoal grill, wrapped in Romaine lettuce from my momma’s garden, with lots of chilli scallion garnish and kimchi. Party in my mouth, heeyy.

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gogi party!

I did manage to revive myself from a food-induced stupor to get in the kitchen to bake a Christmas cake with my cousin. Double layer chocolate cake with butter frosting and what are supposed to be chocolate Christmas trees.

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dream team

Mosey on over to A Beautiful Mess for the chocolate buttermilk cake recipe!

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It’s also not Christmas without the annual church pageant and adorable little children attempting to dance and sing.

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Christmas day was spent chillin’ with my boys – brothers, brothers’ friends, friends, friends’ brothers. The crew.

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family Xmas card perfect

My broskis to the left and right, and cousin in the back. I left home when they were still chubby babies, and look at how grown they are now! Aaaand let me stop there, before I start sounding like an actual grown-up person.

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We usually go out for Indian food at least once during the holidays, and usually on Christmas day because my mom can’t be bothered to cook a big meal. (We’re not a family big on such traditions). This year, my cousin and I created a Christmas dinner FEAST, complete with deviled chicken, buttermilk biscuits, gravy, mash, asparagus, spinach and bacon salad, and chocolate cake. And finally, after 23 years, my mother has acknowledged that maybe, just maybe, I wouldn’t be starving to death living on my own. Coming from my umma, this is the ultimate compliment. But of course, even with homemade Christmas dinner, Indian food cravings must be satisfied.

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A post about all the food I ate in Kenya wouldn’t be complete without an ode to Ethiopian cuisine. Doro wot, shiro, tibs, and sukuma mopped up with rolls and rolls of fresh injera to the point of intestinal explosion is what I call a good meal. Your hands will smell of Ethiopian food for days, but it’s oh so worth it.

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photo by Juwon Lee

Another perk of being back home for the holidays, besides all the good food and sunshine, is personal chauffeurs. I suppose I could just learn to drive, but why bother when you have brothers to drive you around everywhere?

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A lot of time (and money ) was spent at ArtCaffe, a cafe and bistro, over the holidays. Sunny terrace, old friends, occasionally decent food, great coffee, and a glass of chilled white wine = perfect December and January afternoons.

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roast butternut squash, prosciutto, and arugula pizza

Coffee and cafe culture is definitely growing in Kenya. Some friends and I went to Dorman’s in Karen – which, by the way, was the first time I had been to those parts of town since high school. Being a tourist in my own town. Anyhow, had a decent long black and cappuccino made from a real espresso machine. It’s the little things in life.

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Side note: I found Monocle at a newsstand in Nairobi! Such an exciting day. Granted it was $20, but after several months of being deprived of my favorite magazines – well, anything in English really – price became irrelevant. Monocle is a “briefing on global affairs, business, culture, and design”, and always have really interesting takes on things that don’t necessarily get reported on in the media. Great radio shows, too.

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Because it’s become somewhat of a tradition, these high school reunions: annual Boxing Day alumni vs. varsity soccer game, where we spend most of the time catching up with everyone you haven’t seen in a year but would probably wouldn’t hang out with otherwise. Just kidding. I mean, with all your high school friends and teachers.

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Class of ’07 in full force. I love you kids so so much.

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And that’s all, folks. Really this post should’ve been called “All the food I ate in Kenya.” But it’s been a food-heavy post because that is 80% of what we do in Nairobi – go out to eat, and to drink. And lounge about in the sun after. Take me back, please.

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