Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Craving Crunchy

Why I don't buy steak sauce in Uganda - One bottle is equivalent to $12!

The following is meant to be a humorous piece - some lighter far after my recent "heavier" posts.

Today I stealthily scoured the supermarkets for...crunchy and salty.

I found shelves upon shelves filled with biscuits of every shape, size, price, and flavor. But what my taste buds wanted was...crunch topped with salt.

This is not an uncommon craving for Westerners here. Biscuits, which are the British term for "cookies," abound and can be found in even the tiniest roadside stand. A "duka" (little shop) is not complete with them and of course, alongside the bottles of soda, bars of soap, and rolls of toilet paper.

Much of Ugandan food is soft - posho (similar to grits), potatoes, rice, matoke (cooked bananas), porridge, etc. And since I usually pass up sweets for popcorn, today I bypassed the coo...biscuits...and tempting candy bars, which are always near the cash register (just like in the U.S.!), and found my eyes magnetically drawn to chips and items that are supposed to resemble chips.

I settled for some "crunchy maize snacks" which reminded me of...wait, I'm trying to remember the name. Ah, yes! Corn Nuts. The  cheese and onion maize (corn) snacks looked like Corn Nuts, and didn't taste too badly. No, they did not replicate CornNuts, but hey, they were crunchy...and salty. I also grabbed a bag of cheesy "Corntos," coincidentally also made of corn - duh. ;) They are similar to Cheetos.

Honestly, I have been pleasantly surprised by the food choices appearing on supermarket shelves in recent years. One of the greatest miracles here was when Oreo cookies and Ritz crackers magically emerged in abundance on Jinja supermarket shelves. I know the entire missionary and expat community was abuzz with the excitement!

Sadly after awhile the Ritz crackers disappeared, but you can still find Oreos at an occasional supermarket, though the flavors may be a bit odd, like "ice cream." Hmm...not sure about that one.

By the way, as I use the term "supermarket," let me define it. Some of the aforementioned resemble something like an American convenience store - you know those small stores attached to gas stations? Others are more spacious and plentiful in stock. My personal favorite is "Big Bazaar," found on Main Street, Jinja - not too crowded, good choices, and the Indians who run it are nice. :)

One of the popular brands here is "American Garden" and they are persistent in letting you know that it was packaged in America, though it may have come through India or some other exotic location. (I guess Americans are suckers for buying our own stuff.) Oh, my "Corntos" were manufactured and distributed by a Malaysia business and imported by a company in Singapore. Talk about international tastes! :)

Matoke and a fish head - the piece considered the delicacy.

We frequently find food imported from Kenya, South Africa, India, Malaysia, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, India, and other countries. Your package of noodles may sport the ingredients in four different languages!

Thankfully, fresh food is much cheaper here than processed and living in a tropical climate means fresh fruits and veggies are available year-round, though what is cheaper changes depending on the season.

When special and unusual things do show up on the shelves, like pudding, pickles, chocolate syrup, baking mixes, barbecue sauce (photo above), and others - they tend to be spendy. Which is why they are often considered a "special treat" if they are purchased, usually done after much deliberation. :)

Aside from crunchy and salty, other foods most often craved and requested by Westerners? Good cheese, good chocolate, Ranch salad packets, taco seasoning, Jif peanut butter, beef jerky, chocolate chips, marshmallows, and others.

So, if you ever consider sending a missionary a "care package," including some of the above would be a blessing, which you may not be able to comprehend to the fullest extent. I have seen grown women exuberantly cheer over a bag of Nestle chocolate chips!

Oh, and don't forget the CornNuts and Cheetos. :)


  1. I loved this glimpse into Ugandan stores! So is the chocolate there hard to come by or is it just cheap quality?

  2. Thanks, Lauren! I am not sure I gave a very good description of the stores here - some things you just have to see with your own eyes. ;) The chocolate here is okay, but it definitely tastes different than American chocolate.