In western Kenya for example, 'mshenye' was a significant food among the abaluhya community, its aroma left someone with the urge of having a pinch of it.
By Dennis Chagala, Kakamega
The advent of new Technology has made traditional African culture and heritage slowly fade into extinction.
Coveted traditions such as rain and medicine making that used to be performed by forefathers have long shrank with no one at this age willing to take up the craft.
Moreover, a norm by our ancestors who used to closely maintain a diet of traditionally prepared meals has become a thing of the past with the advent of microwaves and the genetically modified foods in the shelves in the name of invention and modernization.
According to Mzee Ayub Oremo an elder of the ‘Batsotso’ clan in Lurambi, Kakamega county, the new technology has not only affected our culture but tradition at large including the clothes we wear and what we eat.
“Most people of this current generation suffer from diseases brought by what they eat as food, we have forgotten our traditional foods that not only served as food but also as medicine, diseases such as cancer never existed before”, said Oremo.
In western Kenya for example, ‘mshenye’ was a significant food among the abaluhya community, its aroma left someone with the urge of having a pinch of it.
What is Mshenye
Mshenye is a cooked mixture of beans and local potatoes that has been pounded together to form a sphere shape. It was a significant meal among the luhya community due to its tendency of making someone certified by eating a small pinch.
“We only used to eat twice a day, either in the morning or late in the evening, we were to find a food that if we eat once would carry us to the next meal,” he said.
How is mshenye cooked?
Selective varieties of beans such as Alulu, Omugasa and Ofuchunjuni were to be used during the cooking of mshenye, which was later mixed with sweet potatoes.
After harvesting the beans, they were peeled out of their pods omungokolo and then dried, the pods were dried and stored for later use, making of omushereka, ash obtained after burning the pods of the beans, it was used in place of salt.
“We start by cooking beans, when half cooked, add unpeeled sweet potatoes to the mixture, turn the mixture to ensure has a uniform ratio, add some ‘omushereka’ a local alkaline to give it taste, give it some time to allow the sweet potato to cook”, Explained Magaret Ondiso, an elder woman in the maragoli subtribe.
When the mixture is ready, it will be marshed by using a cooking stick to form a sticky one called mshenye.
“Unlike now, we had no steel sufurias, we cooked our food using clay pots,” She added.
Mshenye was specifically cooked by the family woman due to the traditions and cultures surrounding the three cooking stones. A stranger nor daughter to the family wasn’t permitted to cook using the same stones her mum uses. It was served with fermented milk or traditional vegetables.
“We used plates called ‘umeshevano’, round curved wood made with a hole on the upper side, we would eat it with vegetables such as ‘mseveve’ “, She added.
Extinction of mushenye
However, mshenye is at the verge of extinction after being overtaken by the foreign foods.
“Sweet potatoes have been overtaken by irish potatoes while beans have been overtaken by other legumes brought by the colonialists,” Said Oremo.
Oremo however linked the hunger crisis facing the nation to people rejecting the cultivation of ancient foods, associating these modern ones with diseases that are emerging every day.
“Traditional foods such as cassava, sorghum and arrow roots have the ability to withstand harsh climate changes, as well as being grown with no chemicals compared to the current ones,” he added.
Their request now is for the government to develop a method that will enable them to protect their traditional food heritage from extinction.
“If the Ministry of Education initiates cooking lessons of traditional foods in schools it will help safeguard the extinction of our traditional foods not only for future generations but also for the benefit of our health”, he said.