Thursday, 7 August 2014

Mushrooms and the Iteso, Western Kenya

This is a fleshy spore bearing fruiting body of a fungus typically produced above ground on soil or on its food source.
English name: Mushroom
Scientific name: Agaricus bisporous
Local name: Ebale (Ateso)
Different types of mushrooms:
Russula cellulata(white mushroom) in their early stages of growth as shown below.

Lactarius densifolius mushroom ready for harvest as shown below.

During the rainy season especially in April, the Iteso of western Kenya are always happy and eager to get the local delicacy of mushroom stew. During this season, most school going children are tasked with the responsibility of picking the mushrooms in the plantations as this delicacy grows naturally. Most of the pupils absent themselves from school so as to pick the readily available source of protein in exchange for money i.e. either for sale or for their families’ consumption. Not only is this task vest upon children alone, their parents also participate in the picking. It’s normally picked early in the morning so as to get a bumper harvest. As the saying goes, ‘the earliest bird catches the worm’, hence the early morning picks.

Mushroom Picking:
Emmy Makoha and John Masika picking mushrooms
In Teso land, they only pick the edible mushrooms as others are poisonous. They pay no attention to the identification of inedible mushrooms. Some people however described to me presumed characteristics of poisonous species such as a slimy face, bitter taste, bad smell, the prescence of a ring or brown spore dust. Some people pick only those mushrooms which they see monkeys eating, assuming that they are also safe for humans. When going to pick the mushrooms, one has to have a basket and knife. When picking the mushroom from the ground, you first cut off the soil from the base of the stipe. If you put mushrooms with soil in your basket, the soil will drop between the gills of the other mushrooms in your basket, then you’ll l have a lot of washing to do at home.

Preservation:The most common method of preservation among this community is drying in the sun. The sun makes a very effective dryer. The drying does not kill the micro-organisms on mushrooms but makes the substratum so dry that they enter a dormant phase. After drying, they become very hard.

Drying Procedure:
1. Cut into slices about 1/2cm thick and spread loosely on to a mat .To ascertain if they are dry enough, they should make a snapping sound when breaking them.
2. Dried mushrooms are then preserved in a container with a cover to be protected from moisture.
NB: Dried &preserved mushrooms will last until the next mushroom season &can be used after soaking in a small amount of clean water and the same water used in the cooking so as to utilize the nutritive elements that dissolved in the soaking water.

Dried Mushroom
Dried Mushroom ready for cooking

Mushroom Stew Preparation:
1. Onions
2. Tomatoes
3. Mushrooms
4. Cooking oil
5. Salt

1. Take about the same amount of onions, tomatoes and mushrooms.
2. If the mushrooms are fresh, cut them into small pieces, if dry, no cutting is required since they are already in smaller pieces.
3. Cut onions and tomatoes into different bowls.
4. Heat the oil
5. Add the onions to the heated oil until golden brown.
6. Add tomatoes to the sufuria until it’s cooked
7. After about 10 minutes, add the cleaned and chopped mushrooms to the sufuria and cook for another 30minutes so that the tomatoes and onions form a thickened stew
8. Vegetables e.g. kunde can be added to the stew according to availability & one’s like
9. The stew is eaten with brown ugali, boiled cassava or boiled bananas

Mushrooms are the richest source of protein and are suitable for human consumption. They  contain 31-40% of proteins. The percentage of protein is much higher than in cereals,  pulses, fruits and vegetables.  The proteins of mushrooms contain all essential amino  acids and their quantity is higher than in the egg. They are the good source of iron.  Mushroom contains minerals like calcium, potassium, sodium and phosphorous, and  vitamins like B, C, D, and K. Mushroom contains niacin, which is ten times higher than  any other vegetables. Mushrooms make an excellent food for diabetic and heart patients.

Story Prepared by:
Evalyne Namuju
Library Assistant-National Museums of Kenya - Main Library.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Kalenjin Dowry Ceremony

When the groom identifies a girl he will first go and tell his parents and the parents will inform the elders of the community. The elders will go deep into the family lineage and see if they have a relationship or have a common ancestor.  If they have a relationship or come from the same clan they will not marry because it is considered as a curse by the ancestors.
The groom elders/father will go to the bridegroom’s home and seek for permit to talk to the family elders. When they agree on the marriage proposal the bride’s clan elders will ask from the groom’s family. After one week they will come with the groom for a show up. On that day they will come with two sheep and two goats. After a long discussion the groom will be teased by the bridegroom’s aunts. The bride’s family will be blessed by the bride groom’s family while the bridegroom will be blessed by the bride’s family.
The groom elders will ask for the date of the wedding when they agree for the date the groom family will go and prepare the wedding and it is usually after two weeks. The bride groom was not allowed to be seen by anybody who is not her family member.
The Wedding Day
On that day the bride groom will go to the groom’s home with her family and clan elders. The bride groom will be taken to the special hut that has been made and decorated by the groom only.
Meal Preparation
The meals were prepared by both sides. The groom’s family will prepare the following delicacy: bull’s meat, sheep, goat and the sour milk. The bride groom’s family will only prepare ugali made of millet flour mixed with sorghum, cassava and maize and a special type of beans which is white in color. The groom and his clan elders will slaughter the animals without even a single drop of blood on the ground. The bride groom will then cook ugali for the whole family without any assistance and then go back to the hut. The groom’s family will prepare the meat.
Purpose of Preparing the Meal Together
The bridegroom and the groom’s family will share things and unite in case of any problem. When the groom and the clan elder slaughter the animals, blood should not be poured down that means their love will never break. When the bride groom prepares the ugali, she shows that she loves and cares for the family waiting for her and this shows that she will care for her husband.
Preparation of Sour Milk (Mursik)
First they will need a calabash and then make a bottle from it. After making the bottle they will then decorate using beads (sonoey) this bottle (soret) will be passed from one generation to another.
From time to time during wedding, initiation or funeral ceremonies they will use the bottle (soret). The bottle will be washed using a special wood called (siitett) this process is called siit and the siitett will produce sour taste ash (tei).This ash is used to speed the milk process of being sour. They will then put the milk for four days before the wedding day. On the third day they will remove the sour milk and then siit to kill any micro-organism that will cause diseases, and then the milk will be good to drink.
The Ceremony
After the preparation the bridegroom will be given food by groom’s mother and locked up there for the rest of the day.The bridegroom’s family and the groom’s family will eat in the same table but men will sit on one side and the children and women together. They will eat while talking.
They call it a day after eating and the final drink will be for the elders’ from both communities. The drink (mursik) will be poured in the ground and the rest drunk from the same bottle. That must be done during the right before realizing the groom to see the bride.
After the celebration one last ritual must be done before releasing the dowry , the groom will be taken by the elders to the hut. The elders will leave the groom to spend the night together. The groom was supposed to make love to his wife to see if she is a virgin. Early in the morning the elders and the bride groom’s family will come and see if their child is a virgin. If so the groom’s family will release the dowry and some two or three cows for the mother and a sheep.
If the girl is a virgin the dowry was paid in half and the other half will be taken every year to promote family unity. The bride’s family were given twenty sheep, twenty five goats, five bulls and seven cows in exchange with their girl. The ceremony will end with songs and dance.

Story Prepared By:
Caroline Jeptoo and Joyline Njeri
Ruaraka High School

Kamba Marriage Ceremony

In Kamba culture, the parents were the ones who chose girls for their boys for marriage. When mature, the parents examined the girl before accepting her in the family.
Before the marriage a special ceremony was conducted. The groom and his kin had to throw an important party known as “ntheo” which was the minimum threshold that demonstrated that the bride officially belonged to the man she was engaged to. This ritual is very strict such that when a woman whose husband is yet to throw the party dies, she could not be buried by her husband no matter how long they had stayed together and if he wishes to bury her, he would have to go through the ritual.
The groom had to bring at least three goats where one is a he-goat which is slaughtered. The kamba people believe that as the blood spills to the ground the bride and the groom become officially joined that very moment. The two then share a piece of soft meat as an oath that they will keep the covenant.
From there the two are free to hold a marriage ceremony whether in Christianity or traditional way.
Story Prepared by:
Onesmus Mutiso, Faith Mutheu and Josephine Kamene

Tiriki Traditional Marriage Ceremony

Amongst the tiriki, a luhya sub tribe, traditional marriage practices occurred after the boy and the girl had decided to get marryies. Both parents were informed about their decision and if they were okay with it, the marriage arrangements would start immediately.
First they would set a day for the dowry discussion and later they would celebrate and may be the boy would be allowed to take his wife before the dowry was brought or denied to take the bride until the dowry was brought.
On the day of dowry discussion, the groom came to the girl’s home accompanied by his parents, uncles and friend. He was accompanied by his uncle because they represented the parents even in the case where one or both of the parents had passed on. On the other hand the bride was hidden and the  parents could attend the meeting alongside with the aunts and the girls friends.
When the meeting was still going on some relatives and some friends of the bride’s family would be in the kitchen preparing a meal that both families and would share if they reached to an agreement. The traditional meals that were prepared included, chicken, beef stew, ugali and busaa (a traditional brew among the abaluhyia).
When the meeting would be almost over and they have reached an agreement, the girl could be brought in the open and would happily be accepted by her groom, then the meeting would be called off and the celebration would start. After the celebration had ended, the in-laws were supposed to have gone by six o’clock. The boy would be allowed to go with the bride before the dowry was brought and they would be packed for some foods by the bride’s mother to the couple’s, in a basket that would be returned later with some food stuffs for the bride’s mother.
NB: Usually the bride price was not brought in full so as to cement the relationship of the two families.

Story Prepared by:
Silvia Khatetsia, Hadija Ashuma, Yvonne Jeiza,Salome Macreen and Rose Ondeche
Ruaraka High School