After nearly four months of living in Nepal , local eating times are still a bit of a mystery. The day starts early and one of the first sounds to pierce the morning stillness is the hiss of pressure cookers from 4am onwards. It is still dark and the cock soon starts its morning chorus followed by the not so tuneful man clearing his throat across the street. Night times have been quiet compared with the constant racket of the city, but recently we have been woken by a horrific howling/screeching noise which sounds like nothing we’ve heard before. Definitely not a bird noise, not even the biggest Little Owl could produce such a din, or the mating call of a fox which can be pretty frightening. No, this is a few more notches up the decibel scale, in fact Frankenstein or Dracula come to mind. Whatever is causing the sound the town dogs respond with a barrage of howls making me realise it’s not all been part of some nightmare.
|First signs of the rice harvest getting underway|
Back to the more mundane topic of meal times, and local eating habits. This is a farming community and even the local junior school headmaster has his milking buffalo, which he likes to gather grass for early in the morning. Schools and many offices don’t open until 10.00 allowing employees to do their basic stock tasks before work and again at the close of the day since work will finish by 5.00 pm. A cup of sweet milky tea will start the day with biscuits. Then comes the chores, often followed by a long walk or bus ride to work. Depending upon the logistics of the day daal baat will be eaten before 10am., and one of the common greetings here is ‘khaanaa khaane’, ‘have you eaten. This diet of rice and lentils literally drives Nepal along. A young man of 17 I talked to whilst visiting a local farm proudly said his family of 5 ate a kilo of dried rice each day. At the time he was carrying a 30kg sack of rice 2kms back from the mill and claimed to have carried up to 60kgs. The up side is that this family only needs to grow 365kgs of rice per year, and can sell any surplus.
|A couple of colleagues at a small dairy get stuck into daal baat|
|Not for the faint hearted! These men finished breakfast with a |
mixture of fresh lime, salt and a chopped, whole green chili.
So to for the volunteer. He or she may have to take a longish bus ride and then walk for between one and three hours to work at a rural school or visit a farming community. Breakfast is an important meal but cooking rice, daal, curries and pickles needs practice if it’s to be done under an hour. Our answer to this starch demand is ‘Porridge’, flavoured with local honey. Oats are not available in Besisahar, other than in expensive plastic containers. Simple rolled oats with much of the bran still attached are available in the city at £1 per kilo. We bring these home and store in our useful blue rodent proof containers we brought from the UK. Water and oats are boiled and continually stirred, left for a few minutes, off the heat, to complete their cooking and dished up. No salt needed just a large teaspoon of local honey. The Milijuli Agricultural Cooperative where 100 women beekeepers produce the tastiest set honey we’ve found, have asked for advanced apiary courses to be facilitated, so that’s a happy coincidence.
|Oats, water and a spoon carved by one of my sons back in the UK,|
and porridge is underway.
|Most pans are aluminium, as is the kettle.|
|On with the honey. This time we were using another local non-set |
brand. Wild honey, collected high up on rock faces is available but
its rich flavours take some getting used to.
|For those with a long walk to work, a sel roti and more honey are the |
next course. Like a doughnut this roti is a fried batter ring. Must be done
in very hot oil.
|Mustang apples and black tea to finish. Yes that thermometer is reading nearly |
25c at 6.30am!
Fruit is always available in the bazar and is seasonal. At the moment apples from Mustang, our neighbouring district, small green Nepali oranges with lots of pips but a great flavour, and the ever present bananas fill our fruit bowl. Apples are priced the same as UK and so are popular but expensive, whereas the oranges are about 35p per kilo. Bananas, strangely are sold by the dozen and cost about 50p. Our in-country allowance is 21000nrs which is based up local costs of living, and equates to £130 per month, each. We it find to be adequate. One of our personal challenges of living the volunteers life, is surviving and even flourishing on a far lower income. Gone is most of the meat, beer and chocolate. And down has come or weight!!
Over the coming weeks as well as our tales of work and everyday life we will also blog about our other culinary experiences and include some recipes. Rick Stein look out!!!
|A friendly face along the path. The scarf has many uses. Folded|
and worn to shade the head is one.
|More signs of harvest. Winter woollies are worn at 26c.|
|That scarf being used again.|
|For those who know him my brother Nick seems to have|
found his way out here, complete with Glastonbury headgear, locally
known as a 'topi'. Needless to say I have one!
|An evening shot of Lamjung Himal, and Annapurna 2 with|
ripening rice in the foreground.