Fortunately, we received the Fourth of July off and managed to celebrate the only way we knew how, a BBQ. Peace Corps provided us the day off and the funds to create the meal, but finding, bargaining, and purchasing the food within the given budget was our lesson for the day.
At this point we were still getting used to Iganda town and definitely did not know enough Lusoga to bargain properly, so finding what we needed as well as receiving a fair price was quite the challenge. Even with help indicating approximate prices to pay from our instructors and family, some of us received the Muzungu discount more often than not.
Since I worked too create and divvy up the ingredient list for our 25+ person feast I left myself and a few others that live near me the task of picking up the meat the morning of the feast. In addition to all foods requiring refrigeration storage, we picked up a couple of chickens and 4kg of meat from the butcher at the market.
I managed to pay the appropriate price without negotiation for the beef. The butcher even asked me to point to which parts I wanted him to hack up to constitute the 4kgs, which gave me the courage needed to approach the cages of live chickens. I walked into the chicken coup on the outskirts of the market until someone grabbed me and pulled me to their cages to sell me their chickens. The first man I spoke to told me that I could buy the local chickens for fifteen thousand Ugandan shillings ($4/$5) per chicken, which was exactly the price and item my family told me was fair and to purchase. With my adrenaline pumping I happily handed over the thirty thousand in exchange for the two chickens. When asked if I would like the chickens killed or tied together I happily announced tied just so I could walk into the party fulfilling my word to provide live chickens.
Not until I strutted into the volunteer’s homestay that was hosting the BBQ with chickens happily in hand and after I took a few deep breathes to let the heart rate cool down and adrenaline fade from my face was I informed that I got swindled on the chickens. The host mother was holding and inspecting the birds inquisitively as she scowled over the festivities asking how much I paid and from whom I purchased the chickens. She then enquired why I purchased female chickens, to which a shoulder shrug and tooth gritting smile was all I could muster as a response. I had received female birds rather than male birds. Not only did I have no idea that I needed to buy male instead of female, but even the ability to identify the difference is not a skill I possess. We all laughed about how confident (cocky) I was about paying the fair price for all my items, when in reality I also had no idea what I was doing. I also was boasting the day before about how I intended to fully buy and prepare the birds, which I too backed out of. Something that finds its way into conversation still today!
Cooking the food for the BBQ was entertaining yet a bit of a commotion. We had two open fires and three charcoal sigiris fired up to cook all the food. Properly using the heat available was a dance. We moved pots around to keep them on high heat to boil as much water as possible for 4kg of rice, 8kg of potatoes, and a few different pasta dishes, while also using the slightly cooled charcoal for cooking the meat. Although I can only really speak in depth about the cooking strategy at the heating elements since I strategically positioned myself at the fire dance, everyone else was chopping, cutting, and making the various sauces for the meal.
Everything turned out phenomenally. The garlic mashed potatoes, homemade bbq sauce, and Pat’s special rubbed and open fire chargrilled chicken were the biggest hits. The food was great, but I most enjoyed the process and finding others in my region that also enjoyed cooking. Quite the bonding opportunity to cook and create a feast with new ingredients, utensils, and heating elements. There will for sure be many dinner parties with culinary experimentation to come.