Veggies on the mind

In Chomoio, Mozambique, the beans are popular in the local market– speckled ones, cream-colored kidney beans, and others. Word has it, small black beans, maybe red ones, too, can be found.. But the Portuguese man we met at lunch, the one who owned the restaurant we were eating in as well as a large farm with his son, said we would not see many vegetables. There would be no plentiful and gorgeous antioxidant- fiber- and vitamin-rich nutritional profile in the offerings. His menu reflected this and because we were keen on vegetables, we went in search.

My two companions, researchers Amy Dunaway and Fridah Mubichi, and I went the two blocks to the open-air stalls. We ambled past stacks of wooden crates under a leafy canopy of acacia and flame trees, groups of young men talking, and women farmers coming home with hoes over their shoulders. The homes across the street were a rainbow of blues and peaches sitting alongside unpainted, dirty concrete ones; the refracting light picked up this equivocation and send it softly out, muted and easy.

It was the end of day and still kale was everywhere. Even underfoot. Large leaves of the plant had been torn off during the course of the day and they lay bruised and slippery against the dirt floor. Eggplant, a small stash of spaghetti squash, green beans, green peppers, chilies, tomatoes, onions, as well as avocados, papaya, apples, bananas, and more were displayed– the women standing beside the vegetable and fruit tables, the men mainly near the potatoes. After I saw one young man muscle a five-foot tall potato sack to cut it open, I could see the reasoning. Piles of empty sacks, marked Produce of South Africa, were strewn about the middle isle of the market and string bags of small quantities of potatoes were tied up along the stall poles for sale. Dried garlic covered tables in a sea of white and gray.

Relieved, we made our way back. We are here to take a look at diet and protein sources, and there will be more on that soon, but I’ve never been so happy to see such mineral things.


About ninafurstenau

Nina Mukerjee Furstenau teaches a Food and Wine Writing for the University of Missouri Science and Agriculture Journalism program and the MU School of Journalism School. Her book, Biting Through the Skin: An Indian Kitchen in America's Heartland was the winner of the MFK Fisher Book Award and Grand Prize Award for culinary/culture writing and designated as a Kansas Notable Book. She has also written Savor Missouri: River Hill Country Food and Wine, celebrating Missouri foodways. Her essay, "And Then There Was Rum Cake," appears in the 2017 anthology, Pie & Whiskey: Writer's Under the Influence of Butter and Booze. Ms. Furstenau was in the Peace Corps in Tunisia from 1984 to 1986 and then began working life as a journalist and publisher/editor of three construction magazines beginning in 1987. Ms. Furstenau and her husband launched and published these magazines and two others until 2001. She was a month-long resident at the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, Vermont, in 2008.
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