​Monday in a Picture – Bomake Market 

All around Swaziland this week, schools are closing for the year. The academic year here is divided into three terms. The school day is typically divided into different lessons with two breaks. The first break is mid-morning, and lasts approximately 30 minutes. The second break is a lunch break, and lasts approximately 50 minutes. 

During these breaks, 2-4 bomake (pronounced bow-mah-gay), or women set up a snack market on the school grounds. The schools don’t have vending machines. In fact, I haven’t seen any vending machines in the kingdom, that I can remember. The bomake sell all kinds of goodies. These goodies include naks (a maize based snack similar to Cheetos that comes in different flavors), lollipops, popcorn, rolls (called buns here), and fatcakes. On really hot days, there are even ice blocks (a flavored, sweetened frozen slushy solid). 

I’ve noticed that the prices for snacks at the bomake market are pretty standardized. For instance, the going rate for a fatcake or an ice block is one lilangeni, pronounced lee-lan-gay-knee (the currency of Swaziland). The prices remain the same at most, if not all, of the school bomake markets in Swaziland. The homemade snacks (i.e., fatcakes) taste very similar all around the country as well. 

Be kind to yourself. 
Onward. 

Yummy Yummy Yums

One of the things that my Aunt Nae always wants to know is, “how’s the food?” With that in mind, let’s talk about food.

I need to preface this post by saying that although Swaziland is a very small country, I have only been to a very small fraction of the places in the country. Much of my culinary experience in Swaziland comes from my homestead experience. My sikhoni (sister in law, in case you forgot) typically cooks breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I am typically only around for dinner. Sometimes, I cook for myself. Sometimes, I eat with the family.

Breakfast for me usually consists of oatmeal and/or fruit. It’s easy and difficult to mess up for non morning people, like myself. Breakfast for my family is usually sour porridge. It’s made from fermented mealie meal. In case you we wondering, mealie meal is a maize based thick flour. It’s a flavor that I had to get used to, but with some sugar, it’s perfect. I can’t really describe the flavor. As far as its appearance, it looks a lot like grits (which I haven’t seen here).

Lunchtime brings about different things. Sour porridge can be had for lunch as well. Porridge (as in not fermented or sour) can be enjoyed for lunch. Porridge is mealie meal that is added to boiling water and stirred/mixed until it’s very thick. Porridge is typically made in large quantities and serves as a base for lunch and/or dinner. As it’s very thick, it is eaten with the hands and used to pick up meat or whatever else is served with it. My lunch typically consists of a chicken salad sandwich. Canned chicken is readily available and refrigeration is not a concern. Add a bit of bbq garlic seasoning and it’s my own piece of midday paradise between two slices of bread.

For dinner, porridge is the sustaining puzzle piece. I believe that porridge here is the same as pap in South Africa. With our porridge, we’ve had stewed chicken or spinach, sometimes with a butternut squash mash. The porridge really doesn’t have a flavor, so it goes well with anything. We’ve also had rice and beans for dinner. I think the rice and (kidney) beans may be among my favorite meals in the country. It’s definitely my favorite meal at the homestead! One thing to note is that the portions are huge. I have attempted to clear my plate several times, and failed. The food is very filling.

I’ll close with snacks and some of the things that I’ve enjoyed outside of the homestead experience. First, chicken dust. The chicken is grilled on the side of the road, and served with some porridge and salad. The chicken is super flavorful and delicious. Next, there’s fat cakes. One of the other trainees told me about these. I’m forever thankful. Some of the women sell these fat cakes on the side of the road, in addition to other goods. What is a fat cake, you ask? It’s a fried ball of dough. It’s very similar to a funnel cake or beignet, but heavier and without powdered sugar. Talk about next level delicious. Next, one of the folks in my cohort introduced me to sugar cane. Pure succulent sugar cane. I don’t have it as much as I would like, and that’s a good thing. The cane juice is perfect for a refreshing pick me up in the midday’s hot sun. Lastly, there are these lemon cream cookies that we have during tea breaks (former British colony). They are also next level delicious. They may, or may not, be the reason I look forward to going to class. I think I might have a bit of a sweet tooth.

Be kind to yourself.
Onward.