The menu at Daraja follows a traditional Kenyan fare and repeats itself each week. Each meal serves approximately 150 people, students and staff included.
The food is cooked in large vats over open fire. Breakfast is Uji, a roll and tea, in fact that is breakfast every morning except on Thursdays and Sundays when you also are given an egg, either hard-boiled or scrambled.
Uji is a thick porridge made of fermented millet and is a bit like cream of wheat, without the cream, and is served every weekday for breakfast along with a bread roll. Lunch is either Githeri, which is a Kenyan traditional meal of maize and kidney beans, rice and beans or Ugali (also sometimes called nsima, sembe or posho) — a dish of maize flour (cornmeal) cooked with water to a porridge or dough like consistency.
Ugali is the most common staple starch in East Africa and is often served with sukuma wiki (cooked greens), cabbage or Ndengu (lentils).
Nyama (meat) is served twice a week, fruit once a week, although Ndizi (bananas) are available at tea time Monday through Friday. After a few meals at Daraja, it is vividly apparent that although I am accustomed to East African cuisine from extensive travel throughout the region, my daughter Jayna was not at all shy about proclaiming she was “suspicious” of the options presented to her. With her diet compromised I needed to find alternatives to ensure she remained healthy during our time in Kenya. After all, plain rice covered in salt was just not going to cut it.
Nanyuki is the closest town to Daraja. By taxi it takes about 25 minutes and costs 1,000 Kenyan shillings ($12). By matatu (public transportation) it’s 45 minutes and 150 shillings ($2).
Of course being on a remote road waiting for a matatu can take up to three hours so it is often much more practical to take a taxi than wait for a matatu. Nanyuki is a market town in Laikipia county and lies northwest of Mount Kenya and is situated just north (four miles) of the equator.
The town was started by British settlers during the early days of colonial Kenya in 1907. Some of their descendants still live in or around the town. The town is today multicultural and is the market center for farms, ranches, game parks and wildlife conservancies in the region. It’s also the base for people seeking to climb Mount Kenya, the most famous landmark in the country.
Nanyuki has all the modern conveniences one could hope for, and a trip to the Nakumatt (Kenya’s Walmart) would let us stock up on snacks and nonperishable items that will keep, and not attract ants and other insects, and boost Jayna’s food intake and therefore her nutrition.
I was given a paraffin stove top to cook a few things in our banda.
After finding a few “essentials” we indulged in some western food at a local deli that to Jayna’s delight serves hotdogs and french fries and a milkshake to boot! Nothing like seeing your child eagerly inhale food after a few days of refusing to do so.
Who knew I would ever be so happy to see a hot dog?
Wenatchee native Jane Davis and her daughter Jayna spent the fall in Kenya, where Jane taught at a girl’s school. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org