Musa-ings on the Mato(o)ke Mysteries (2): The Forest

[~ 10 minutes]

Listening to: Litchmond, Chasing rainbows

{Second instalment of a series of articles on Ugandan bananas, part of the Ugandan portraits series. For the first article, see here; for an introduction to the project, see here (it opens in new tab).}

I forgot to say it before, but matoke isn’t African, either. Adopted and made honorary African crop, yes. But not originally so.

So, where does it come from?

The homeland of the banana, the species out of which all our edible bananas come from, is in Southern Asia & Papua New Guinea (PNG). Quite far away from Lake Victoria, as you can see.

These species are two: Musa acuminata Colla., and Musa balbisiana Colla. The first is found mostly in PNG and surrounding islands; the second, in mainland Southeast Asia. These two species are genetically distinct, and are referred to, in the literature, as possessing an AA genome (M. acuminata), or a BB genome (M. balbisiana).

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Musa-ings on the Mato(o)ke Mysteries (1): The Kitchen

[~ 7 minutes]

Listening to: Etana, On my Way

{In case you’re wondering, “Uganda? Uhm, but why?”, an intro to these Ugandan Portraits may be found here.}

My deepest thanks go to Kato and Liz for their great help in sharing with me what they know about Ugandan food, and in this case, most particularly matooke.

One of the funniest conversations I recall witnessing (and, I confess, encouraging) in Uganda was the criticism leveled at Italian food by, let’s call him E: Italian food is, in E’s opinion, much less diverse than Ugandan food. And he’s been to Italy—and hosted by Italians!—, so he’s had a sample of the country’s cuisine.

This is akin to gastronomical sacrilege to an Italian. No, really. We were lucky nobody ended up stabbed with a fork.

The reasons put forward by E were the following: in Italy, everything boils down to pasta. It’s always pasta cooked in one way or the other, mixed with one sauce or the other. So, the starchy basis of diet is always the same.

In Uganda, on the other hand, you have many different starchy possible basis: you have matoke, or Irish potatoes, or sweet potatoes, or cassava, or millet, or maize… And each of these, you can combine with many sauces. Continue reading