Since I have tried lots of African food, I thought maybe the children would like to try some American food. I heard that some other volunteers had cooked.  So I tried to think of something that wouldn’t be too unusual from what they are used to.  I decided on spaghetti and meatballs, since pasta and sauce would be something that they would have eaten, this would just be a different sauce. They don’t get beef or pork very often – probably just Christmas and Easter.

First I had to buy the ingredients, which I couldn’t get in my town. So early Monday morning, the two people who live in the house and I set out. It’s about a mile or so walk to the road where we caught the first totro, and then a 25 min ride to where we got a second totro, which dropped us close to the mall and the Shoprite.  Shoprite is more like a small Walmart here, but it had many grocery items I was use to and haven’t seen in the local markets. However, I think the two guys with me were more excited to see everything than I was. I was able to get chopped beef and pork, garlic, basil, tomato paste, pasta and pretty much everything I needed except bread crumbs, so figured we would make our own. It was 5 hours from the time we left in the morning until we got back to the orphanage with the groceries, so not a quick trip to the market.

After school, I found the cook and told her I was there and we could start whenever good for her. We probably didn’t get started until around 4. I had assumed that we would have two fires, one we would cook the sauce on and one we could cook the meatballs on, and then combine them and use the fire to boil the water for the pasta. But things don’t usually go as I imagined. The cook said that the girls had to go and buy some charcoal, so I realized that the plan was to try to cook it all over one charcoal fire.  So we started with the sauce.  We wouldn’t have been able to carry all the cans of tomatoes, so we got a large can of tomato paste, (which the cook opens with a knife) added onions, peppers, garlic, basil and water.  I also bought a container that said “tomato sauce” but it tasted more like ketchup, but it went in as well.  Not the best sauce I’ve made but it wasn’t bad.  Next we started on the meatballs.  I had bought about 6lbs of ground beef and pork, and we added the handmade breadcrumbs (which were much too big), onions, peppers, garlic and eggs in a metal platter that was around three feet in diameter. I mixed it, and then a number of the girls, helped roll it into balls. We added oil to another pan and cooked the meatballs in batches and then added to the sauce.  At this point there was around 20 children watching how this was going. Our pasta and sauce was then put into the 3 foot diameter platter as we boiled water for the pasta. I’m not sure how many pounds of spaghetti we cooked, as we kept opening packages, until no more would fit. Of course this made it hard to stir, and we had to add more water, but eventually the pasta was cooked, and the cook, with help from the girls, strained the pasta in batches. We put the sauce back on the fire to heat up, which didn’t take long, as the coals were now white. And now we were ready to serve! Everyone gets their own bowl, and the cook gave then each some pasta, then I gave them each a couple of meatballs and sauce. They each also got a piece of bread with butter. The youngest children are served first, but then it’s a line and I just kept serving. Usually the adults eat something different, but there was plenty and so all the adults had spaghetti and meatballs as well.

It was after 6 before we finished so it was dark. All the kids went into the dining room, which has 3 long tables. They don’t usually eat at the same time and place so it was nice to see them eating together, even if some are sitting on the tables instead of the benches.  But everyone seemed to enjoy it, and I got lots of compliments and thank yous.  I walked home under the stars and felt that I had maybe given them a memory of “spaghetti and meatballs”, so while I was tired it felt good.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera with me, so will have to rely on my memory of this day.


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