Before the post begins i would like to say that all the beautiful photos are courtesy of japho1.wordpress.com and his beautiful photography especially this post about mutura.
Hands up if you know what mutura is. Ok that’s good we can all put our hands down now. For those who did not lift their hands a short explanation is in order. I’m thinking of doing this like one of those meals where you eat it first and then you are told what’s in it. Mutura is an African sausage. It gets that translation for two reasons; the first is how it looks. It’s long and cylindrical like a sausage but much much bigger than any sausage out of Europe I ever saw. It’s roasted mostly on hot sunny days and packed with more flavour than anything I can imagine. Usually it is accompanied with kachumbari, a mixture of tomatoes and onions and chillies sprinkled with another taste like lemon juice. When you bite into it the meat particles start disintegrating immediately because while they are packed into this sausage like sac they are also still distinct, small globes of taste. Another reason I believe it tastes so good is because mutura is usually made with a lot of love. Heaps and spoonfuls and buckets of love. A lot of kikuyus eat mutura at their family functions and these are times of happiness and celebration, homecomings and graduations and stolen elections(this is a joke people), generally times of happiness. It is prepared by the young boys in the family and to my eyes it seems almost like a rite of passage a way to make the older people proud of you. Even when sold it its sold by the jolliest people you will ever meet(pun so intended.) they will engage you in conversation and ask about your day and make sure you get more than meat, you also get the feeling that this is not a purely mercenary exercise, there are also people who care about you. Let’s just say I love it and it is the only contribution of kikuyu culinary culture that ranks right up there in ingenuity and taste with the best meals in the world.
The other reason it is called the African sausage. This explanation is going to be meandering so bear with me as it goes off on tangents. You know how they say there are two things you should never let anyone see you make and those two things are sausages and laws? Well let’s start with laws. In Kenya there are all these new laws dealing with land introduced because when a new constitution is passed we need to make the laws more in line with it. Also because the old land law regime was shit, there were four different statutes governing land and all the title deeds governing these laws had special ways of dealing with them. It was important as fuck to know whether this was an RLA, a GLA, an RTA because borrowing using these different titles, selling property, bequeathing it was all different. So now we have only one land regime. However a holdover from that old regime is the land control board. This is a bunch of fat black guys who decide whether any transaction regarding land outside of an urban area will go through. A mortgage, a sale, anything. It was a useless board that drew hefty allowances as they found out if the new owner had any skill in animal husbandry and other nice sounding agricultural competencies. They were not supposed to be held over; in fact their existence was extinguished by one line in the new law. One line being powerful enough to do this because laws are the shit. As the bill was moving from parliament to the government printers someone was bribed and applied whitewash. The law that was passed was missing this and so they still exist.
As for sausages (as I come to the end of my meander) they throw just about everything in there. Mutura is much the same. The sac is the intestines of a cow, a goat, a sheep or a donkey if you believe the stories. Into this sac is stuffed all the meat that is not usually used by the cooks. Tiny, grinded particles and sometime blood. This mixture is tied with grass, rope, a piece of metal and slowly roasted over a fire until ready. Then it is devoured. Mutura is never eaten, it is devoured with relish and abandon as if we really are a country of refugees(#someonetellcnn.)
I’m coming home one day and as usual I have missed mutura. On this day I stop to have some. It’s about 5 in the pm so it’s not been roasting for too long. One thing I know about buying mutura is that it’s best to decide how much money you are going to spend and then buy it in increments of 10 shillings. As you eat it you and the guy selling become better and better friends and by the time you have spent 50 you will get another piece for free. So I order my first ten. I compliment him on his mutura because it is amazing. As I’m eating a guy and his 5 year old daughter stop by for some. She likes it so much he gets her one for 20. He packs it up and goes on. Soon another guy stops by and asks if the hard one is available. At this time what I was eating was not hard, it was still soft and fluidy, as ready to fall apart in your hands as in your mouth, kind of like my sausage when I was younger(yesterday, it’s still ready to do that if any of you ladies wants to try it out and get a free confidence boost.) Some people however like it cooked until it’s perfectly hard. The guy buying says hard is better and walks off saying he’ll be back. But he won’t, we both know this. I ask him if it’s true that hard is better.
“Apana, you know they say the customer is always right.”
Yeah, I agree with him and say that this version is much more superior. He agrees with me and I’m just realising that maybe I was the one being humoured. Before I leave he tells me that if I Google street mutura I will find his name, his photo, his place of work on the internet. As soon as I remember the next day I Google him and sure enough it is. It’s on this blog with these amazing pictures. My words don’t do justice to the insanity of taste that is mutura. Go check out the blog, here’sa link. Look at the sizzling mutura, look at the rainbow of kachumbari. Look at the happiness there and then go and have some.
A month later I stop by his place of business again. It’s been a month! And according to the blog he sells 30 kilograms of mutura a day. That’s a shit load(though with intestines it’s always a shit load.) anyway he sees me and asks me how I have been. That was one of the most flattering things that has happened to me in a long time. I spent 50 shillings there. With the amount of product he moves that is a mere drop in the ocean and a month later he remembered me. I promptly told him(seeing that the love was not one sided) that I had googled him. And he thanked me for doing that. I begin eating and there was none of the awkwardness of destroyed friendships, we rapped, we got along.
Soon I am asking him about blood and he says he doesn’t put blood in his meat. He shares his philosophy on blood with me. He tells me the way blood is the thing that carries life in animals. And come to think of it it is. He’s sold mutura for nearly two decades, in that time he has thought about meat. It’s his bread and butter, his livelihood and he has come to respect animals. To think about their life force. It’s wrong to eat a life force, to eat something that’s still alive but as long as there is no blood it’s just meat and you can’t really claim that it’s alive. He tells me that he can’t believe that you can eat something that carries life and not be affected by it. Life changes things, there is blood in life and so blood changes people. He starts talking about the protest that happened a couple of months ago in parliament when in the middle of the protest someone brought in litres and litres of pigs blood.
Maybe it’s what I have read about it but that was not cool. Blood being spilled on the streets in the name of activism(woefully out of context this sentence and yet completely true) is not cool. He tells me that this seemed like a sacrifice of some kind. Stop being a sceptic for a little while and think about it. How far is our community removed from the power of blood. We are Christian, we believe that nothing saves except the blood of the Son of God. I feel sure our ancestors did animal sacrifice. These things happened and whenever blood was spilled a god was satisfied. H.G. Billinger while writing Friday night lights has this beautiful passage where he talks about the high school football players and how they resemble an army more than a sports team. An army that is off to be sacrificed to appease some strange and powerful god. All cultures in the world have a version of this strange and powerful god, he who will give dominion in the world to those who worship him and praise his name and glorify him with the blood of those they vanquished. Who is Yahweh if not the Hebrew warrior God who promised them a land of milk and honey and then proceeded to kill off all the Canaanites who would stand in their way. Saul lost favour with him not because he killed the women and children, nope he was asked to do this and he did, but because he wanted to sacrifice the cows instead of killing them. Human beings have believed in some blood thirsty gods and all of them demanded blood on the ground. So when blood is spilled on the streets is it hard to connect this with the old sacrifices that we made?
He tells me there will be consequences to this. A little while after this he has me doubled over in laughter as he tells me about this Japanese tourist who came to try some mutura. This man found the mutura using his smart phone. He orders some and enjoys it and then asks that the end of it be lifted. He does this because he’s sure that what he’s eating is a snake. He can’t believe how our main man caught so many snakes. He points to the trees that make up a decimated ngong forest as the place where all these snakes must have come from. Then asks for another lift as he looks for the head.
I leave there satisfied. I had a great meal, a deep conversation and genuine laughter. This is my idea of a good day and really if you ever near the nakumatt junction go and try him out. He’s amazing.