It takes a lot of food to feed an army. It also takes a lot of food – and hard work – to feed the children of Bulembu. But meal making has been made a little easier thanks to the completion of the centralized kitchen, where all of the meals are made and all of the children come to eat.
It’s quite a process to prepare three squares a day for more than 200 children and aunties five days a week. That number rises by almost 100 on the weekends when those who live in Persimmon (another living area within Bulembu) join the others. (Persimmon has it’s own kitchen but doesn’t serve meals on the weekend.)
Stabiele (which means happiness) Murambiwa leads four other staff members in the preparation of all of the meals. Stabiele hails from Zimbabwe and is married with three grown children. She and her husband came to Bulembu in 2008, and he began working at the Bulembu Bakery in 2009. Her days in the Bulembu kitchen start early – around 7:00 a.m. – and they end late after the last meal is served and the kitchen is cleaned and ready for the next day. (And then she goes home to cook for her husband and son, who is currently studying journalism!) But the menu is simple and routine.
For breakfast, Stabiele’s team make porridge three days a week, cooked oats two days a week, and Motive, a type of porridge, two days a week. Fresh milk and bread is a daily staple. Lunch always consists of sandwiches and fruit. The dinner menu looks like this:
- Monday – mixed rice and beans and salad or cabbage
- Tuesday – pap and imaasi
- Wednesday – Spaghetti bolognaise
- Thursday – Samp and beans with salad or vegetables
- Friday – fish and mixed rice
- Saturday – pap and imaasi
- Sunday – chicken and rice and pudding.
The kitchen staff makes sure a big cake from the bakery is ready every Sunday as a special treat for the children and aunties. There are a few changes to the menu for some of the children who have special food restrictions. (For those of you wondering, pap looks like mashed potatoes but it’s ground corn boiled up with water. Imaasi is sour milk, almost like cottage cheese. Samp is whole corn kernels that are soaked in water until soft and then boiled for a couple of hours.)
Three or four children can usually be found at the centralized kitchen on weekends helping to chop vegetables, assisting the cooks, and helping to clean up after meals. The centralized kitchen has made meal making much easier on the staff, but there is still a lot of hard work that goes into preparing food, glorious food, for everyone in Bulembu.
By Theresia Whitfield