Get a Knife….Several….. You Need To Be Packing A Good Blade In Mali.

Every person in Africa needs a blade. A high quality blade that will not lose its edge too quickly. It’s a requirement to survive here.

“I really feel like knife skills – not just in the kitchen, but in life – are really critical.: (Timothy Ferriss)

I offered to help Lynn make some homemade soup today. I was going to chop up the vegetables with her before I run off to save the world as “The Invisible Humanitarian”. I wear a cape.

“She commented, “You can’t help me because I have only one knife to cut with, so only one person can work. “Well, that works in my favor I guess!”, I replied.

I need to get the girl another knife…. or she could get one for me, since I seem to get so discouraged trying to be her little helper and not having the tools that permit me to do so….. 🙂

“A kitchen without a knife is not a kitchen.” (Masaharu Morimoto)

A few years ago we stocked up on some basic supplies in Bamako. We opted to buy heavier quality pots and pans, forks and knives, as we were tired of the cheap market ones that are just too thin, bendy and look like crap in no time. So, I paid $40 for a nice set of indestructible silverware in Bamako  Not fancy, but beautifully made, the heaviest I have ever seen. Wish I could find another set to take home to Canada, as I thought they were an amazing buy.

The other thing every expat serving in Mali needs is proper knives Unfortunately, we make a mistake again, trying to keep things simple in Mali, you know. We did not bring many good knives, and we have not found good knives in Bamako. I’m sure they are there, but we have not found anything we like to date.

Get the best quality knives you can buy. Made from heavy, high quality steel. When you are hacking fresh meat, chicken and other wild game that is not to be named, (because it’s probably illegal to be eating them- but how am I supposed to know that?)… ;-), you need tough knives that keep an edge, to “get er done, eh!”.

There are not many instant meals here in Sikasso. There are  a few options in Bamako, but who could afford to eat like that? Consider every meal  a “homemade meal” from scratch, and you only begin to fathom the work required to cook here – now multiply that by two.  However, is not having pre-packaged food really a loss? Is having to eat natural, fresh food, picked from some Malian earth that is not over saturated with western chemicals a hardship, a problem? We can cry about how difficult it is to keep a family going in food in Mali, but the natural chemical free (for the most part) food we have here is a gift. Tropical fruits can be picked up, anytime, just outside he door. A gift.

“Give your kids a bloody fork and knife and let me put some fresh food in front of them they can eat.” (Jamie Oliver)

If you lived in West Africa you would soon understand why most expats have a cook; especially families with kids. No person with responsibilities outside the kitchen can balance cooking all alone, day in and day out. Even the poorest of village women do not carry that burden alone. They have their young girls helping, or bring in young girls from their relatives to live with them as a helpers with the food preparation. $1 a day village women have “cooks”  and “cook’s helpers”, and several of them too.  Bet you never knew that! I have never seen a village courtyard without several girls/women, often more, assisting the family unit with the food preparation process.

In 1995 Lynn bought high quality knives to take to Ivory Coast, and I thought the price was excessive and said so at the time. But I soon learned my lesson of the value of packing good blades in Africa. Those knifes returned with us to Canada in 2000, and are still used in our home to this day. They keep their edge and never break. The best investment we ever made.

“I do not weep at the world, I’m too busy sharpening my oyster knife.” (Zora Neale Hurston)

Lynn bought a few good knives for Mali, but not nearly enough, especially paring knives and peelers. Paring knives and peelers are used every day here, since so many fruits and vegetables require pealing.  Lynn has only one paring knife here, we simply need to bring several. The cheap crap in the market is not worth the dollar we spend on them. I’ve broken dozens, and they are as dull as a hoe.

“Only a knife knows what goes on in the heart of a pumpkin.” (Simone Schwarz-Bart)

If I was working here full time, I’d get a Kitchen Aid  too; With all the attachments one could get. Especially for grinding meat to make hamburger etc. I never buy hamburger here in Sikasso because they never wash the grinder. The thing sits out on the table, which is covered in plastic all night long,  for life.  We have to Grind, chop  and slice your own meat and a Kitchen Aid would be a miracle wonder for life in Africa. When they hand you a lump of meat here, it is cut with a machette, and it is up to you to decipher the chunk and then cut it up in to recognizable portions. With bone, or without bone, and fillet, is the only choice I have been given at the open air meat table on the street.  They look at you funny if you ask for steak……

Everyone needs to be packing a good sturdy blade, one that keeps its edge; it’s a matter of life here.

“….and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.” (Jesus)

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