I recently learned how to make a local corn porridge they eat here called “pap.” I had heard about it and had resisted trying it because it sounded nasty to me (just the name—pap—yuck), but since it is the main thing they feed to babies here as a first food I figured we'd give it a go in the Horne household, if only for Gabriel. Well, as it turns out we all LOVE it. Ok, Helena says she doesn't like it still. And Eric, well, he eats it out of politeness. But for us that's definitely a go ahead—75% positive rating!
Here are some Henny Penny-like instructions for making pap:
Ma Marcel, our housekeeper, showed me how to make it. First we had to get some corn. We took the last of last year's harvest, and shucked it and then scraped the dried kernels off. Then we took this whole corn and walked a mile to the grinding mill and had the man there crack the corn for us and then we brought it home again and put it all in a bucket of water. Some of the hulls, and a lot of debris, rose to the top and we skimmed all this off and threw it to the chickens, who clucked appreciatively. What remained soaked in the water all night, while in the meantime we made corn husk dolls out of the peels.
The next day we poured off the water and took the soaked corn back again to the mill. The man ground this wet corn very fine and then we walked back to the house and put the ground corn back into the bucket and added some water and stirred it up. We took our fine mesh sieve and slowly poured scoops of this watery corn meal through the sieve until we had sieved all the meal. Everything that passed through was very fine and clouding the water and we threw away all the bran that was too big to pass through the mesh. After that, we let the meal settle to the bottom overnight and the next morning we made the pap.
In the morning the corn was really starting to ferment and I found it fascinating that it doesn't smell sour like sourdough, but rather almost like yogurt. We made a huge bucket-full, because with something so labor intensive you don't want to make it often. Every day you just change the water that rises to the top to keep it from getting too funky. The pap does become progressively more sour; however, on the first day it is very mild.
The best part is after all of the preparations above (including four miles of walking!), the cooking is very fast! You just boil water and add a scoop of pap blended with an equal amount of water and then stir it into the boiling pot. It almost instantly thickens up into a very smooth, almost pudding-like porridge. We eat it with standard oatmeal toppings. I've made it for myself with milk instead of water (the kids don't eat milk) and it really is delicious that way.
I pretty much love the simplicity of life here and the way in which tasks like these occupy so much of our time. I love learning the routines of people's lives in Cameroon; I think it is so important for missionaries to try to understand the work involved in the lives of the poor. Not just for “an experience” to serve themselves, but to truly embrace the work and the struggle of daily life. I think that when you do embrace the struggle you come to love it and respect it too. There is so much dignity in these lives that we think are so poor—I see it in the careful way they work to provide for themselves and their families.