Today marks one month since I left for Tanzania. I can’t believe it’s been a month! I have learned so much since coming. Training has been a blur so far, with more ups than downs. For that I’m grateful, because I know the downs will come. That being said, my time in Tanzania has naturally presented me with many challenges, some of which I expected and some of which are totally unexpected. Through the process of responding and reacting to these challenges, I’ve learned a lot about myself. So what is an example of a challenge I’m currently dealing with, you might ask.
As most of my friends know, from August 2015-January 2016 I made huge progress with most of my goals regarding fitness and nutrition. I dropped below 18% body fat for the first time in my life, maintained an all-time low weight, and became faster, stronger, and had more endurance than I ever had before. I also ran my first Spartan and accomplished many smaller goals, such as being able to do rope climbs, pull ups, and handstands. I knew coming into TZ that my diet and exercise would drastically change. I told myself I was prepared for this, but I was actually totally unprepared for how my drastic change in diet would affect my all-around daily performance, ability to learn, and how I feel about myself.
Where I once started my day with eggs, beef, and vegetables, followed by a day full of protein shakes, plenty of animal-sourced protein, fruits, and veggies, I now eat starches on my starches. Staples of the Tanzanian diet include ugali, rice, maandazi (literally an old-fashioned donut of Heaven), potatoes, white bread, and….CHAPATI!!! I’m going to whine a bit more about the starches and then get to the fun stuff…how to make chapati so that every person back home in good ol’ Marekani can experience the amazingness that is chapati. It’s so simple and amazing, try it, and comment about how it came out. I want to know! I have so many chapati ideas…well, we’ll get to those later.
So to stay somewhat healthy in TZ, I’ve been trying to ease up on the starches and take large servings of veggies, fruits, and since meat is scarce and expensive, beans and lentils for my protein. My host family is a bit apprehensive about eating raw vegetables, and it seems that most Tanzanians boil all the possible nutrients right out of veggies, but I did hit a milestone by preparing for them guacamole full of tomatoes, peppers, garlic, and lime juice. Surprisingly it was a big hit! So, baby steps…we’ll try banana egg pancakes soon. It’s not that Tanzanians want to be or are unhealthy, it’s that food security is a real issue here. In fact, according to a recent reading we were assigned in training, 44% of Tanzanians are food insecure, and malnutrition is a huge issue here. Because of poor soil quality, drought caused by climate change, and many other factors, this is the reality of Tanzanian life, and inevitably my life. This has also contributed to a love of starchy carbohydrates here, and it’s hard to convince people to change their behavior or habits. Anyone who works in the realm of fitness, nutrition, or health and medicine can attest to that. Finally, starches are cheap. An egg here is roughly 40 cents per egg, whereas rice can be bought for half the price for a much larger quantity. So, something I’m really interested in here is how to build on the Tanzanian staples so that families have access to nutritious foods that they still like to prepare and eat. But I do have to say, my family does a great job in eating vegetables and fruits at every meal! So I’m very grateful for that.
Anyways, chapati has been the one delicious amazing starch that I have no willpower over, and which I will happily add in as my own staple during my training. No shame. It’s all about nutrient timing…right? Right…So here it is!
Chapati, hot off the pan, in all its glory. Just…oh my yes. It is flaky, oily, heavenly.You have to try this in your home kitchen. So what do you need?
- Flour (preferably whole wheat, or you can play around with almond/coconut and let me know how it goes!)
That’s it! Ready to get started?
- Add a small amount of oil and enough water to the flour until it creates a dough. The dough consistency will be similar to that of crescents. We eyeball it here in TZ but I’m sure you can google exact measurements if you’re so inclined. As you’re preparing the dough, heat up a frying pan (cast iron would be best I think) with a small amount of hot oil, just enough to coat the pan so that the dough doesn’t stick.
- On a floured surface, roll out smaller balls of the dough until it is thin and circular. Add a small amount of oil all over the top.
3. After rolled out, cut one slice from the center of the dough to the edge. You’ll then pick up the corner and roll it inwards, until it’s rolled into a cone, or something like a rose bud. Here’s me after rolling my first chapati dough!
4) Tuck the edge of the roll into the center of the top of the “cone.” Then smoosh it all down into a flat roll. It will look like a crescent pinwheel. Set aside.
5) Once all your chapatis are rolled, flour the surface again, and roll out flat. Add a small amount of oil to the top of each dough after rolling out.
6) Add your chapati to the pan! This will happen fast on a hot pan. The chapati will want to bubble. Use a spoon to smooth out bubbles, and flip often (about every 10-30 seconds). You’ll flip the chapati several times before it’s done. Before flipping, always spread a thin layer of oil over the top of the dough. Once it’s brown and looking delicious on both sides, it’s done!
So what could you do with chapati if you were in America and had access to every food on the planet ever? ADD CHEESE. Always add cheese. I would make a chapati bruschetta, a chapati pizza, a chapati quesadilla, chapati burritos, chapati with nutella, peanut butter, and banana, or chapati with baked apple and cinnamon topped with ice cream, to name a few ideas. What will you do with your chapati? Give it a shot! I will be eating plain chapati in the mean time, and loving every second of it. Until next time! Asante kwa kusoma. ❤