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Grilling meats in Kenya and eating them with only the men. photo by Rene Bauer.Grilling meats in Kenya and eating them with only the men. photo by Rene Bauer.
A Kenyan Barbecue: Only for Men

…our eyes had to get used to the twilight among the trees, from the bright, hot Kenyan sunlight we had stepped into the half darkness of this group of trees. At least it was cooler here. The men stared at us, white visitors didn’t seem to be so usual, in any way not if one of them was a woman.
But as Andrea was not a Maasai they didn’t object. I had a look around, tried to make some sense of these half clothed, half naked men. They all looked pretty busy and Meteme, our Kenyan friend, told us why:

“In Maasai tradition men don’t eat in front of their women, in no case meat! A Maasai man or warrior is a hero and can’t be seen doing “unheroic” stuff like eating and chewing…” I had to smile – so here all men met up in the forest, brought along a cow, ate meat en masse  and had peace from their wifes!
Just like men going into European pubs to meet with mates!

We counted  five fireplaces, over which they grilled, boiled, poached the meat and cleaned the hide, rinsed intestines and other stuff. Big pieces of meat they had just skewed on long sticks, which they stuck into the ground in an angle over the fire.

 Here, in the comfortable coolness of the forest it smelled like herbs and grilled meat. Slowly Andrea and I realized how hungry we were, the whole day we had walked along the Maasai Mara escarpment, had enjoyed the view over the vast Mara plains and listened to Meteme, as he talked about Maasai traditions and the healing power of different plants and trees in his homeland.

A Big Yellow Sheet

And often we had sat down and just enjoyed the view over this magnificent landscape. From up here one could see the orange-yellow savanna, dotted with acacia trees, it looked nearly like a big yellow sheet, stretched over the soft, rolling hills of the plains and the acacias like spots on it. With our binoculars we could watch herds of elephants and buffalo, which strolled peacefully over the Mara.

maasai womenMaasai women in traditional dress and jewelry.Andrea pulled my arm and myself back into reality – she gestured towards a meat-stick, which one of the men passed us with an inviting nod. Salt or pepper was unknown here, not even herbs on the meat. We had to eat Maasai style, which means using the big Maasai sword (a long knife, nearly like a machete) and cutting off little pieces.
Grilling meat in the jungle with Maasai men. Rene Bauer photos.
We were crouched on the ground, chased away the begging dogs and enjoyed real “organic” meat from the Maasai farmer. Andrea and I grinned at each other, we hadn’t expected to get into a place like this!

Our original destination was meant to be the Maasai Mara National Park, but with 40 USD per person per day it was too expensive. We had arrived in the area quite late and hadn’t found any campsite. A bit desperate we had asked in a catholic mission in Lolgorien for a place for our car, just for one night.

That’s how we had met father Selem Po, a catholic Maasai priest, with whom we got along very well right from the beginning. And as a horrible thunderstorm was approaching, he invited us to stay in his house. Well, all in all we stayed in Lolgorien for a week, Andrea and I had cooked and I often went into the forest with Meteme, cutting wood for the mission.

“Msungu, Msungu!”

We learned a lot about their culture there and even on the local market people recognized us. They greeted us with “msungu, msungu”, especially the kids.

We also found out, that, to see the wild animals, one didn’t need to go into the national park. Zebras and giraffes stroll around close to the road (well, dirt track), and even buffalo, antelopes and gazelles are outside the unfenced national park.

Father Salem Po, right, and the author in the middle. Father Salem Po, right, and the author in the middle. Father Selem Po was usually busy with bible studies and preaching, he said, it was hard work to keep his “sheep” on the right track. As donations the locals didn’t pay much money, but he would receive chicken, goats and seeds instead. Again, Andrea and I smiled – another proof that we were in Africa! The famous African sunset, which doesn't last long.The famous African sunset, which doesn't last long.

But unfortunately also here the “fate of the traveler“ hit us – saying goodbye. As we still had quite a few countries ahead of us we had to bid farewell and move on towards Nairobi. In our honor Father Selempo had a goat killed and with “nyama choma” (roast goat ribs), “ugali” (mealie meal – like cooked corn flour) and good Kenyan beer we saluted our gods and tucked in.

Our last night in the Mara we spent right in the middle of a huge wildebeest herd just outside the park – what an undescribable feeling to lay in the car and listen to the grunts and moo’s of them.

And after an otherwise calm night an elephant bull passed us in the first light of a new, fresh morning. He was probably on his way to the next waterhole. We stretched our limbs, enjoyed this early, Kenyan morning, were happy to be alive and free.

Rene Bauer and Andrea traveled for many years across Africa in 2009, when they wrote this piece.


Read more about Kenya and stories by this author on GONOMAD

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Tags: storySection: Cultures,Food and wine
Location: Africa, Kenya
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