The Delicacies that Define The Turkana

19 September 2018

The world out there marvels at some of the foods found in the African culture. A close study at the Turkanas’ reveals remarkable things about how their diet is connected to their culture. With cattle at the center, one can join the dots and understand just why these animals are so important to them that they can raid other tribes to acquire more.

To a tribe whose riches are not in the real estate, but in the amount of animals one possesses. The animals also form the primary source of their cuisine.

Turkana’s Sources of Food

The bulk of the food comes from the animals they keep ranging from cattle, goats, sheep, camels and a few chickens. These provide them with milk, meat and blood, which have over the years been their main source of food. While the men go out to graze the animals, women get into the wild to gather some wild fruits. Depending on the type of fruits, they can be cooked, dried or eaten fresh.

Men also engage in hunting of wild meat and collecting of honey. They hunt animals such as antelope, gazelle, and warthog depending on where you are. Honey in most cases has been the only traditional sweetener available in traditional diets in the Kenyan culture. Turkanas’ who live near Lake Turkana have access to fish, but it is worth noting that some clans consider eating fish a taboo.

Trading is also a huge source of food for them, they trade with tribes such as Pokots’, and Maasais’ for cereals and grains such as maize and beans, and vegetables. They also trade with Marakwets.

Important meals of the day

Theoretically, they have three meals a day, but this is hugely dependent on availability of food which is hugely affected by the climatic conditions. Those who can afford maize will often make porridge with milk, while some will buy tea from the nearby towns and make milk tea. Lunch and dinner is pretty straight forward, a simple meal of ugali and stew or roasted meat works.

One cannot speak about their food without speaking about how their staple food, a mixture of blood and milk is prepared. During the wet seasons, Turkanas can get plenty of milk. But this can only go for so long. Over the years they have devised methods of storing milk for tough days. They boil the milk and let it dry on animal skin, which makes edodo (powdered milk). Blood is gotten from animals by either slaughtering them or bleeding them without killing them.

Camel as vital part of the Turkana’s cuisine

Initially they never used to keep camels, but over the years through raiding Rendiles and other tribes, they have adopted camels. Camels are a better bargain to cattle in that their milk is very nutritious and they can be milked for longer. A camel can lactate for up to 18 months while a cow will depends on the season. A camel can also be milked twice a day, unlike a cow that provides milk ones a day.

There is so much about nutrition regarding the Turkanas that can be mentioned, but these are some of the basic ones. You need to try the blood mixed with milk, it is heavenly.