Swahili in Kenya

Eating at Home

Meat being roasted on a grill

One finds that there are differences in the daily meal for Kenyans based on their income and on whether or not they live in the country or city. An average Kenyan breakfast for a lower income family on a farm might be tea and a porridge of corn, sorghum or millet flour (sometimes mixed with cassava), sweetened with a little sugar if it can be afforded. In some cases, the leftover corn and beans from the previous night’s dinner would constitute breakfast. As well, bananas, cassava and sweet potatoes are often eaten for breakfast, and for more affluent families, bread or scones. In the city, a lower income family might have tea and porridge for breakfast, whereas a more affluent family would have tea with either cereal, eggs and bacon or sausage. An affluent family may also choose to eat traditional kinds of porridge.

In the cities, lunch and dinner consists of a staple called ugali, a kind of paste which consists of white corn flour and water, often served with chicken and vegetables. There may also be a mixture of beans, corn and potatoes in a form suitable for dipping. Often there will be fragrant rice and chapati, a kind of flat bread. The presence of meat in these meals depends on the economic situation of the family.

Lunch and dinner tend to be the same in the country with the exception of the fact that lower income families do not eat lunch, but, rather, come back from work to have ugali and vegetables and possibly meat for dinner. Again, since meat is expensive, its presence in the daily menu depends upon the family income.

One is not expected to bring a gift for dinner to a Kenyan home. In this situation, the emphasis is on what the family can do for the guest. However, it is always a fine gesture if one wants to bring some small gift. A guest should expect that, as Kenya is a country where religion is taken seriously, either a Christian or Muslim prayer of thanks will be said at the beginning of every meal.

In some communities, certain old traditions and taboos are still practiced. One may find oneself in a situation where the men will eat separately. A guest should simply observe what is happening, and follow the example or even the directions of the host. Although this taboo is fading, in some communities, women are prohibited from eating certain parts of the chicken, cow and lamb. In all situations, one will find that a particular care and respect is taken in the preparation of any meal.

The video "Roasting Meat" depicts family and friends celebrating a special occasion. Roasting meat in this fashion is normally reserved for celebrations of special events such as weddings, graduations, and national or religious holidays.


  • "Roasting Meat"
    No transcript