Dinner parties in Uganda

Uganda Volunteer and her dinner party guests
By Eleanor Wade
Dec. 27, 2023

There is nothing that brings people together like food. Every dish made and shared together, are the individual threads that make up the tapestry of our memories. These are Eleanor's threads.

Joy of cooking

The joy of cooking has been a constant in my life for as long as I can remember. Even as a young child, I can remember loving to help my mom or dad in the kitchen— dicing up vegetables like a little sous-chef for a giant pot of soup my mother was preparing. Watching over the hash browns crisping in the pan as my dad cooked breakfast. Food has a way of bringing culture to life, sharing meals so often become strong memories, and cooking together allows us to explore, connect, and enjoy the process all the more.

Cozy kitchen

When I first arrived in my new community in Uganda, I thought about how to best set up my kitchen. The indoor space is small but cozy, surrounded with now well-stocked shelves. There are two wooden chairs and a wooden table set up as my tiny counter. The previous Volunteer left me a gas stove, a random collection of pans and a few cooking items, and brilliantly painted one wall as a chalk board. Each of these things have been a tremendous gift in some obvious and some unexpected ways.

In my first week, I immediately found comfort in the ability to cook again, after not having a kitchen for the many weeks of training. By week two, the solo cooking began to feel lonely, so I started to embrace the chance to have little “helpers” in my kitchen. In the US, I cooked a bit with kids I’ve known, but really it felt like I was cooking while they were either contributing to the meal prep by making a gigantic, unnecessary mess I would later have to clean up, or they were just plain in the way. Here that couldn’t have been further from my experience.

Uganda PCV Eleanor's kitchen
Eleanor's kitchen

Kitchen helpers

Namutebi Eleanor (yes, we are both Eleanor), age 10, Mercy, age 8, Felix, age 7, and Gad, age 2 were the first to jump into my kitchen with culinary expertise that continues to blow my mind. Eleanor, Felix, and Gad are the biological children of my supervisor and counterpart, and Mercy was adopted as a baby, so they all live in my compound (or, rather, I live in their compound). Regardless, this means they are always around and are an excellent source of laughter, support, and company.

Uganda Volunteer and her dinner party guests
Eleanor's kitchen helpers and dinner party companions

Mind-blowing skills

Eleanor’s ability to prepare incredible meals was evident from the very beginning. She walked into the kitchen with confidence and whipped together dishes I’d never even considered. One of her first creations was a homemade Rolex stuffed an avocado cabbage salad— which sounds somewhat obvious, but the presentation of the dish made it such an elevated take on the classic Ugandan snack. Mercy and Felix also amazed me right away. Mercy can dice up tiny onions with mesmerizing skill that most American adults could not handle. Felix can problem solve like no other and is always eager to jump into action and lend a helping hand. Overall, their creativity, ingenuity, and sheer capability is staggering!

Ugandan meal at PCV Eleanor's
Ugandan meal at PCV Eleanor's dinner party

Endless possibilities

Meal after meal, things only got more fun. They started knocking on my door just to cook together and the ideas were completely inspiring. It didn’t take long for me to see that keeping us indoors was limiting our potential, so with the help and guidance of the crew, I bought a few extra things to bring our cooking game to the next level, outdoors. We transformed my little front porch into a lovely outside kitchen, complete with two sigiris (small charcoal stoves) a funky new cooking mat, and a giant bag of charcoal. Now, the possibilities are endless.

Volunteer dinner parties