Cooking With(out) Gas

by Julie Banks

Cooking in Kibuye is always an adventure!  As we have mentioned in previous blogs, Burundi has no fast food restaurants, frozen foods, or pre-packaged treats like applesauce or granola bars.  We make everything from scratch around here.  

All of our stoves use gas, which we purchase by the tank. With our stoves and ovens running for many hours a day, we go through gas relatively quickly.  For our family of four, a tank lasts about two months.  So what happens when we run out of gas?  Or what if there is a shortage in the entire country?

Well, we have been able to find out what that is like!  For several weeks our gas supplier in the larger town nearby has not had any gas.  Even after searching the capital city, we found out that there were no full gas tanks to purchase in the entire country.  Some of us had plenty of gas and have made adjustments to make it last longer.  Others of us were completely out of gas! 

No gas means no oven.  No oven means no bread.  No cookies, cakes, casseroles, or (gasp!) pizza!

My boys had a suggestion: cereal for every meal!  Sounds fun, but cereal is imported and milk is limited.  We divide it among our families every morning when it comes fresh from the cow of a nearby dairy farmer.  Normally, we boil it on the stove (using gas for 20 minutes), but I have been able to do that in the microwave. 

Since we do have to eat real food (sorry kids) we have gotten creative with cooking for our families.  We have enjoyed salads from the garden, fresh fruit such as papaya and passion fruit, and other raw foods that don't require cooking.  

Thankfully we have had relatively good power so that we could use electricity to cook some things.  Here is a glimpse of our creative no oven/no stove problem-solving:

Alyssa made a tasty garlic cheese biscuit in her microwave.

Jess used her microwave to boil eggs…

But the power cut out halfway through!

Susan makes tortillas (and other things) on an electric griddle.

Julie Theissen (who has only been here a few weeks) created this layered tex-mex dish complete with an avocado sauce in her crockpot.

Heather used her crockpot to make cinnamon raisin bread.

This cheese bread was also made in the crockpot!

George Foreman grills have been used to make calzones (since we can't make pizza!)

Potatoes on a Foreman grill are great too!

But without a crockpot or griddle, some of our families’ main resource for cooking has come from traditional Burundian outdoor grills with charcoal. 

This is how Burundians cook all the time, so our local friends have been key to our survival recently.  They have kept the fires going all day so that we can cook vegetables, soups, and even granola over an open fire.

This gas crisis doesn’t really affect most Burundians.  It is tremendously rare to have a gas stove.  So, we have taken the opportunity to venture into the village and eat more of what they eat… for example, goat brochettes cooked over an open flame!

Throughout this crisis, I have to say I have not heard one person (big or small) complain.  The team has risen to the challenge and some have even enjoyed this little adventure!  We know that this too shall pass.  

Many of the beautiful Burundians around us have probably never even used a gas stove, but they cook for their families everyday!

We remain thankful that God always provides.  And we hear that gas tanks are on their way...

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