” It’s usually round” I tell Taeko as a way of an apology.

” Ohh! Its like the map of Australia” She squeals looking at the chappathi that I had rolled out.

We are standing in Taeko’s small kitchen. I am teaching Taeko how to prepare an Indian dinner of Chappathi and chicken curry. We are lacking a few basic ingredients like the atta to begin with.

” But is it not important?” Taeko had asked when I mentioned it to her before the start of our experiment.

” That’s alright” I reassured her.  ”We can use a substitute like flour”. I  had spied a half empty packet of flour sitting on her kitchen shelf.

 We had the entire evening to ourselves. We had walked to the market which was a short distance from the school where we both volunteered. We left the market with  half a kilo of chicken, half a kilo of tomatoes, a sprig of coriander leaves, three medium sized onions, a thumb sized  piece of ginger and about 6 cloves of garlic. Bamburi is wonderful. Where else can you buy garlic by the cloves?

We had decided to start with the chicken curry. While Taeko cut the onions I cleaned the cut pieces of  chicken with vinegar, thrice. In a place like Bamburi where basic sanitation was almost non existent one cannot be too careful.

While the oil was taking its time to heat up, Taeko said, ” If I had a jiko it would have been fun”.

“Yes”, I lied. Boy was I glad she had a gas stove instead of the charcoal stove.  For the life of me I could not conjure up an image of me sitting hunched on the floor fanning the flames of  a charcoal stove and stirring the chicken curry.

Maybe I failed to mention earlier but I have done the bare minimum of cooking in India. Now here I was, an Indian cooking dinner for a Japanese in Kenya. The irony of it was not lost on me.

The chicken curry had no recipe. I sauteed onions, threw in the tomatoes, crushed the ginger and the garlic with the back of a knife threw it in with the rest. Sprinkled some salt, added water and  added a little of a taste maker called Royco that  one get’s to buy in almost every shop in Kenya. Then I remembered the chicken (almost like an afterthought)!

Beside me Taeko made notes judiciously noting down the time between the addition of different ingredients, the number of  times I stirred the pot and the quantity of steam that ensued from the pot. She was thorough.

After a final stir I  closed the pot with a lid and turned to Taeko with a very satisfied expression.

” Alright lets make the chappathi now!”

Taeko being the taller of the two stretched out to the top shelf and gracefully picked up the brown packet of flour and laid it on the kitchen counter with much aplomb.

Oh dear!

There was more to the name on the packet than just ‘flour’.

Preceding the flour there was a  ”Self rising home baking” portion as well.

Oh dear!

” Is this alright?” Taeko looked worried. I had dutifully nodded in assent and got down to the task of making the chappathis.

After the one shaped Australia, I make one which we decide looks like Europe. Europe is followed by an Italy and other countries yet to be formed.

“Here why don’t you try one?” I tell Taeko pushing the rolling pin towards her.

“And don’t worry about not being circular. That comes with a lot of practice”, I humbly add.

In a few minutes Taeko rolls out her very first chappathi.

What do you know! Her chappathi is as circular as it gets!



Lisa spends all her vacation days traveling to different corners of the world, seeking out adventures and finding stories waiting to be told. When not on vacation she is either planning for one or recouping from one.

Marie – who has written posts on WAH Blog.