Samoutou Family Blog
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About This Blog...

Family of 5 
from Gabon, Hong Kong and the UK   

Living in Impfondo,   
Republic of Congo   
Since April 2012 

Blog by Joyce the mum, 
Homeschooling novice, 
Eye Charity founding doctor / director. 
Reluctant domestic goddess 

Passionate about sashimi, 
helping people see 
physically and spiritually,   
and Jesus   


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Recent Posts

5 Eating Habits of a Chinese / Gabonese / British family in Congo
March 17, 2013

Whenever I phone my family of 30 plus members in Hong Kong, we play ‘Pass the telephone’.  First auntie comes to the phone, and says loudly (to overcome the noise of mah-jong and children), ‘Ah Yan! (My Chinese name) Have you eaten? What did you eat?’ She proceeds to say that international calls are too expensive, yells for another auntie to hurry, and passes the phone to her.  The same conversation is repeated with every auntie.  In my family, what we eat is the only question truly worth asking. 

So, what do we eat in Congo?
How have we changed the way we eat?
Has the way we eat changed us too?


1. Becoming creative

Before we came, a missionary emailed us a list of every food item that one can potentially buy in town.   There were a total of 48 items:
1. Oil
2. Salt
3. Pepper
4. Sugar
5. Teabags
6. Instant coffee
7. Milk powder
8. Eggs (sometimes) …

Distressed, I sent the ingredient list to BBC Good Food and culinary friends.  They helpfully sent some recipes back to me.  Unfortunately, it was only when I arrived in Congo that I realised that I cannot find fuel for my oven most of the time, rendering the majority of the recipes useless.  So for the first 9 months, we ate pretty much the same things every day:
-          Breakfast: Porridge
-          Lunch: Spaghetti and tomato sauce, with whatever meat available in the market that day
-          Dinner: Mostly Bread / Fried Rice

The lack of variety forced us to become more creative.  Last week, I invented crocodile congee.  This week, I experimented with sweet potato peanut stew.  I drew the line when my kids asked me to make monkey stock.

2.  Not worrying about tomorrow

Compassionate visitors from abroad sometimes bring coveted food items that are unavailable here e.g. crackers, dried herbs and cocoa powder.  When we lived in a rainforest in Gabon, my prized possessions included a bottle of soy sauce and a packet of chocolate chips from abroad.  One day, one of our best friends Liza phoned to tell us that her cancer had recurred.  That was the day I decided that life was too short.  Things should be used, rather than just held onto, even if they are hard to replace.  With great gusto, I poured the whole bottle of soy sauce to make Soy Sauce Chicken (I froze the sauce afterwards and reused twice).  When we made cookies, my daughter’s eyes widened with excitement as I threw in the whole cup of chocolate chips rather than my usual stingy few.  Since then, we have never run out of chocolate chips.  Visitors somehow kept bringing us chocolate chips even without our asking.  As Henri likes to say, ‘Don’t worry! Just enjoy it!  It needs to run out so that God can fill it up again.  God always provides.’ 

3. Food tasting extra good when it is a labour of love

We love (Eggless) Pancake Sundays! (Finding eggs is a treat in our corner of the world)


  1. Buy flour in 50kg sack and try sell some off to other missionaries
  2. Sieve through all the flour to get rid of bugs and store batches in Ziploc bags.  Perceive aching arms as gym work-out
  3. As we have no freezer, set the fridge to 1°C to store the flour overnight to try kill the eggs of the bugs
  4. On Sunday, sieve the flour again to get rid of new bugs (Once, there were still bugs after sieving the flour 6 times.  Henri told me to stop trying as the bugs are protein.  I did not know if I should laugh or cry). 
  5. Filter water to make pancakes and consider the heat in the kitchen as free sauna
  6. Make maple syrup with maple syrup imitation

The happiness the pancakes bring to the diners… Priceless!

4. Developing a sense of pride

-          I was never much of a cook.  I can say that I was too busy but the bottom line was that I was spoilt.  I never boiled an egg until university.  I bought ready-wash salads and any short-cuts / ready-mades to make my life easier.  Who would have thought that I now make my own ketchup, bread, yogurt, cereals, stock and every meal from scratch!  I am proud to be the reluctant domestic goddess!

-          When we first arrived, I would get lost in the market maze made up of hundred of stores.  They looked almost identical, but a few of them stocked unique food items.  Now when a newcomer comes, I am proud to navigate him / her to the particular store that sells canned sweet corn (when available), and another that sells popcorn kernels (when available).  I now know a papa who can make peanut butter for me, and the nuns who often have chicken eggs.  I like the feeling of being ‘resourceful’.

-          Our vegetable garden produced 100% organic tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, spinach, and sweet-corn.  Our harvest was so ridiculously abundant that we had more than enough to give to our patients.  With our increasing workload, it has become sadly neglected but when we tended it, self-sufficiency was empowering!

-          For a long time, I struggled with controlling the heat on our kerosene stove (like a camping stove) and oven (works when we have fuel).  They do not have temperature controls.  I felt nervous about lighting and extinguishing them, and was always armed with fire blankets and fire extinguisher.  Now I am no longer afraid of them (most of the time).

5. Learning thankfulness 

I am so thankful that

-          My children are such good eaters.  They are braver than I in trying new food such as caterpillars.

-          God blesses us with surprises.  We miraculously had chickens for Christmas and my birthday!  Absence sure makes the heart grow fonder!  We have a new found appreciation for apples, butter and all the things that we cannot get here.

-          Compared to our neighbours, we live in such abundance.  I cannot imagine how they afford to feed their big families.  An average day’s salary is USD3, which will only be enough to buy a handful of potatoes. 


Do I crave chocolate?  Yes!  Do I dream about sashimi?  You bet!  Do we miss food from home? You should see us drooling over the sight of food on DVDs!  But are we thankful?  Absolutely!  Unlike our neighbours, we always have food on the table.  More often than not, we have left-over.  We have running water.  We installed a solar fridge.  We have a house-help who burns rubbish for us.  We do not need to chop wood to cook with a smoky open fire that puts our eyes at risk of developing cataracts.  An ungrateful heart renders the choicest food tasteless.  A thankful heart turns the blandest food into the most magical feast.  We may have less ‘good food’ than we had, but what we now have is by far more satisfying.  


Filed under: Musings, Food, Living in Congo


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