Juliet is the Ugandan woman who stays with us in the guest house and cooks for us. She is an incredible lady. The other morning I had the opportunity to watch her cook and ask her all kinds of questions about Uganda.
Juliet is from Lira in Northern Uganda. When she was nine years old, her father died, and when she was sixteen, she lost her mother. She was then mother and father to her four younger siblings. Despite this, Juliette finished secondary school then went to Makerere University Business School where she received her diploma. She worked at a bank for a while where she was employee of the month many times, but she lost her job. Now Juliet is helping at Global Link Africa (GLA) by cooking for us. GLA is the NGO we’re staying with in Kampala—they train young professionals to be missionaries in their field of occupation. Juliet is fluent in six different Ugandan tribal languages and can understand many more of the many Ugandan dialects.
Juliet is a wonderful cook—all her meals are so delicious! And she wants us to eat a lot! She always tells us to take more. The other morning she cooked a green called boyo with eggs and Irish (in Uganda, they call regular potatoes Irish and sweet potatoes potatoes). She picked the greens from the garden then let them sit in the sun for a couple hours until they withered. Next, we plucked the stems off all the leaves because they’re bad for your stomach. (there were a LOT of leaves to pluck!) She started a charcoal fire (which is quite difficult with just the coals) and boiled a pot of water with a special salt that helps the greens cook. She has a gas stove, but the boyo doesn’t cook well on it because the flame is too hot. She chopped the boyo very, very fine which made a lot of juice squeeze out. She then put the boyo in the boiling water and let it cook for a while. When I asked her how does she know when it’s done, she pulled some boyo out with a spoon, had me taste it, and said, “It’s either ready or it’s not.” She is a masterful cook who does everything without recipes, timers, or measuring scoops. She has an absolutely beautiful voice and often sings while she cooks.
On the gas stove, she browned sliced onions in some oil then poured in the boyo. Next she poured in beaten eggs, sprinkled in salt, grated garlic on top, and stirred. In the other pot, she browned onions and made a sauce with tomatoes, peppers, and garlic. She peeled the Irish and placed them in the pot to cook. To top it off, she squeezed fresh fruit to make juice. The meal was so tasty and fresh! It also took hours to prepare—I can’t believe she does this two or three times everyday.
Juliet dreams of opening her own restaurant—I think it’d be a huge success! She can’t get a loan from a bank because she has nothing to put up as collateral, so she’s going to start small and build up. In December, when her younger sister is on vacation from school, Juliet plans to move back to her home town of Lira and start a little roadside restaurant selling breakfast to boda boda drivers (the motorcycle drivers that everyone hires because they’re cheaper than taxis). She’ll have a little stand maybe with corrugated metal walls and buy plastic tables and chairs to put out front. She’ll just cook chapatis and beans for breakfast at first, but eventually she hopes to be able to afford to rent a room and establish a full restaurant.
Juliet’s story of overcoming hardship at a young age and pursuing education and her dream of cooking is not uncommon among Ugandans. Many of them are very talented, well educated, and have visions for what they want to do. Uganda has many entrepreneurs who start small and build up. Juliet and others like her inspire me to keep dreaming about aquaponics. I can start small and with hard work and a little help, see how far aquaponics in Uganda can go.