I just finished Thanksgiving dinner with my family – a free-range turkey supplemented with two types of potatoes, three squashes and several carefully-prepared bean and vegetable items I’d never seen or heard of before. Add a choice of fine wines and a table full of freshly baked deserts (for just five of us!) and today I lived like a king.
But I met a king last week who didn’t live much like this at all. Truthfully he was a Masai chief, or an elder, but the point is that in his small Tanzania boma (an enclosed area where families build their homes) filled with cows and children and dung huts, he and his people wouldn’t dream of a meal so lavish.
But they did have a “Thanksgiving dinner” of sorts.
We were the second tourist visitors ever to this particular boma (or so we were told) so the chief called in all the children from the nearby grazing areas (the Masai are cattle people) and all the men within shouting distance and they hurriedly created a celebration of their own, with dancing, chanting, story-telling and a delicacy most Americans would probably avoid at all costs—a blood, milk and urine mixture stirred with a stick.
Kindly, the cows provided this item right in front of us, not by their choice.
The milk and urine were poured into a hollowed gourd and carried by a colorfully-dressed older woman while three men held the small cow (all Masai cows are small compared to the ones we’re used to) by the head while two others tied a leather strap around the cow’s neck to encourage a vein to pop out. Then other men took turns trying to shoot an arrow into the cow’s neck to get the blood to spurt out. And here’s the weird part: it took them 23 tries on two different cows to hit one in the neck…from one foot away. I was thinking, ‘I’m no warrior but I bet I could accomplish that with a toy bow and arrow from my basement in one or two attempts. Or maybe just use a knife.’ But so it was, they have their ways and who am I to question.
Anyway, in terms of a delicacy when the blood finally spurted out they mixed it into the gourd and stirred for five minutes until the woman pulled the stick out and, somehow, the mixture turned into a wad of gooey pink mush. Two young boys clamored and fought for the stick, just like my brother and I did when my mom baked a cake.
Once again, I am humbled by what I see on my travels, thankful for what I have, but also thankful that I have the opportunity to regularly witness the world.
Thanks for listening,
Founder & Director
Natural Habitat Adventures