We live in Mwanza, Tanzania, serving with Emmanuel International helping local churches in physical and spiritual ministry.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Porridge in the Fuel Tank

Our car has a problem. Yesterday it stopped going. We were on our way for an afternoon with friends and stopped to pick something up in town and that was as far as the car would go. It hasn't started since. We had to call our excellent AA service (Andy and Angela) who came to the rescue! Andy was actually with us in the car at the time, and Angela arrived at the scene with their vehicle and after several attempts to get the car going, in the end they towed us back home. We were all most relieved to arrive after dodging busy traffic through town and navigating bumps and potholes without much brake power. Andy thinks that the problem is with the fuel cut-off switch meaning the car isn't getting any fuel.

So this morning at breakfast Amisadai asked Louisa if she had been putting her porridge in the fuel tank - Louisa isn't a great fan of porridge. That would explain why it wasn't running. Louisa denies the charge but the joke stems from a chapter in the excellent book "Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing" by Sally Lloyd-Jones, a book we have just finished reading each day ... with our morning porridge.

"What if you put porridge in a car's tank? No! Bad idea! How about tomato soup then? Stop! The car won't run properly - actually it won't run AT ALL!" And it goes on to liken this situation to what happens to us if we put anything in the centre of our lives except God. We won't work as we were made to work. It's a good reminder. "We are built for love and joy, not for sin and tears. The Bible says only God understands the human heart and how it works best - after all, he made it. And the one who made your heart can also mend it."

This reflection comes from CS Lewis' "Mere Christianity" who says that out of "hopeless attempts [to find happiness outside and apart from God] has come nearly all that we call human history - money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery - the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy." But God has designed and made us, like a human invents and makes an engine. An engine is made to run on fuel and God has designed us to run on Himself. "He himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn or the food our spirits were designed to feed on." Lewis goes on to talk about how so much energy has been spent building up, making great things, but ultimately selfishness and cruelty creeps up and as Lewis says, the "machine conks. It seems to start up all right and runs a few yards and then it breaks down. They are trying to run it on the wrong juice."

So much to learn from a car that won't start ... and won't run on porridge. Are we trying to run on empty? Are we filling up with porridge and not working properly? Is our heart broken? The maker can mend it and make us run.

We need to take our vehicle to get fixed, so that it gets properly fed with fuel and will run again. But that will be tomorrow. So in the meantime, this morning we all rode to the church meeting on our bikes ... and Tim's tire was flat!

And on another note ... Please pray for Iringa town. This morning as we rode towards town, we were shocked and concerned to hear the sound of guns and blasts. There was rioting over new government tax laws which is threatening to close down small shop owners. The protesters were firing guns and burning tires and police were retaliating with tear gas bombs. There was a lot of destruction with fires and smashing of windows and cars. We were a small Church gathering as those on the other side of town wisely turned back. We don't know much more than that at the moment, but it seems the rioting stayed in the area of the small shops threatened. But please pray for the restoration of peace in this usually calm and peaceful town.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

My Life in Cinnamon Buns

Remembering Jim Matthews (when I was ten) and then Regent College days (age 24) ... Yummy, gooey Cinnamon Buns! And now here I am in Iringa (ok, here it is ... age 36) with those same yummy gooey cinnamon buns - with icing made from our own homemade cream cheese! I always had a childhood fantasy of working in a cinnamon bun shop ... only as it turns out it's not going to be me, but Lucy. Lucy's new business is off to a great start with orders coming in and satisfaction high! She is so pleased to be doing this and it really does make a difference for her! So all you Iringa folk reading this, please place your orders and spread the word!

The recipe is supposedly the one used since many years ago, to make the famous University of British Columbia cinnamon buns, made by the late Jim Matthews while he worked there and then made for students at the King's Bible College in Langley when he was the chef at Springcrest. I was a kid in grade 4 and I think what I remember most about Jim are his contagious, hilarious laugh and his awesome cinnamon buns. And I remember him cooking up a storm for TACO kids summer camp!

Fast forward 15 years and I was a student at Regent, enjoying the delicious UBC cinnamon bun with a coffee and study book in the Atrium. And now, fast forward another 12 or so years, and here I am in Tanzania, teaching Lucy to make them to sell in Iringa! There must be other stories of these amazing cinnamon buns out there ... be it at UBC, Regent College or with Jim at King's Bible College! But this is my story!

We haven't started selling cheese yet, but hope to start selling soft cheeses soon. And we are working on bagels to go with the cream cheese. We will have to wait another month to see how marketable our hard cheeses will be. Hopeful, but nervous! Yesterday we tried our hand at Gloucester Cheese. I realise that I have been rabbiting on rather about all the cheese, so I won't go into all the detail again, but it was pretty interesting with the new "slabbing" technique. The curds (after being cut) were all pressed flat into a sheet, which we then cut into squares and stacked. It reminded us of the sheets of rubber hanging to dry at the rubber plantation in the Udzungwa Mountains. Amazing stuff! I read that this cheese has traditionally been coloured with carrot juice, so that is what we did. I was disappointed when we made the cheese that it didn't seem to make any difference to the curd at all. But today, when I turned the cheeses and put them back in the press, I was pretty excited to see that they had turned a distinct shade of orange! This cheese will now be maturing with the cheddar for a few months.

Carrot juice cheese colouring

The "slab" of curd pressed flat - no, not very orange!

The "slab" cut into squares and stacked 
Ready to "mill" - crumble up and put in the press
 While Lucy and I are putting cheese in the mould, Tim has been putting clay in his mould. He has been busy working on making a fire chamber for the large fuel-efficient institutional stove that is going to be built for the school in Magozi. He made a mould (yes, it's all moulds around here at the moment!) last weekend and they are now trying it out. It is all very experimental and so far all the components look good! He has had Elly (a relative of our landlady who lives on the property here) working with him. They have also been making our regular stoves to test the clays from various villages interested in the stoves project.

The fire chamber mould

Elly working on the fire chamber
(the small stoves in the background)
Bottom piece of the fire chamber

Top piece of the fire chamber

 Today Tim started teaching an "Introduction to Mission" course at Bethel Bible College in Mafinga, about 60km away. This is a course he will teach one day a week over the course of the next few months to pastors (who come from surrounding villages) in their second year of training with the college. This is something he really enjoys doing and he had a great day there today, despite ending up in the wrong place for lunch!

And that brings us back to food, which seems to be what much of this blog revolves around, so probably a good place to stop!


Sunday, 12 May 2013

Jars of Clay: Making Mozzarella at Home

We've had some ups and downs here this week. But I'll focus on the cheese for now. That was up and down too. After the excitement of the cheddar last week, we had a rather disappointing mozzarella when we tried on Wednesday. In the middle of the other "downs" I was almost ready to give up! We just didn't get enough yield from the milk to be able to consider making it a viable business for Lucy. But we remembered Geoff's suggested name for our cheese, "Hard-Pressed" and we didn't despair and persevered! We tried again on Friday. And it really worked! We got a pound of cheese from 4 litres of milk - much more successful! Now, I'm not sure how many of you are actually interested, but I'll tell you anyway, as it really is so much fun making mozzarella - you really should try it! Amisadai photographed the whole procedure for you, so here you go!

First we pasteurised the raw cow's milk (keeping the temperature as low as possible, as overheating the milk was something that hadn't helped us). Then we cooled it down to 32 C and added 1 1/2 tsp of diluted citric acid (this also seemed to work better than the lemon juice we had used before) and 1/4 tsp diluted rennet. 

Adding the rennet

Then we let it sit in a warm place for a little while and watched those glorious curds appear!

After a short while, the curds were soft and silky smooth and ready to be cut crosswise and lengthwise.

Then we put the curds back on the heat and slowly heated them to 40C, stirring gently with our hands. When they had clumped together slightly, separating from the yellow whey, we removed them from the heat and let them sit for five minutes, stirring gently with our hands (it feels lovely). Then we strained the curds from the whey.

Next is the fun bit. We boiled a potful of water and used it to heat our curds in a smaller pot. The curds have to reach 60C and then they go delightfully shiny and stretchy.
Heating the curds
It gets even better now. Taking the curds away from the heat, we quickly worked in the salt and stretched and folded the pliable curd into a glossy, shiny cheese! The girls love this bit! Believe me, it really is fun.

Stretching the curds
After being shaped into a lovely round of cheese, it is plopped in a bowl of cold water and then when cooled and ready, it's taken out to drain. Yummy, beautiful mozzarella! (Although Louisa rather quickly observed, "It's just like a pig's bladder, Mum!") But the good thing about mozzarella is you don't have to wait a few months to try it. Pizza for tea!
Mozzarella Cheese!

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair; persecuted but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed." (II Cor. 4:7-8)

These words are encouraging in any situation, cheese or no cheese!  But isn't it interesting thinking about these words in the context of cheese? The cheese in the press, hard-pressed, but the end result is better and stronger. And clearly life is at work - as seen in the growing mould! We have a perplexing situation here at the moment but are encouraged to know that we don't need to despair. Things may be squeezed, it may take time, but ultimately everything we do is through His power and help and all for His glory. LIFE is at work in each of us who have this treasure; we are the cracked, clay pots designed to carry it! It's a treasure worth having. Let's carry it, display it and see life worked through us. May more and more people cause thanks to overflow to the glory of God (vs. 15).
Check out Amisadai and Louisa's blog to see how they made the clay cooler
and also to see the two new additions to our family!

Monday, 6 May 2013

Process of Cheese. Poetic or Practical?

GK Chesterton once said that "poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese." I'm so excited about cheese at the moment, that I can't imagine why! So come on you poets out there ... can we have some cheese (as opposed to "cheesy") poetry? Do share!

So this post is all about cheese ... farmhouse cheddar cheese. But more semi-instructional or possibly emotive story-telling than poetic. After making the mother culture starter on Monday, we were ready and rearing to go on Thursday. With the cows next door freshly milked, Amisadai and Louisa went with Taifa to get 7 litres of their milk and we began our first attempt at making hard cheese at 9am.

First we gently heated the milk ... actually we got a little carried away and overheated it, so then had to cool it down again. Then we added a little of our starter and left it nice and warm for an hour.

Checking the temperature of the milk
We came back and added the rennet and then left it, still nice and warm, for another hour. And another hour. And another! This was the point at which I got a little nervous, waiting for those lovely curds to appear. Waiting for the so-called "clean split" one should get in the curd with a little finger. It wasn't happening. But what really is a "clean split" to look like? A little doubtful for just a while. But then it happened, and it was exciting! Exuberant high five with Lucy! We cut those beautiful soft white curds into little cubes. A very tactile experience! A Little Miss Muffet moment.
Cutting the curds

Then we heated the curds. I'm not sure how exact one has to be here, but the book says to raise the temperature of the curds one degree every five minutes. Mmm. We did our very best to follow the instructions and kept adding boiling water to the water bath that our cheese pot was in, and slowly, slowly got the curds to the required 38C. Further great excitement when we got the thermometer reading bang on! Then we strained the whey and left the curds to strain. Unfortunately it was now 4pm and time for Lucy to go home, so she missed the final steps. It was all taking far longer than anticipated! Finally the curds were ready, they could be squeezed without more than a few drops of whey dripping out, and when pulled apart they tore rather than crumbled. I gently "milled" the curd, turning it and breaking it and adding salt. Cheese euphoria!

And then we were finally ready to put it into Tim's amazing cheese press. But we realised that we had far more cheese curds than would fit in the mold. We had made a "follower" (the pressing piece of wood) to fit this particular mold, but it was clear we would need another. So we filled the first mold and put it in the press. Then we rigged up a makeshift press with another mold in a bread tin pressed with a glass jar and bungee cords from the land cruiser! As my mom said, "wasn't it good I watched MacGyver when I was younger!"

Cheese in the press

The "bungee press"
We pressed it for almost 3 hours and then before we went to bed at 10pm, we removed it and turned upside down before pressing it harder. Every day then for 4 days, we have been removing and turning and pressing again.

Today was the day that the cheese graduated from the press and began life as a maturing cheese. Further great excitement. But it needed somewhere cool and humid to do this. We don't have anything remotely like a cool cellar here. So dismissing the fridge idea, today the girls and I embarked on a fridge making lesson. The girls thought about it and we looked at plans online and ended up with what we know - clay pots. One clay pot inside another. And wet sand in between. So we collected sand, scrubbed pots and put it all together and then started measuring the temperature and humidity inside. We were looking for 12C and 70% humidity. We managed to get the perfect humidity with a wet towel, but we couldn't get the temperature low enough. We substituted a smaller pot and increased the wet sand. Still not low enough. Now with time running out and the cheese begging to be released from the press, we had to cheat. We added ice. Perfect! But the girls were not too impressed.

Adding the sand to the clay fridge

The pressed cheese
Cheese in the clay cooler
 So a great cheesy moment as we removed the cheeses from their presses. They looked good, smelled good (a bit cheesy) and felt good! We slothered both cheeses with vegetable fat and put the one cheese in the clay cooler. Unfortunately the other didn't fit, so that has gone in the bottom of the fridge which we have turned down low and added a bowl of water for increased humidity! I have asked Tim about making a bigger-better clay cooler for us - specifically designed for the job. Maybe! And it crossed my mind that stove-makers in the village could also make clay coolers .. and there are plenty of Masai and cows out there so who knows where all this cheese-making will end!

But what a procedure! Now I know why cheese is expensive! And this is only the beginning. It still has to survive all the drying and maturing in storage for a few months. I'm already getting excited about the great cheese-tasting in a few months, hoping it will live up to (realistic) expectations!

So we need a good name for our cheese. Farmhouse Cheddar doesn't seem so appropriate for us here. I was reading about Cornish Yarg Nettle Cheese, a medieval cheese recipe now made by and named after the Gray family. But Regnom Cheese doesn't have the same ring to it! And Ycul really doesn't work! Tim thought of Shamba Cheddar ("shamba" is Swahili for "farm"). Louisa's only contribution was "Cheesy Feet" ... do you have any good ideas?

Two rounds of farmhouse cheddar ready to mature

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

A Goat's Head on a Stick

A goat's head on a stick. No, nothing I saw, but it's a story we heard that made me think. More on that in a minute.

Yesterday we visited a seed nursery and bought some different tree seedlings. We bought some trees for firewood, a couple of papaya trees as well as a few neem and moringa trees which I have been wanting to get for a while. We bought the firewood trees to take to Magozi today. Our friend, Kalista, wanted to buy some and had asked us to get some for her; we are pleased that the idea of planting trees is spreading and people are thinking about buying them for themselves. And as of today, we have more orders so will go back to Magozi with more firewood trees as well as the neem, moringa and fruit trees! I am looking forward to making these trees part of our "gardening" work in Kimande and Itunundu when we move in to do the stoves project. I am quite excited about doing all this gardening when we get out there. I hope it will inspire ideas and action and also be a great way to get to know the other women in the village, as we are working together. And hope, of course, that the gardening will bear much fruit in the future! The girls too are hoping to do some bag gardens with some of the older children.

Choosing our seedlings
It was great to be in Magozi today. Tim was going to Kimande and Itunundu to sort things out for our new house and set up a meeting with the Anglican and Pentecostal pastors to talk about how we do the stoves project together. And as recently we have only paid flying visits to Magozi, this time I wanted to have more time there to visit with people. So we left early at 7am and Tim dropped the girls and me off on his way past and then picked us up at lunchtime. It was great to meander again and visit different friends. In the course of the morning we had breakfast three times and then lunch with Ezekiel and family! Ezekiel and Bora are doing so well. They have started a garden just outside their home, growing all kinds of nutritious vegetables. It's wonderful! And their pig (yes, the one we took on that memorable journey!) has grown up well and is now expecting piglets, so the pig business will be good. And their lovely little girl, Lightness, is toddling about and starting to talk. God is good!

Ezekiel's garden (tomatoes, carrots, cabbage, spinach ...)
Now preparing for tomorrow ...  I am nervously anticipating taking cheese-making to the next level. At the weekend, Tim made me a cheese-press! Yes, I am delighted and excited! Now with my starter and rennet, we are ready to make hard cheeses. On Monday, Lucy and I made up the mother starter culture with a litre of milk. We left it for 24 hours in a thermos and yesterday morning we were encouraged to find all as it should be (I think!), and we froze it all in ice cube trays and small portions, ready for all this cheese that is going to be made! So tomorrow is the big day ... we are going to make a farmhouse cheese (which is the prequel to making cheddar, I think). The hard bit will then be waiting a few months to see if it worked! But we are all ready for curds and whey, for pressing and turning, and storing and waiting. How much should we attempt to make before we do a taste test? We are all keen to get to Cheddar! And we hope we can find a market for the cheese. Lucy is keen and able and I really hope we can get her selling a variety of cheeses on a small scale; so far we have made a mean mozzarella (perfect for pizza), cottage cheese (perfect for lasagne), cream cheese (perfect for cheesecake and cinnamon bun icing) and halloumi (perfect for grilled sandwiches). But the know-how is one thing and the marketing and selling another. But you never know unless you try, and if at first you don't succeed try, try, again!
The Cheese Press
Now finally, to the goat's head on a stick. The preacher last Sunday told the story of a man who had a goat. One day he went to work in his shamba (crop fields) and not wanting to lose his goat, he took it with him. He tied the goat to a rope. He pushed a stick into the ground beside a bush and tied the goat's rope to the stick. Then he got to work in his field, looking now and then to make sure his goat was still there. While he was working, another man came along and cut the head off the goat. He balanced the head of the goat on the stick and ran off with the whole body. And as the man in the field continued to work he saw the head of his goat by the bush and figured that all was well. It wasn't until he finished his work and returned to the goat that he realised he only had the head of his goat.

It got me thinking that many of us, maybe more of us than care to admit, are a bit like this goat. People can see our head and think that all is fine, maybe think that all is great, and likewise we can fool ourselves into thinking the same. We can be convincing heads, but sometimes are we just balancing it all on a stick when there's actually not a lot behind it? Maybe not a lot of meat or substance, or not a lot of heart, or perhaps not a lot of "life." From what I remember, the preacher was encouraging us not to keep trying to please or impress people, but remember what really matters. What is truly important and meaningful about our life? Let's not be nodding our heads about to make it look like we are fine or we are busy, all the while forgetting what God has given us. He gives us legs to stand on and run, a heart to love and serve with and more than anything, LIFE! Who wants just the head of a goat on a stick? We need a body; we need someBody.