Regina Lifumbo, 53 years old — Mchinji, Malawi

In the small village where Regina lives there aren’t supermarkets, bars or restaurants, but there is only a tiny street market where farmers and hunters sell their products and game. The choice is limited, there are only a few types of vegetables available and even less types of meat. In the village traditionally, or better, for necessity, people eat all kinds of animals you can hunt, including mice, snakes and cockroaches. They don’t have electricity and water is taken home from the river using buckets. Each hut has got a small fire, which is always kept lit, because it is the only way to cook and warm things. Regina was born and raised here and has never left this place. When she was 19 she met her husband and they have been together ever since. They had 6 children, who have given them 11 grandchildren in their turn. Only 9 of them have survived, indeed, because unfortunately two of the grandchildren died of malaria when they were young.

Finkubala (Caterpillar in tomato sauce)
Difficulty: low (if you don’t need to go and chase caterpillars on trees directly in Malawi)
Time: about half an hour
Ingredients for 4 people:
— Two hg dried caterpillar
— 1 onion and 2 tomatoes
— seed oil and salt

In Malawi and the neighbouring countries they call “caterpillar“ the maggot of an insect similar to our moth. These maggots can be found on trees at the beginning of the rainy season. They catch and dry the maggots to use them as food all year long. There isn’t only one way to cook them, each village has got its own recipe, and I had the chance to taste them in a sauce of tomatoes and onions.
First, put the dried maggots in some water for about 5 minutes in order to soften them. Be careful not to keep them for too long in the water because they might lose consistency and melt when cooking. Drain and let them dry for a while.
In the meanwhile you can start to chop the onions and dice the tomatoes.
In a pan, heat two spoons of seed oil directly on the embers (or maybe in your case you can use a cooker). When the oil is hot enough, leave the onions and tomatoes fry slowly on a low heat.
After about 10 minutes, add the maggots to the sauce and a spoon of salt.
Cook everything for 15 minutes, stirring continuously, and in the end take the pan away from the fire or turn the cooker off.
Now, if you are ready for a culinary adventure, sit at your table and eat what you have prepared!