Vol. 16 #8
AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH NAMUNYAK ENOLDARAPOI OF NGORONGORO, NOW IN HER FOURTH MONTH OF PREGNANCY.
Namunyak, what kind of food do you eat when you’re pregnant?
Namunyak laughed and said: Very little. Every kind of food is not good for a pregnant woman. Water is the only thing she can have her full of. The best kinds of food for her are the ones to be gotten from cows, but she must abide by custom in regard to them.
I’ve heard that fresh milk is bad during pregnancy. is that just a story?
As to milk, she has to be careful. If she drinks a lot, the child in her stomach will get fat, and things will be difficult at birthing time. She can have a little curdled milk, but must not drink fresh milk. Fresh milk will go right to the child, and it will get fat, so curdled milk is better for her, but only a little. She must stay away from the milk of a cow that has just weaned her calf. The milk of that cow is very heavy and fattening; is bad for her.
What about meat, Namunyak?
The meat of cows, sheep and goats has rules too. She must not eat the meat of an animal that has died. It must have been properly killed. Some animals that have been slaughtered because of sickness can be eaten by her and others not.
During pregnancy a woman is often overcome with desire for a certain cut of meat. She may say, “Get me the kidney of a goat.” Whatever she says she wants must be looked for and brought to her by her husband. If the thing she wants is very fattening, her husband must try to substitute something similar but less harmful. The woman herself doesn’t have a choice as powerful inner forces in what she asks for prompt her.
When an animal is slaughtered anywhere in the neighborhood, her husband may go and stand near. He says, “Give me the meat of the pregnant one.” He cannot be refused. Boneless meat is roast over the fire so that most of the fat parts are burned off. Then the chunks of meat are skewered on a stick and given to him.
What about food Maasai get from the farming peoples on the edges of Maasai country?
In contrast to the food of animals, a pregnant woman is allowed almost anything grown in gardens. She must be careful only of porridge made from millet, because it is such a rich grain. She shouldn’t mix milk with this porridge, because the milk would make it even richer. She especially must not mix the solid heavy fat of animals with such food. This is very fattening and thus very bad for her during pregnancy.
What about Maasai medicine made from plants? Do they have a place too?
The roots of certain plants like olonini are boiled and the juice drunk. Early in the morning before eating or drinking anything, she can drink juice made from the iseketet root mixed with water. This makes her feel lighter and less heavy. At the same time, it makes her stronger, and more able to go about her chores. There are many kinds of roots and parts of plants that can be of use during pregnancy. Especially used are those which cause vomiting. Vomiting helps to alleviate things like heartburn and other kinds of stomach pains, which bother pregnant women.
What happens after you have your baby?
After giving birth, a woman is carefully cared for. Animals are slaughtered for her, and the best foods are given her. This is so her strength may return following the long ordeal of pregnancy.
Till next month…