Essays, poems and Stories of an African-American

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Good Public Health Habits to cultivate

We were discussing the impact of infections on societies from time immemorial. We listed the: Aztec empire; empires in Africa; Han empire; and Roman empire and realized small pox here or various infestations there led to the fall of these empires that great armies had helped put up. I was moved to write this blog after the friend said: “Health affects security and defense. If one wants to measure the value of health, let them read about the effects of the bubonic plague on the progress of the World Wars or the effects of biological warfare terrorism/ scare on public peace and order.” It got me thinking. The moral I gathered from this tete-a-tete was that we do not need to wait for  infections or diseases to ravage us. We do not have to wait for Ebola or Malaria or Cholera to cross the veil. So, there must be what I call “good habits.” It is these good habits that I want to write about in lay terms. The affordable and appropriate individual practices. Before I proceed to write about the good habits, I want to define four words: habit, health and the public

 A habit or practice is one’s way of doing things as part of contributing to or getting something out of a society. It is one’s own attitude; it manifests as interest or desire; it is the fabric maintaining relationships; it is also the interaction and treatment one gives to others. A habit follows a certain pattern. The pattern is dictated by a feeling of life, energy, accomplishment, self esteem and drive. This is what I shall call health for the purpose of this blog. Health is in turn affected by agency, place, space and time. This is what I shall call public. One has to cultivate habits that enjoin the public to continue upholding health. We see such results at human-to human level manifested as productivity, being dependable and results oriented. But, what are those habits? Before these habits become an every day application, there are underlying skills such as: a readiness to work with communities; one has to have the intelligence to analyze needs; one has to be a problem-solver; one has to have the readiness to listen to others; one has to have the readiness to provide guidance that brings about change or addresses needs; one has to be able to communicate with others as well as self. The good habits benefit self and others. By others we may mean: family members, community members, house-mates, congregants, school-mates, crew-mates or any situation that brings humans or other organisms together. This interrelationship is underscored by complexities and resources (logistics and technologies). In order to have sustainable public health the way we manipulate the resources has to be in such a way that we are able to promote accessibility and use. This in turn promotes and is supposed to uphold health at individual and community level (public). Examples of the resources or agency include:  the people; the environment; clean water supply systems, infrastructure and various objects we use to improve or maintain a quality long life for ourselves and earth.

There is a link between practices, individual, public, resources, vigilance (or lack thereof), continued awareness, continued reporting of what needs to be addressed and a motivation to uphold health. The good habits in form of a readiness to work with communities; intelligence to analyze needs; problem-solving skills; readiness to listen to others; readiness to provide guidance that brings about change or addresses needs; ability to communicate with others as well as self provides the critical readiness by all to engage in activities that promote Public Health. Public Health calls for community mobilization, community involvement and community accountability.

Introduced to good old farmer’s Spicy and syrupy Rural Texan Cooking

 I am a new person who recently came to stay in the United States of America. I come from Uganda and there, food is so central to our socialization, reward, recognition and care. It is not uncommon for a child who misbehaves to be warned he or she may miss a meal or two. Many a children have been brought back into line by just that threat. I was not spared this as well! Fast forward, I came to USA and had the opportunity to live with Selwyn Jones from Texas (born and bred, he would add every time we talked about Texas and particularly Houston of 1930s/1940s). Selwyn Jones, told me about how he grew up in their home and very large farm. He shared with me how they would wake up earlier and sleep late. He told me he enjoyed the different chores of the farm. He loved the animals mostly and he would spend most of his time with the horses, cattle, pigs (he called them hogs), geese and chicken. But most of all he loved the heavy meals. He told me that dinner in Texas was a meal taken at noon! Food and eating began the discussions on meals, feeding and food preparation between his culture and my culture.

Selwyn liked opera, flower arranging, drama, music, debating, visiting the museums and eating out. He came to live in San Francisco after World War II. He taught Calligraphy and Art at Berkeley University and exhibited his works in different cities of the World. He was a very good cook too. He enjoyed mixed vegetable and fruit salads. With time I was able to tell which vegetables, fruits and spices were best for the sauces/ soups I prepared. I was thinking back to the kind of cooking we did in Africa. Among the many types of preparations, Selwyn liked the “Ganda” sauce broth (he called it the casserole), especially when I put sweet corn in it. I would prepare a stock of this and it would last for a week or two. I made sure I had enough to last us that time. I would also invite friends over, who liked to sample African foods, and prepare it for them.
I always wonder why this particular broth is the darling of many. I always look forward to the involved preparation that makes it enjoyable. It is mostly vegetable or fruits that make up the bulk of the food. This makes it a universal food. See the recipe below. You too can try at home.

GANDA SAUCE BROTH (Chicken or Beef))
Make five (5) servings
3 cups of water                                                
4 tablespoons butter or margarine
¼-teaspoon sea-salt
2 fingers of plantain
½ pound peanuts/ Ground-nuts
½ Pinto beans
¼-pound Lettuce or Cucumber
¼-pound Broccoli
¼ fish
¼ chicken or beef (if chicken, it gets to be the chicken broth!)
¼ gram of each of these spices: Basil, thyme, ginger, vanilla, sweet roots, Musizi...
1 pound of red onions
¼ pound of green leaf onions
1 pound of tomatoes
½ pound of Irish potatoes/Sweet potatoes
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit!
Pill banana plantain
Pill the potatoes
Cut the onions and pound them to make dough
Cut the leafy onions
Cut the lettuce or cucumber
Cut the tomatoes
Crush the peanuts into smaller pieces
Get the Soaked beans after one day soaking (previous day activity!)
Add the potatoes in the heating 2 cups of water in a large saucepan, cook until soft. Cook the plantain until it is ready and then take both off the stove. Pound the potatoes and add one tablespoon of butter. Put in oven for 30 minutes. After, get it out and put the rings of plantain on top of the potatoes. Return in oven for 10 minutes. Take them out and let them cool.
In a frying pan, put the remaining butter and allow it to heat up to 200 degrees F. Add onions and fry them, add tomatoes, add fish, chicken or beef (cut into very small pieces), fry for 30 minutes and add salt. Let is cook for 30 minutes and add spices as well as 1 cup of water now. Add the beans and peanuts. Let them cook for 40 minutes. Cover this. It is now called stock. Do not stir! Reduce the heat to 60 degrees F. Let it cook for 20 minutes. Around this time, the water has decreased. Serve in next few minutes when ready.