ugali, mealie pap, pap, nshima, nsima, sadza - all different words for a similar concept throughout east and south africa. this (typically) cornmeal mush serves a unique purpose beyond filling your tummy: it is also your spoon. a technique, which is NOT as easy as it may seem, perfected certainly through much time spent living in east africa, is taking a small handful of this very thick mush and kneading it into a mini ladle of sorts. you then skillfully dip it into the accompanying stew or vegetable dish, bringing a nice portion of food with you to your mouth - without spilling or streaming the juices down your arm. And of course, there is the skill of making the ugali thick enough not to fall apart as it handles the liquidy food.
try it, really. it's a fun experience, especially if you have toddlers who would prefer to ditch the spoon anyway.
there are numerous variations on ugali, but here's a good base for you:
Pour 1 cup milk into a bowl and slowly whisk in 3/4 cup cornmeal. (I have found recommendations for both using stone ground or coarse and fine ground, and both from reliable "been there, done it" sources. You will have to experiment with both; I started with finer ground assuming it would hold together better.)
Heat 1 cup of water in medium saucepan to boiling, then slowly add the milk/cornmeal paste to it till smooth, reducing the heat to low. Add an additional 1/2 cup cornmeal, stirring frequently. When the mixture begins to pull away from the sides (just a few minutes), remove it from the heat and allow to cool. Roll it into a smooth ball into a serving dish, and serve at room temperature.
Allow guests to "tear off" small pieces, form their ladle, and dip in stew dish. Good stew dishes are Sukuma Wiki, Irio, or Githeri. (Blogs about these to follow...)
...and goodnight to the old lady whispering "hush".