For Cuisine Noir Magazine. September 2018.
Sophia Musoki (who goes by Sophie) is a 24-year-old food blogger from Kampala, Uganda. Her blog, A Kitchen in Uganda is one of the first, if not the only, food blogs that showcases Ugandan cuisine on a global scale. Since its inception in 2014, it has been recognized by CNN African Voices and shortlisted for Saveur Magazine blog awards, and her e-book won the Gourmand World Cooking Award.
Musoki chats with me from Jamaica, where she is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in business management and entrepreneurship at the Northern Caribbean University. I wanted to learn a little more about Ugandan cuisine and how she is setting it up to take the global stage.
Why did you start blogging?
I aspired to cook since I was a young girl. I couldn’t go to culinary school, so I started experimenting with food at home through my blog. In the beginning, it was just meant for me as I discovered creative ways to cook my food. I didn’t expect anyone to read it. I was doing it for my family and friends.
It was only in 2015 when a digital marketer approached me that I started taking my work seriously. He told me that I was the only one doing this in Uganda. I was shocked! I searched for other food bloggers and there was no one else writing about our food. Perhaps because the Internet is expensive here or no one looked at Ugandan food the way I did.
What’s the focus of your food blog?
In the food industry, African food does not show up in mainstream media. Very few people know about Ugandan food, which is influenced by colonial British and Indian immigrants. Ugandan cuisine, compared to other African cuisines, is simpler. We don’t really spice our food that much. We like it simplified. We believe that local ingredients have enough flavor and don’t need much seasoning.
My fellow Ugandans often read food blogs where the recipes call for ingredients we don’t find here. We can get apples and blueberries sometimes, but they are very expensive. To avoid the frustration, in my recipes I use ingredients that an average Ugandan can afford. We have a lot of local and indigenous produce that we can use to make our meals more exciting. Traditional stews, starchy food, posho (ground white cornmeal mixed with water) and soups can be flavored with local mangoes, avocados, oranges and jackfruits.
What does your typical day look like?
Every day is different. Cooking is only 50% of the work in food blogging. I plan the day before what I’m going to cook. On the days when I’m cooking and shooting, I can shoot up to three recipes. Then I schedule my posts out weekly.
I develop recipes for local companies such as Britania, Yo Kuku! and African Wine Traders using their products and earn commissions which help me sustain my blog. I also offer product photography to companies that need image libraries for their products online.
It is a lot of hard work. Often, family members help by holding the dishes (you may have seen their hands in my pictures) or with shopping in the market.
What would your grandmother say about your food blog?
She would be interested. For her generation, food is something they had for survival. There was no allowance for extravagance. It was mostly boiled, steamed or stewed for a quick nutritious meal that allowed you to fill your belly and get back to work.
I still cook traditional simple dishes that she makes, but make them a little more interesting. One of my favorite dishes is katogo, and she makes the best! It literally translates to a mixture of things. You can boil a combination of bananas, tomatoes, groundnuts, cassava or beans in a pot. I just add some ghee and avocados to modernize it.
How do you feel about your success?
It’s humbling because I never expected it to become this big. So, when I receive awards for my blog, it gives me affirmation that I’m doing the right thing. I am also inspiring and mentoring other African food bloggers.
What’s next for you?
Currently I’m working on a new e-book on a dish called rolex, one of my favorite things to grab when I’m working and don’t want to spend a lot. It is a popular local street food which has recently gotten the spotlight. I contributed to a piece on rolex and CNN picked it up, making it a phenomenon. Basically, it is eggs rolled in a chapati, filled with onions, cabbage, kale, meat and tomatoes. I am experimenting with other ways to make it.
What advice can you give to other food bloggers?
Be consistent. Keep doing what you are doing and something might come out of it. Devote time to producing quality work. Sometimes there’s pressure to publish regularly, but it’s more important to have quality. The readers appreciate that more.
~ Written for Cuisine Noir Magazine.