By Bernard Wainaina
If there’s any secret in eating cow hooves
popularly known as “Gumboots” here in Kenya, then many men of approximately 35years and above yearn for it the most.
In very rare cases will you find a woman ordering for “Gumboots” unless she is in company of a middle aged male “chaperon”.. While at Choma Zone joint in Ongata Rongai, in Ngong, one of the places where one can find this delicacy, you will hardly find any youth in their 20s ordering for it, unless it is on doctor’s orders.
“Gumboots” looks like a piece of fat on a hollow bone.
It is also not a meal you will enjoy using a
fork or chop sticks, but rather your hands.
You might only need a spoon to scoop soup from the bowl.
On one Sunday evening, at Choma Zone, a joint I frequent with friends, middle aged men dressed in T-shirts and sandals form most of the crowd.
And mind you,these middle aged Kenyan men are very wealthy judging from their very patronising demeanour and the type of high end cars that they drive into this joint.
I’ve deliberately pointed this trivial detail to disabuse my readers that “Gumboots” is delicacy for the ‘poor patrons’ who want to save on a cheap dish so that they can afford one more bottle of beer.
A few women go to this place.
I’m in good company of my wealthy clients who runs a string of agribusinesses in Karen,Nairobi County.
To take my order, a female light skinned plump chef,known around here by her men patrons fondly as ‘Chiru’ approaches me asking which part of the cow leg I want. Confused, I tell her to bring a piece with fine meat.
She labours to explain that there are different
parts viz “Mahungu” (the hoof), the joint and the pipe.
I get to learn that most people prefer “Mahungu”,the lowest part of the hoof, to any
After enjoying my meal that came with pieces of
steamed banana plaintains, she came to clear the table.
I asked her what it takes to prepare “Gumboots” at home for my partner,Daisy,as a surprise for her Easter treat.
“She may not appreciate it. Women do like these crazy hooves that you middle aged men seem to relish so much”. She retorts,catching me off guard by her sincere observation.
“But she liked it,last time we were here. You served us,remember?”
“That was only meant to caress your delicate ego as a man. Listen,if you want to surprise her “pleasantly”,fry her some potato chips and chicken,and add a lot of Ketch-up,dear man. That’s what we girls like”. She sums up her golden advice with a nice and victorious trot away from my table,or is it seductive?
I’m not sure,but ‘chiru’ has left me more intrigued by her honest and unsolicited advice.
I’m in a funny muse pondering this turn of events as I watch her gigantic derriere swinging on her slender hips as if it had a life of its own.
Sometimes,I find women more beautiful when they are “walking away” from me.
Its a sight to behold,especially in those who are endowed with a massive butt on slender hips,like ‘Chiru’.
Anyway,Chiru is back at my table with a pencil and legal yellow memo pad.
She lowers herself seductively at an opposite chair and hands me down the pencil and the yellow memo pad.
“Write this recipe down for yourself,and please don’t go try to poison your girlfriend with this trash that you men like”;
Recipe for “Gumboots” a.k.a cow hooves.
To prepare “Gumboots”, you need the following:
•Two onions, leeks
•One big green paper
•One big carrot
•A pinch of salt
•Small onion leaves and a teaspoon of black pepper or other spice and salt.
•Roast the hided cow hoof over a direct low flame to remove the fur.
•Ensure you do not burn the hooves to charcoal texture!.
•Gently scrape the remaining fur and parts that may have burnt. Cut the hoof into pieces of a
•Soak in water for about 30 minutes.
•Drain and place in a saucepan.
•Add water and salt and boil for about an hour.
•Add the garlic, leeks, carrot, onion and leave to
simmer on slightly low fire until the soup reduces.
•Add a few pieces of peeled whole Irish potatoes and simmer until Irish is cooked but
Add black pepper and serve.
If the “Gumboots” is from for a younger cow, cook it for four hours, unlike for an old cow that takes six to eight hours .
First roast it so that the fur gets burnt and it is easy to scrap off the skin. After, chop it into the
desirable number of pieces.
“The common mistake that people who prepare it at home do is to fry “Gumboots”. This dilutes or spoils natural nutrients,” she points out.
The waitress asks me if I want to buy some materials for my partner to start cooking it from home but I’m honest that I’m single,most of the times,except over the coming long Easter weekend.
She laughs at me and advises that if I ever
get married, “Gumboots” should be prepared well so that the consumer enjoys all nutrients.
Why others enjoy this delicacy
I shift to the next table where a patron who
identifies himself as Charles Onyi, a resident
of neighbouring Langata sub-urb sits isolated at a distance from where football screens are.
As he sips on beer while waiting for the waitress to take away the dirty plates, I engage him in a chat.
He admits that he enjoys “Gumboots” every evening and in rare cases at lunch time.
“To me, “gumboots” is more than food it is a source of bone marrow that helps in lubricating joints such as knees and elbows,” Onyi explains.
Asked if the sticky fat is of any harm to the body, he explains that when one takes alcohol and develop hangover, the fats help to neutralise the hangover and one feels refreshed after taking “Gumboots” accompanied by its resulting hot soup.
While a first time consumer may only eat the top
soft part of the hoof and throw away the bones, Onyi advises inside the hollow bones is where the most important bone marrow that lubricates body joints is.
“It may not be scooped using hands or a fork but when the consumer holds the bone and sucks it out, they get it all out,” he stresses.
After about a 10-minutes- chat, he excuses himself to go and attend to other duties.
Another patron Robert Mukabi joins me.
He is a fairly tall and old man who is relishing the “Gumboots” side by side with a bottle of beer while watching football.
When his team misses a goal scoring opportunity, he almost forgets about his plate holding a bite on his fingers for what seems like long silent eternity, but seconds later, he resumes eating.
I divert his attention from the pain of watching his favourite team being humiliated on the TV screen to ask what secret he finds in eating “Gumboots” as I sip on a glass of water.
Robert does not hesitate to explain that when a person is low on food appetite, “Gumboots” soup does not only stimulate appetite
but works as a stomach cleanser.
“This soup detoxifies the stomach and leaves one feeling healthier than before,” he beams while explaining.
He adds, “It is also good for aging people. As we grow old, we tend to develop constant back pain.
So when someone begins to experience such a
problem and he or she takes “Gumboots” constantly, they may heal for good,” explaining further that it is food that someone can never get tired of and that it also helps in preventing constipation.
Then he surprises me by adding with a mischievous chuckle; “Mind you,it does wonders for areas around the crotch when one is as old as I am,and the missus is demanding home advantage “replay matches” in the bedroom!”
“Watch yourself this evening. You will bubbling hot in bed with your partner!”
I then go to a spot at Visa place Park next to Uchumi Super market,Ongata Rongai Branch at an enclosed construction site.
down town “Ronga” where people mostly those
retiring home from work pass by to feast on
“Gumboots”, it is no secret that the people there also enjoy it.
One by one, on benches positioned next to the
building people are served depending on how
much they want until the saucepan runs dry at
Here, some customers are known to ‘Chiru’ who prepares “Gumboots” at Choma Zone. They call out her out on the phone for “outside catering service” since they have depleted the local stock in this joint,
She is able to understand who is calling her on the phone as this is a regular practice among her patrons when they move to other beer joints and what and how they want their evening meal served.
This happens as I look on, seated with Rogers
, a businessman and my treasured client in agribusiness.
As he holds a piece o “Gumboots” in the right hand and the other holding a bowl with few pieces of steamed banana plaintains, I’m
sipping on a cup of black tea and eating a chapatti, not because I do not have the Shs3,00 for “Gumboots”, but because my eating plan excludes having another heavy meal after 7pm.
“That food looks tasty,” I tell Rogers who is
enjoying his meal.
He is quick to respond that he learnt how to enjoy “Gumboots” from a friend about two years ago.
Though he eats it once a week, he is not shy to explain that alongside other benefits it
also increases his sexual performance.
Health experts say…
Madison Maara, a physiotherapist at Orthotech
and Physical Rehabilitation Centre, at Equatorial Hospital in Nairobi, says when you get proteins in the synovial fluids found in the joints and compare it with what you get from eating “Gumboots”, the latter is more important because it mainly targets the joints where it contributes to joint lubrication and softening.
“If a human joint was getting dry and a person takes “Gumboots”, the joint regains its
performance,” Maara notes.
In the process of boiling “Gumboots”, the calcium and phosphates composed in the bones transfers to the soup, and when one takes the soup, Maara says, the minerals help in strengthening and hardening of bones.
On how often one should eat “Gumboots”, he
explains that in case of osteorthritis, a
degenerative disease that one contracts as a result of the wear and tear of joint tissues which is common among people with reduced amounts of calcium in their joints, “gumboots” is a healthy remedy.
He advises that a person with such a condition
should take “Gumboots” twice a week.
However, its fatty quality may pose risks such as
fat accumulation in blood vessels and around the heart that causes hypertension.
Maara advises that after eating it, one should subject themselves to regular exercises like jogging to burn the fats.
And in a situation of a positive rheumatoid factor, a condition where the joint proteins become reactive or incompatible to the proteins in “Gumboots” which may sometimes lead to the swelling of the knee, it is recommended that the affected person should either limit protein intake or identify what causes the swelling commonly referred to as “Gout”.
Then, he or she can stop eating that particular food, be it “Gumboots” especially if the condition happened when the person has eaten it for the first time.
Cost of the delicacy
Depending on where one buys it, which could
either be at a restaurant, hotel or a bar in places
adjacent or within Nairobi City, a piece of
“Gumboots”served with steamed or
roast matooke(Banana plaintains) it costs between Shs2,500 and Shs6,000.
From the market and butcheries in Ongata Rongai Town, a cow leg costs between Shs 4,00 and Shs 8,00.
It is then chopped into hooves, the join
and the pipe.
At Visa Place Park in Rongai, I had to part with
Shs4,00 for a piece served with steamed banana plaintain.
In some cases where it may stay overnight without being eaten, ‘Chiru’ advises that it’s better to separate the soup from the “Gumboot” pieces; because it is likely to cause food poisoning.
Well,go on and have some “Gumboots” for your Easter Dinner this weekend!
Bernard Wainaina is an Independent Agribusiness Advisor and CEO at Profarms Consultants®,Nairobi,Kenya.
He mainly works with Agribusiness Youth Groups in Eastern African Region.
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