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The Scarlet & Black

Afro food boxes provide students with global cuisine

Chiri Mutwol `22 cooks delicious African food in her kitchen. Contributed by Chiri Mutwol ’22.

By Marcus Cassidy

Sometimes the weekend offerings at the Dining Hall don’t live up to students’ taste. In the throes of hunger, Grinnellians are able to look off campus for other options. Afro food boxes cooked and sold by Chiri Mutwol `22 have provided a cultural exchange for students seeking to experience authentic African food this semester.

After a first round of boxes at the beginning of the semester, Mutwol’s Afro food boxes returned last weekend. Mutwol spent Saturdays preparing authentic African cuisine. Despite studying abroad and remaining off campus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mutwol returned to Grinnell College after at the beginning of this spring after a two-year absence, seeking to expand her entrepreneurial goals through her cooking.

“Grinnell is lacking in terms of diverse food options to begin with, so I was like, let’s see how it goes,” said Mutwol.

The Afro food box menu consists of chicken, plantains and jollof rice, which is a mixture of vegetables, long-grain rice and meat. Mutwol has also previously offered vegetarian options, which come in the form of a chickpea stew entree and plantains. The menu was primarily decided through an open poll to gauge interest and potential preferences.

“I got feedback from the students who have been ordering and they’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, the food was great.’ So it’s really nice to see how students are appreciating the service,” Mutwol said.

Because of the hustle and bustle of midterms, the next round of Afro food box sales will tentatively return following spring break. Mutwol usually makes the boxes on Saturday morning to customers’ individual specifications. Orders are usually accepted until the preceding Friday, and students can either pay in cash or through mobile payment services like Venmo.

Despite primarily flying solo, Mutwol does actively use her friends and peers as resources in improving her business, opening the door for future additions to the menu.

“I’m thinking of masala chai because it’s a very popular drink in Kenya that you can’t get every single day. I’m sure people would enjoy a hot drink, especially when it’s cold outside,” said Mutwol.

Access to certain ingredients presents a unique complication to different recipes. The town of Grinnell only has four notable grocery stores: Walmart, Hy-Vee, Fareway and McNally’s. Walmart is the only nearby supplier of plantains, while long-grain rice is completely inaccessible in town. With a lack of essential ingredients like habanero peppers, there are certain creative solutions required to ensure the quality of the boxes. “I would like to go to Des Moines. There’s an African food store that I could get like proper spices that are hot or curry that’s more pure and would have more intense flavors.” said Mutwol.

Mutwol’s business ventures are a part of a growing community of students who’ve used their cultural cuisine to increase campus engagement. Whether it comes in the form of boba tea or meals at the International Dinner held in the Harris Center this past weekend, students are continuing to express their cultures and identities through their food.

“It’s somewhat forming a community in a way. It’s a cool thing to share in retrospect of everything that goes on in campus,” said Mutwol.


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