of the children must get by on only two feedings a day because mothers who work in the fields have no time to boil batches of gruel throughout the day. The children therefore get fed only in the morning and evening when the rest of the family's food is prepared.

A tragic irony is thus becoming apparent. Although the gruels are too thin, the porridges the mothers are cooking for the rest of the family would be satisfactory except for one fact: they are too thick to be swallowed by an infant. A stiff porridge is useless to anyone who cannot eat solids.

What can be done? The answer, the nutritionists now say, is to take a small part of the adults' thick porridge and change its consistency so any child can "drink" it. How? By the age-old African methods of malting or fermenting (see Appendix C). Both procedures break up boiled starch so that it collapses into smaller saccharides, including sugars, and releases the water that keeps it thick.

For the rest of the world, malting and fermenting are not everyday household operations, but in Africa they are. Indeed, these two processes are probably better known at the household level in Africa than anywhere else in the world. Both techniques require only a minimum of equipment and appear to be good ways to turn stiff starchy porridges into liquid weaning foods.2

MALTED FOODS

Given what is currently available in an African village, probably nothing can compare with malting as a means for carrying rural babies across the nutritional abyss between mother's milk and adult foods. The previous appendix discussed malted grains and the potential they offer in and of themselves. Here, however, we discuss another side of these versatile materials: their use as culinary catalysts for modifying starchy foodstuffs. This is a process all but unknown to most people, but it is by far the biggest use of malted grains and is conducted all over the world. It is, in short, the vital first step in making beer and whisky.

Perhaps because of this association, malting has been saddled with a somewhat seedy reputation. But it is a simple, safe process that produces no alcohol and should be more widely used and better known to cooks everywhere.

In Africa, malting has a special promise. Two of the native staples—finger millet and certain sorghums—are rich in the malting enzymes (amylases) that break down complex starches. To liquefy even the

2  

Although germination of cereals is mainly associated with the preparation of local beers, there are a few examples of this procedure being used to prepare local weaning foods with low dietary bulk.



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