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Who Knew What a ‘Butternut’ Is?


As I began weaning Kitty, one of the foods that was ranked highly among the first foods to wean baby with was butternut.

Now, I didn’t know what butternut was. What I thought butternut was, was a kind of nut. And not an ordinary kind of nut. By ordinary kind of nut I mean the usual nuts that you and I are used to –such as njugu karanga, coconuts or macadamia nuts. But because I had never heard of butternut, I thought it was in the same family of almonds, chest nuts, hazel nuts, pistachio nuts, pine nuts, walnuts etcetera etcetera. The kinds of nuts that are found in those upmarket shopping stores, malls and grocery stores located in the leafy suburbs.

The weaning information I reviewed talk so highly of butternut, but because butternuts were out of my immediate reach, I swiftly moved on to weaning Kitty on foodstuffs that were locally available and within my reach.

So one day while I was passing time twiddling my thumbs waiting for someone within the precints of a shopping mall in the neighborhood, I strolled into a supermarket and began window shopping. And as I was doing so, I spotted a small jar of food and on it was a label written ‘butternut’. And it was selling at Ksh 50. Alas! How lucky was I? Whatever nut this butternut stuff was, here it was –in a very local supermarket and at a pocket friendly price! Yaaaay!

So I quickly picked one jar and made a mental note that if Kitty took to the butternut well, I would dash back to the supermarket and clear the shelf of all butternut, lest they run out of stock or the prices suddenly go up.

So when I got home, I didn’t give him the butternut just yet. I kept waiting for a good time to serve him this exotic food. I wanted it to be at a time when I was home and had all the time to concentrate and read the label carefully (because it had a long list of nutritional contents mentioned), then give him a taste, and watch out for his reaction. Most likely on an easy Sunday morning.

For two weeks I didn’t touch it because I was always busy over the weekends and I didn’t want distractions while introducing this new food with such a lovely sounding name to Kitty.

Now, I usually buy my groceries from a small kibanda near home, and while the vendor is slicing up my vegetables, we usually engage in the usual idle banter that Kenyans like when there is nothing to talk about. Politics is the most popular topic at such times, and if you want to create conversation, just start a sentence with: Raila, Ruto, Kibaki, Kalonzo, Uhuru, Syokimau….and the tongues will wag endlessly.

So anyway, on this day I didn’t feel like talking politics with the vendor, and so as he was slicing the spinach, I took one of the fruits that I had always seen but had never known it’s name.

Me: Na sasa hii ndio fruit ndio munaitanga nini?

Him: Hiyo ni butternut.

The mind is a really funny thing I tell you. It can really play tricks on your psychology. Just because I had been preoccupied and dreaming about butternut in recent days, now I was also hearing my own things.

Me: Ati inaitwanga?

Him: Hiyo inaitwa butternut. Kwanza ni mzuri sana kwa katoto ka miezi sita hivi.

As he was finishing the sentence, my jaw was almost dropping to the ground and my heart was now beating very fast.

Me: Ati inaitwanga nini tena?

Him: (now getting impatient) Haiya kwani huamini? Si ni butternut!

I collapsed.

When I came to (in my mind that is), I asked him: Na unaiuzanga aje?

Him: Ni 30 bob.

You’ve got to be kidding me. I was very confused. Why?

First, the butternut is no nut at all. Kumbe butternut is malenge! Ala!

Secondly, I have been seeing that ‘fruit’ everywhere there are vegetable vendors, but I had always assumed it’s this kind of strange fruit that I wasn’t interested in trying. I always thought it was a kind of watermelon or soft coconut something like that.

Thirdly, it was 30 bob? The tiny butternut jar I had in the house was for 50 bob, and this 30 bob one could make 4 times of that jar. As in the quantity of that 50 bob jar was equivalent to 30 bob divide by 4 (I hope I’m making sense though clearly you can tell how well my mathematics grades were in school).

I immediately dashed home, prepared the butternut and fed it to Kitty. And he loves it lots!

Butternut squashOh well, I’m learning new things day by day. Some of them the most obvious things that are not so obvious afterall. The good thing though about this whole experience is that Kitty gets to eat butternut that is all freshly prepared. And most importantly -is friendly on my wallet!

Meanwhile, the commercially packed butternut in the small jar still remains unopened.  Your guess on whether I will give it to Kitty is as good as mine.

© Photographer: Sarsmis | Agency: Dreamstime.com



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Maryanne W. Waweru is a Kenyan mum raising her two sons in Nairobi. A journalist, Maryanne is passionate about telling stories and hopes that through her writing, her readers learn something new, feel encouraged, inspired, and appreciative of what they have in their lives. Maryanne's writing focuses on motherhood, women and lifestyle. "Telling stories is the only thing I know how to do," she says.


  1. LOL!You have me rolling on the floor with laughter,at least Kitty enjoys some exotic foods now and not anything out of a small jar.

    Its just a variety of pumpkin with a fancy name but very sweet and nutritious
    Great for adults too add it to mashed potatoes,mukimo too or make butternut soup with soup cream,yum yum yum.

  2. Heheheheheh……pole first time mama….its a great snack for adults too esp if boiled with the skin and left to cool…you can take it with tea 🙂 my munchkin enjoys it too and i use it to sweeten his other not so sweet foods like ndumas and raw bananas 🙂

  3. Butternut… i dont even know who introduced me to it but i know i weaned Renee on it… but be sure i never tasted that food.. ati coz it had malenge!!

  4. Hahahahahahahahahahahaha!
    You know, av always wondered why all mama mbogas have this ‘fruit’.
    Yes, I knew it was malenge but my qn has always been … how comes they all have IT and av never bought IT??? Well, baby is weaning soon and pole pole it started occurring to me that hiiiya … am gnna be buying this sooon.

    But your butternut experience is outta this world … LOL!


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