In a part of central Africa that is in the highlands of present-day Uganda, Sir Baker was forced, in the mid-19th Century, to await the resolution of politically motivated delays before he could continue his search for the source of the Nile.
During this delay we again find him using his time in explaining local food processing techniques and ways to enhance them. In this case, milk.
My cow that I had received from Kamrasi [a local king in what is now Uganda] gave plenty of milk, and every second day we were enabled to make a small cheese about the size of a six-pound cannon-shot.
The abundance of milk made a rapid change in our appearance; and Kisoona, although a place of complete “ennui,” was a delightful change after the privations of the last four months. Every week the king sent me an ox and a quantity of flour [either maize, sorghum or millet] for myself and people, and the whole party grew fat.
We used the milk native fashion, never drinking it until curdled;–taken in this form it will agree with the most delicate stomach, but if used fresh in large quantities it induces biliousness. [Milk is similarly drunk here in Burundi; traditional wooden milk containers for holding curdled milk are shown in the picture:
The young girls of thirteen and fourteen that are the wives of the king are not appreciated unless extremely fat–they are subjected to a regular system of fattening in order to increase their charms; thus at an early age they are compelled to drink daily about a gallon of curdled milk, the swallowing of which is frequently enforced by the whip; the result is extreme obesity. [This practice is still found today in parts of Africa.]
In hot climates milk will curdle in two or three hours if placed in a vessel that has previously contained sour milk. When curdled it should be well beaten together until it assumes the appearance of cream; in this state, if seasoned with a little appearance of cream; in this state, if seasoned with a little salt, it is most nourishing and easy of digestion. The Arabs invariably use it in this manner, and improve it by the addition of red pepper. The natives of Unyoro [part of current-day Uganda] will not eat red pepper, as they believe that men and women become barren by its use.
… The butter [that was locally produced] was invariably packed in a plantain leaf, but frequently the package was plastered with cow dung and clay, which, when dry, formed a hard coating, and protected it from the air; this gave it a bad flavour, and we returned it
Source: The Albert N’Yanza, Great Basin of the Nile And Explorations of the Nile Sources. by Sir Samuel W. Baker, M.A., F.R.G.S. Gold Medallist of the Royal Geographical Society.
Indigenous cattle of central Africa are of the Ankole breed – then and also today. While they give little milk, they are highly resistant to a number of tropical diseases and parasites – a factor more important in the long run, than giving large quantities of milk. This is a trade-off that many organizations and researchers who are involved in livestock improvement activities just haven’t fully appreciated. This is just not the Northern Hemisphere.