Lydia Mbiyu and Victoria Johnson

Recorded August 27, 2019 Archived August 28, 2019 29:34 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: lsk002222


Lydia Mbiyu (34) shares with her sister and friend, Victoria Johnson (25), some of her childhood experiences and memories of cooking and food. Lydia also discusses how influential her mom and grandmother are to her.

Subject Log / Time Code

LM talks about her mom wanting her siblings to be strong in every regard, as it relates to her culture back in Africa, and that her mom wanted her and her siblings to have diverse roles (non-gendered).
LM talks about how she decided to leave Africa, says that her mother is her hero, and that she was the one who influenced her to come to the USA from Kenya.
LM says “Seattle is like my savannah” and that she finds was to connect with her childhood in Seattle.
LM talks about how her grandmother protected her from getting spanked and describes their special relationship.
VJ asks LM what it’s like to get food in Kenya, and what it’s like when her grandmother cooks. LM says she loves the farmers markets in the US because they remind her of markets in Kenya.
VJ says that in western cultures its quantity not quality that’s valued, and that she thinks that is beautiful.
LM says she appreciates American culture but likes to tweak recipes with her own culture.


  • Lydia Mbiyu
  • Victoria Johnson

Venue / Recording Kit


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00:01 Hi, Victoria Johnson. I'm 25 years old today is August 27th. 2019. My location is Riverfront technical Park in Seattle Washington and my relationship to my partner today is she's my sister coworker and life and travel Guru.

00:24 Hi, my name is Lydia 34 years old and today's date is 827 2019. I'm at Riverfront technical Park in Seattle Washington and relationship to my partner today my sister my co-worker and my food partner in crime.

00:50 So before we started recording we were talking a little bit about you growing up any food and learning how to cook from your mom.

01:01 You really wanted to get that on the recording. So you were saying that your brother did the cooking and the cleaning a you are more.

01:09 Dad about triangular

01:11 Because I have your food and you throw it out and I'm really hungry. Let's go ahead and put prep me up for lunch. Well, I think my mom always hide.

01:25 Wanted us to be strong in every role. You know, our culture back in Africa is more women stay in the kitchen to do laundry. Pretty much two things that man wouldn't do a man would go hunting and in a sit around by the fire and tell stories and drink wine. So my mom just wanted us to have a diverse roll two agendas and just broke that barrier by just making my brother do the women chores doing laundry cooking among other things and I went Harding with my cousins.

02:06 And learned how to hunt.

02:11 And also

02:18 It only happens when cuz when we left we left at 5 in the morning to take the cows and the goats out to the Savannah to find food and

02:30 Yes and beautiful sunrises then.

02:33 And

02:35 We go out.

02:39 Alimony before it gets really hot and you know, we don't have lunch boxes and stuff. So we go out there and if we can find like the wild rabbits to hunt for lunch, we might end up slaughtering one of all goats that is there to eat for you know for lunch and to sustain us during the day in between this we took shifts making sure the animals were together and we would

03:10 Get our day exciting by going swimming into the lakes and we will of course, so I'm naked and under that Hot Scotch sign. It just feels refreshing.

03:24 Yes and majority of the time I never did the hunting but I had the skills because my cousins who are the guys that were bigger? They would hunt like a gazelle?

03:38 For lunch in 02 and it was very fascinating to see how they go about hiding under the grass and look for it and some of them are really good by using a spear and some of them are really good by using a bowl. I was good at using a bowl, but I hunted mostly the wild rabbit.

03:58 Yes.

04:02 She underbares no. Good.

04:10 They hurt.

04:17 The spears are made in a way because the men are very tall. I think there's like almost the height and yeah, so it's almost impossible to get somebody who's 6 feet tall for you to use a woman who's 5 4532. It's a little challenging together distance out there, you know, it's almost like Javelin but no javelin in a way.

04:48 That arm standby just even the arm span that it takes to throw that it's Jurassic Lee different when you're under 5 5.

05:04 Core workout

05:06 Well, I hope I'll be around to see that.

05:12 I'm so jealous, but will still be friends.

05:23 I believe.

05:24 Africa and going swimming and lakes it going hunting with a bow and arrow in your Javelin spear. What was the moment and like that made you decide that?

05:40 Are you wanting to leave?

05:47 I would say majority of the things that I took place in my life during that time have been highly influenced by my mom. My mother has been my hero. She continues to be my hero my inspiration to where I am right now and she felt that at one point it was nothing.

06:13 Does not so much growth for me and

06:18 A friend of my mom a childhood friend of my mom's daughter came to Kenya Graham from and she was visiting for some time and she got to meet me and she told my mother your daughter is very smart and you know, if she lived like we can she could have better life out of Kenya and she could make something out of herself, you know, I go to school and get more education.

06:49 And I just very challenging and hard to just pack my bags and leave but my mom has always told me the sky's the limit. You can always leave any can always come back home. No matter what my arms are always open for you and

07:07 I got on that plane and my little brother said I'm not going to let her go by herself. She needs to have somebody there who's looking out for her and we found ourselves here and

07:21 I've never had any regrets.

07:32 All of my family is in the Southern United States and when I decided to move to Washington State I got there. Are you crazy? Even though they totally that the same thing, you know sky's the limit but my mom and my dad were very big on reminding me if worse comes to worse. And if one day you just can't you don't want to be there anymore. You can always come home nor arms will always be open and I feel like in a way it

08:05 I don't know how to really describe it. It's not the stamp of approval to fly, but it it's and it's not the safety blanket so much with the capture underneath it. But there's just something really comforting about knowing they want you to succeed and they're going to love you. Even when things out of your control go wrong. You know what I mean, correct? And I think for me I feel like Seattle is a playground in my Savannah and beautiful.

08:37 I have found different ways to find my inner child hold here with the adventures that I go out. And do ya particularly the mountains here, you know, the weather is a little brutal and the winter. I'm not always texting a girl but it's not as harsh as the East Coast so I feel very blessed just going out and pitching out your tent for me just bring so much memories like being at my grandmother's house getting out of her little heart and is a huge bonfire and you can see stars. I feel every time I go out to Camping. I relieve those childhood my mother is and

09:22 Does make me feel really good and not to forget my grandmother another inspirational woman in my life?

09:31 She was feisty now. I know where you get it from in a very good way, you know, she loved and very special and there's a reason why you know, he and dad like to disobey my mother's rules and mom like to spank as we all know kids in Africa get spanked and until right now nobody touch me.

10:06 But at one point I went in Lifted address and went under it so that I couldn't get spanked and my grandmother threatened my mother and told her if you have a heater again, I will spank you too.

10:20 America's black comedy in snow houses

10:25 I know I know so that's very close to my grandma that my grandma.

10:32 Almost always supported my decisions no matter what I did and I think the last wave I gave her when I was at the airport of the hardest wave. In fact, I remember crying even more

10:50 Hot when I was hugging and crying more than I was crying hugging. My mom said don't love my mom but there's something special about a Grandma's love you. No matter I think who you were to hug. Like if you hug your brother that hug would be painful and have different it would be love nonetheless. But there's so many different levels and language is so many unspoken moments that can just be communicated through like a simple hug or are just communicated through and I love you. So. To wake up at but the other interesting fact about my grandmother. I think the best times were

11:31 During Christmas and during Easter. Those are the big holidays. We celebrate in Kenya. We would all get packed up as cousins go back to my grandmother in the country and you could be a whole day Johnny ordeal which is very fascinating because we need like a whole day or so, I grew up on the island in the coastal area called Mombasa sounds beautiful. It is very beautiful white sandy beaches, very refreshing coconuts fruit stands of mangoes all over the place. You can have anything passion fruit salad at not interrupt you but I really think we should probably go check out fights after this I need donation. Let's let's go let's go. Let's go visit your mom if she'll Hostess China, but yeah, we were each of us cousins and all age difference is 1 or so far and

12:30 This way from my mom's side all of my aunts and uncles the kids. We would all get packed up into what we call a matter to which is I would say like the minivan. Okay. Well, you know people hop on it and pay money and you get transported to your distance and if you need it to stop we had no special way like in America you pull a string for the basket of you just bang on the window and the driver just pulled over and you get off.

13:07 And the young man sometimes would try to impress the girls by trying to get off when before the bus would stop completely which is very fascinating almost like acrobats was that trying to get off the bus. So this was a fascinating things that we would see on our way to a grandmother and once you leave the island you get to the country. It's a whole different scenario. So that the time will you see somebody with a big bag of potatoes they get into them this matter to they sit on their seat and they have a bag of potatoes on their lap and maybe a chicken on top of the bag of potatoes and then they could throw a goat app on the carry-on on top of the bus and life seems to be good.

13:54 And maybe one day you'll see if they could be a little piglet there. So music would have animal sounds on our way to grandmother.

14:04 It is very much. Okay, just for the things I miss, you know, sometimes almost No Boundaries when you get into those situations because as a young girl, you would sit down I would tend to stand up for older people so they can see it. It's a respectful thing we do.

14:27 And at one point, I remember somebody just tossed sheep on my legs and I just as Americans say wrong way and it was very fascinating by the time we left the island and we go to my grandmother. Maybe it was dusk. Yeah, I think that's the late hour right down the stairs. Desk. And by the time we get there, we were as dirty as nobody's business Dusty we were tired by the biggest thing was my grandmother always waited for us with her Open Arms to haggis and to feed us and to say all my grandkids are here. I bet you're tired and she would feed us this wonderful meal that she had been cooking for the last

15:24 Couple of days 3 or 4 days 3 or 4 days. She would slaughter a chicken and a goat and utopiafest.

15:35 So

15:37 That's fascinating and I I love that. So what is preparing a meal like in Africa cuz here you know, we are like I got to go to the grocery store and we buy everything like pre-packaged. So and then we're looking at how much how much does this way? Or you know, how many pounds of this? What is it? Like, what was it like when your grandmother cut?

16:07 So for my grandmother, she lived in a we have markets and I think for me I'm always excited here with the farmers market cuz it relates will back at home when I go to the market and buy fresh fruits fresh vegetables herbs. I think you America they say we call them spices.

16:42 So for my grandmother, she grew majority of this plants and vegetables be on her phone. So she really never had to go to the market at all. And the only time she'll go to the market would be once in a while. You could go to the market to buy meat but she barely did that. She had so many chickens almost 200 chickens. I know you know and like and she was out in the country. So yeah, she's out in the country and she grew Maize corn corn. Thank you. She grew tomato City Gear in True Green College Cruz peanut. She Drew cabbage sauerkraut looking for fights after this cracked, correct? And that's how she basically would get her day going in terms of cooking. We didn't have this fancy Johnny's seasoning salt and all that.

17:42 Normal salt and she would get some.

17:48 I don't know what to call them in English, but

17:53 I'm looking for the word. My apologies. I lost almost like spices, you know and from different kind of trees, you know, almost like Mendocino but use them to flavor the food, you know, like she would put a shoe boil meat and then put a specific back of a tree in there and it would add so much his name never flavors, which is amazing and then next thing, you know, she ain't drinking it a soup and it's actually more healthy for you because it's

18:31 It's natural right and I haven't got sick now and I think of it soup and I was talking to somebody and I think they're from Kenya. They might not be but we were just talking about just like how the fruits and vegetables and meats. Like there's just so much hormones that are put in food in America or given to the animals. And so it never really disappears. I could just kind of keeps going with whoever consumes the last thing that consumed it. So with meat particularly

19:16 They're giving them like these different growth hormones, and I'm imagining how you probably didn't get sick and you probably like I don't know. You're probably just fine. But here where we have this fear that we are not even fear of it. The bigger it is the better. And so we look at quantity not quite quality and everything. You've described just sounds such like a quality moment and turns it like living in an eating and being around people versus majority of or not majority, but in some instances, especially in like westernize culture, we don't Valley that we value quantity in terms of like how long is it going to take for me to eat? I only have 10 minutes before I have to run to my next meeting. So I have to start this down or what's something that's fast with something that's not going to require a lot of effort vs. You blessed. Are you describing your grandmother? She made food for several days. Like there was no quantity put on that. It was just how do I prepare quality meal or how do I adjust even prepare a meal for the people that I love?

20:17 And I know who played so beautifully what's mesmerizing is we didn't have she didn't have a fridge but because of what what else is to bind off cook the phone. It doesn't go bad. I know the different kind of like she would

20:37 Put some leaves which I don't even know what the names is as she would say. This is good and it's like okay and you know, it just kept you know, like how people marinate meat marinating this food by the sad day when you eating this food. It's so good. You're like a restaurant-quality, you know, and that's why I started having my passion to cook and I told my grandmother mom wants to teach me how to cook yet cuz I'm doing the boys are hurting and grown since then and I never had that fear to cook I think because I love it so much. Yeah, I tend to keep being creative and

21:26 Yeah, I enjoy cooking and that's where it came from.

21:30 Man, I don't have the patience to pack I get irritated. That's why it's a good balance sister. I know so you're talking about Mead and I have to bring up more. So your partner is vegan, correct? Why did she say you said correct? Like I'm so how has your cooking salad changed?

21:59 It does actually it's not change. So tremendously the thing is even before meeting. My partner has never been such a big meat eater because

22:12 Grew up eating more vegetables and more fruits meat was almost like a special occasion that said I think now when I mix my traditional My Tribe where I'm from where I can from when I look at the modern day today and knowing the health risks and all that kind of makes me feel good. It's like I already knew that meat is not so good for me. But also its I also understand the reason behind why people eat it then, you know, you have no choice and yeah, man figured out that this plant is edible in this plant is poison as you know, and and stuff like that, but

23:03 Actually, I become a better Chef, you know of elevated my cooking so much elevated be with what I produce at the end of the meal. She like getting all every single piece how to make plantains the other day. How do you even like function after that? I feel like I would just fine the couch and I wouldn't move well, oh, but then that also I wonder if that I don't want to say how to phrase this. I wonder if we eat less and it's heavier versus yours is maybe a little bit lighter and isn't weighed down with

23:54 Butter and fat in margarine and all the awful things and hormones so you can eat more of it and then plus I've noticed that it takes a little bit more to keep you full. I do apologize for any vegans who listen to this. I'm sorry if I have offended you in any way shape or form.

24:14 Now yeah, sorry go ahead. And I really feel like I have a side on top. I'm not much of a Beer Drinker or maybe a glass of wine to wash it down and some fries. I do feel like I'm about to go to a food, You won't believe this. I just had my plantain lunch and I'm feeling like I could run a marathon. I did not feeling wait wait down. I think different techniques of cooking May influence the quantity of the phone to an X over easy fried cap. Is it baked or broiled Grill? Do you know so, you know, I love food in general and I'm not saying I don't need help I guess cuz I do but I do kind of different twisting. I do appreciate the

25:15 American culture that I'm able to tweak recipes and influence my own

25:23 Food for my country and make it an amazing meal. Like I've been to people's potlucks and I beat bring Good carry given Ben my potluck brought me go.

25:46 I brought this carrot to a potluck and he was gone before anybody else's phone. I didn't even.

25:51 So and you know people make pool pool park, and I'd let you know when I Sweet Pork it I love that but we don't use slow cooking methods in you know in an electrical plug in it's more like and banana leaves and Cole's any cooks for a long time. So it's just a modern technique in a traditional technique. But you know, I think the flavors of the traditional techniques a more powerful because you using plants in your stocking this moisture out of this Banana Leaf, which gives you more nutrients, you know, and all that so,

26:37 That's why I want to buy a smoker. And if anybody out there once to get me one, I'll be very happy for my Christmas or like a small one that got a cubby like what kind of slow you feel getting a smoker you better go because I love to cook and I have some friends that I really want to entertain and cook and you're one of them. I think if I get a big smoker you told the south side of me while it's of the community. Well that I'll be feeling which is my friends and my family that I've created hear your sandals in your linen pants and a little Fedora like actually I'm looking for to come and cook in your housing, you know your new home and we can get that African smelling in there somehow, you know, I think that'll be fun.

27:37 That'll be so good.

27:40 So now this food talk got me hungry again.

27:47 Well, you're going to have to make sure we take care of you and make sure you get some good lunch after this.

28:03 And she gave us a whole kiwi skins like 24 things of canned apricots. So I'm going to indulge in those today instead of eating chips. So balanced. I like that. I like that.

28:23 Oh, well, I think that wraps this up. I want to thank you for inviting me and talking to me feel like we've never sat down to like really talk about you like we talked about like where you are, but we've never talked about where you come from and it's such a rewarding experience to be able to like learn more about you and the things you love and the people who love to help you love others.

28:51 Thank you for having me and I

28:55 I am grateful, you know for you being my friend and my sister must and I hope we continue this.

29:05 And

29:08 I can't ask for a better audience and also want to thank curly and John for holding it down with the equipment and the star Victoria who did an amazing interview with me. So I'm very grateful and thank you for the opportunity.