Kīmengemenge Animal Fat – Gīkūyū Healthiest Fat.

The Gikuyu Woman’s house, Nyumba’s house plan was developed by the simple formula of inserting a square inside a circle.  All the spaces resulting from this sacred union produced all that  was required to accomodate her physical and pychic spatial requirements. The square inside a circle producing one major space, used as the main social space with a hearth at the centre, four major spaces or sides of the square and four  corner niche spaces for a total of nine spaces. With the addition of  the unseen universal space, the “Nine Full Clans”, Kenda Muiyuru, of the Gikuyu tribe were completed.


In one of the niches was housed a fattened ram in an enclosed cage called Gicegu. This ram was never let out and was fed for its entire lifetime inside the fattening pen. It was fed on sweet potato vines hung with a rope and on other kitchen waste like peelings and food stock. It thus would grow famously fat and a woman’s diligence and hard work were measured by the fat it produced when it was finally slaughtered. Many people have queried why the ram was an integral part of the house. Well, it turns out that one of its major functions was as the Nyumba’s FPU or fat production unit.

Unlike ewes, the fattened ram, ndurume ya gicegu, was let to grow a heavy fat tail, that would measure oftentimes over three kilograms. This fatty tail was called kimengemenge. To process the fat from its raw form one had to cut up the fat into small pieces and simply let them fry in a pot until the pieces dry up and float on the oil. Once the fat cools it is transfered into a fat storage container, kinandu kia maguta, and stored in a private store. The dried up pieces, ngarango are eaten once they cool. Wrapped in honey, they will last forever and are food for the gods. This fat was highly valued and formed the main source of fat in the Gikuyu diet. Women would add it into children’s gruel and a favourite was kneading roasted bananas with it into balls, ngumba cia marigu, which were the food of choise for travellers and lunch in the fields. Babies on this turbo-charged gruel and bananas grew exceedingly heavy with smooth and rounded cheeks. They breastfed less to the agony and delight of their mothers. Adults  didn’t grow heavy like the babies but acquired beautiful smooth and shiny skins, spackling eyes and strong bones and teeth. The beautiful trim bodies of the ancients is possible today by reintroducing animal fats into the diet.

What happened?

To chronicle the destruction of the Gikuyu and African diet generally and the wide superhighway to cancer and all the modern diseases that are laying the health of modern Africans to waste would require an entire book. This is a book that would ask you to reconsider eanestly the great loss to our health that has been brought about by the book of civilization. Nyina wa Kariuki is a neighbour of mine at home. By home I mean Nyeri, as in Mukurwe-ini, as in Gakindu, Kwa Mukuyu. Mama Kariuki is now around ninety years old and has been on the Gikuyu diet all her life. She used to be very energetic and could climb the hills like a mountain goat until recently. Her children and grand children in Nairobi and in the diaspora built her a fine stone house with all the modern conveniences of cookers, fridges, microwaves, the works. All because they love her. When I visited her recently, I saw that one of her cabinets, is full of all manner of bottles containing strange medicines from the pharmacy. She asked me to sit in one of those over padded butterfly seats. “Nindarwarire mwana wakwa”, she said. “I got sick my child”, and all the danger signs were there. She is sick from modernity like almost all rural folk nowadays.  She gets a delivery of  20 litres refined vegetable oil from her loving children every month plus many other junk things from the city. You should see these loving children. The men on spindly legs have bellies that look like they have swallowed a traditional water pot, ndigithu, while their wives spot under their arm pits their very own  imengemenge (pr). They are as heavy and hang and sway this way and that way just like the ram’s. The children are what are these days called tunonos or fatties. That is how to know that they are prosperous. They have arrived. Panting.

It is now becoming quite clear to many honest health and nutritional researchers that the road to cancer, diabetes, heart disease et all is paved with refined vegetable oils, double refined for good measure and with zero cholesterol. This is snake oil.  don’t take my word for it but do your own research. Read about butter, margarine, cholesterol, just to start you off. Get yourself away from the ridiculous adverts and simplistic advice of the so-called men and women of the medical profession who are also snake oil salesmen and women for pharmaceutical companies.. Switch off your TV.  Read, read, read! The truth is out there.

Ram with a sizable kimengemenge
Cutting up the raw fat

Frying the fat
The extracted fat
Removing the dry matter – Ngarango
The stored fat before it solidifies
Modern woman
Traditional Gikuyu woman
One way of getting rid of the kimengemenge


abandoning traditional fats for processed oils not a good idea

The oiling of America
Step by step rendering of the fat

9 thoughts on “Kīmengemenge Animal Fat – Gīkūyū Healthiest Fat.

  1. Nindakena muno Mukuyu ni uhoro ucio. What l would like to know is how long this fat would remain in good condition i.e. not going rancid(Oxidation). Was the “kinandu” having any special treatment for the preservation of the oil? Is it the same as “ndigithu”? Reason for these questions is when you store this fat in normal plastic containers even under a cool dark place,it goes bad within 3 weeks.
    Gikuyu women used to remove cream from milk and accumulate it. It would then be fried to produce ghee and the solid remnants called “laganya” would be eaten or mixed with mashed bananas. It’s very tasty. The oil would last a long time since it’s stable. Cream would also be added to porridge to increase it nutrient density for children and infants.
    Gikuyu people have very rich culture in food preservation and the oil/fat was paramount in the womans’ “thegi”.


    1. Primarily a fat’s affinity to oxygen determines the speed in which it oxidizes it becomes rancid. The polyunsaturated oils, corn oil, sunflower oil, processed palm oil, sop up oxygen like crazy and become peroxidized spewing off free radicals that play havoc on you DNA an induce inflammatory responses. “Studies show polyunsaturated fats, foster auto-immune diseases, encourage cancer, help destroy your arteries and have an adverse effect on your immune functioning.” – Jean Capper.

      Saturated fats, of which class animal fats belong, and to a lesser degree, the monosaturates, are more stable and take heat better and thus can be used in frying. Animal fats that I use in my own kitchen last to beyond 3 months before they can begin to show signs of going bad. Currently, some camel fat I have been using has hit the four months mark and is still as good as day one. I store them in glass containers in one of the cupboards.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Very True, Excellent post
    These cooking oils are bad, not from the source but the chemical added to enable it to be extracted.I remember when I was young we used to be forced to drink the kimengemenge fat as soon as you start coughing. and then it would disappear.
    Another thought just came all that time I never got overweight.But recently got “CIVILIZED ” and started to use vegetable cooking oil and sugar.In 2 yrs I gained over 20kgs.( 74kgs to 92kgs).i never overate didn’t eat junk and my work is moderately intensive.I got worried and started doing research and I was amazed.Sugar and vegetable oils are the main cause of lifestyle diseases.
    I ditched sodas first, then sugar then vegetable oils and switched to olive oil which is easily exttracted=less chemicals=loss 80% of fat but still in the process
    I’m no wise by any means but,
    -Stop using sugar(.Its okay, its normal.)
    -Stop drinking energy liquids.sodas, Lucozade, juice, yogurt e.t.c
    -Switch from high G.I to low G.I carbs i.e white rice replaced by brown rice.
    -Switch the tv off.
    -Cut the vegetable oils consumption.
    -Don’t believe all things that media says about your health.


  3. Ni Ngatho nyingi Mukuyu. Kiuria giakwa kihana ta uu. Ndurume iyo ya gicegu nigithinjwo yathinjagwo nigetha maguta ma kimengenge marutwo kana kwi njira ingiahuthirirwo gutari guthinja. Kana yathinjagwo na gukarehwo ingi ya guthii na mbere guikaria gicegu?


    1. Ndūrūme ndīngīthīnjwo nīguo andū moone maguta. Maguta monekanaga nī ndūrūme gūthīnjwo. Yathīnjwo to īngī igūcokio gīcegū.


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