Never in my wildest imaginations did I ever think I would one day write about testicles. On a plate. As a snack or, rather, a booster of men’s sexual prowess.
Our world is full of wonders. When a colleague showed me pictures of an old man roasting goat testicles for a living, my curiosity got the best of me. At around 3pm on a Saturday, my colleague and I snake our way through many temporary and dilapidated structures of Kanyagoga, a village in Bar-Dege division, Gulu municipality.
Kanyagoga is crammed with grass-thatched huts, and temporary structures with half-raised walls, where malwa lovers sit and enjoy their alcoholic drink. Hygiene in this place is wanting, as different structures are squeezed together; latrines, bath shelters and rubbish skips stand as close as a radius of five metres away from the malwa huts.
Although permanent structures are coming up, the area is still typically a slum. Kanyagoga is Gulu’s cosmopolitan area. Neighboring Gulu army barracks, it is heavily populated by UPDF soldiers.
Many Congolese, South Sudanese and a blend of tribes from other parts of the country who come to Gulu, seem to regard the slum as their second home. Majority of women in this area earn a living by brewing malwa and other local brews. Their regular clients are the soldiers, who come to mingle.
It is a place where almost every resident, including children, can communicate in Kiswahili; albeit a pidgin dialect of it.
No wonder, 69-year-old Matia Okiror, from Katakwi district, found himself settling in Kanyagoga when he came to Gulu in 1971 in search of a job. Okiror’s kiosk is made of papyrus mats that have seen months. Surrounded by malwa joints and mini-bars, Okiror’s structure is simple and unattractive.
As I draw closer, I am welcomed by a fishy smell and excited flies hovering over the remaining skewer of roasted goat testicles. The floor of the kiosk is piled with dark layers of a greasy substance, a result of the oil that has trickled from the testicles, during Okiror’s years of roasting.
The papyrus mats that serve as the wall of the kiosk are sooty, from the blend of smoke and oil emitted during roasting. Okiror’s work tools are countable: a folding wooden chair, table, chopping board, saucepan, knife, a ten-litre jerrycan of water, a charcoal stove, and wire mesh.
All utensils, looking old, are strewn on the sorry-looking floor. It is about 3pm, and the roaster has just delivered an order to one of the malwa lovers. His absence at the kiosk, gives the work station a deserted look.
After a few minutes, Okiror emerges. He is tall, and walks with a straight gait. His closed, black shoes, with elevated soles make him look even taller. He has mastered Acholi and speaks it with ease.
Okiror tells The Observer how his journey to roasting goats’ testicles began.
“I came to Gulu in search of a job, as my brother was working with the lands and survey office. From 1971-1979, I worked as a porter in three different departments,” he says. “Unfortunately in 1979, I was among many who were laid off from the ministry of Works offices in Gulu”
That is when his job-creating abilities kicked in.
“So from 1979 to 2002, I earned my income by solely roasting chicken,” he said.
However, “I abandoned the business because chicken was expensive, and the profit margin small. I shifted to roasting beef and goat meat.”
It is from this business that Okiror got many orders from clients to start roasting goat testicles, claiming, it boosts men’s sex drive. Does it? I ask him.
“I don’t know, my daughter. I am already old,” he says, smiling sheepishly. And his wife lives in Katakwi.
But if the demand is anything to go by, then maybe the dangly things are more than just appendages to prancing goats!
Since he started roasting goat testicles five years ago, Okiror has become an early riser to prepare the testicles that have become a major accompaniment of malwa, in drinking joints. At 6am daily, he rides his bicycle to the abattoir, where he buys his goods. By 9am, he is back at his workstation to begin roasting.
I returned to Kanyagoga on Sunday, to witness Okiror’s workday.
Okiror starts by kindling a fire in his charcoal stove. He then stitches the cut section of each testicle with a used bicycle spoke, so that the testicle’s contents do not pop out.
The stitched testicles are then put on the fire, to burn off the fur, so that the skin, said to be more delicious, remains intact. He places the testicles on a table, and perforates them with the bicycle spoke, to drain out the liquid, because “if you don’t drain the liquid, it can extinguish the fire during roasting”.
After draining the liquid, Okiror cuts each testicle open with a knife, exposing four coffee-bean-like balls [pun unintended] in each testicle. He then washes the testicles, attaches them to a wire, sprinkles salt over them, and the roasting begins in earnest.
Around 10am clients begin to trickle in to book the ‘aphrodisiac’. “Most times I leave my workstation by midday as soon as I finish roasting, because clients book before I even start roasting,” he says. “Some people buy two or even five pieces; they really like the thing, especially the big ones.”
Well, it makes sense; it is possible that the bigger the testicles, the more energy one derives. According to Okiror, business booms most at the end of the month when soldiers have received their salary and have grand, ungodly plans on how to spend it.
“My only problem is that some days I get few testicles at the abattoir, leaving my customers yearning for more. Like today, I got only seven and they have all been booked by two people; and it is just 10am,” he says.
Okiror buys each testicle at Shs 300, and sells it at Shs 1,000. His sales average at 20 testicles a day.
“The business is good. My only challenge is from clients defaulting on payment,” he says.
I don’t have the heart to taste a goat testicle, but Okiror’s clients have different confessions to how they taste.
One of them, who prefers anonymity says: “It tastes like boiled egg yolk.”
Okiror also says his goods taste like eggs. Among his clients, the roasted testicles are referred to as ‘Irish [potatoes]’, alluding to their shape and palatal feel. Although the ‘Irish’ is mostly eaten by men, Okiror says he has a number of dedicated female clients.
Jackline Akello, a resident of Layibi Cubu, describes the taste of the testicles with excitement.
“I ate it unknowingly, but it tasted very nice! My brothers gave it to me and told me what it was afterwards.”
Okiror says one of his regular clients is a policewoman.
“She books and comes for it in the evening after work. She is also an ardent buyer of the goats’ udders,” he says.
According to Okiror, the roasted udders “taste like roasted cassava, when it does not contain milk. But when the udder is from a breastfeeding goat, it [the udder] will remain flabby, with a bristle-like feel”.
He-goats’ udders, which he says are rare, go for Shs 2,000 each.
From this business, Okiror, who did not go to school, says he has been able to pay his son’s tuition for a civil engineering course, and is now working.
“Unfortunately my second child, a daughter, got pregnant at 18 years, and dropped out of school.”
Thanks to his testicle-loving clients, he has also bought some cattle, which are being tended to by his wife back in Katakwi.
“In February, I sent her Shs 700,000 to buy an ox-plough, to ease her farming,” he says.
DO THE TESTICLES WORK?
Two male sources who love the goats testicles, respond to The Observer’s question about the ‘viagra’ properties in goats’ testicles with only shy smiles.
So, I refer this intriguing question to Loum Bishop, a nutritionist at Gulu regional referral hospital.
“The belief that goats’ testicles are an aphrodisiac is a myth. Belief varies from community to community, but I don’t move with that,” Bishop says.
According to Bishop, the malwa lovers could actually be getting their energy from their local brew, which he says contains a lot of nutrients including protein, carbohydrates, Vitamin B complex, Vitamin B12, Vitamin E, zinc and iron, all derived from the millet flour, its main ingredient.
He says all the nutrients in millet used for making malwa, will definitely give the drinkers energy, repair their damaged cells, boost red blood cells, detoxify the body, improve the general body immunity and resultant general strength.
This could in return translate into better results in the bedroom. But among the Acholi it is believed that goats’ testicles are aphrodisiacs and this myth appears to be shared by other races.
According to businessinsider.com, the Chinese believe one can replenish different parts of one’s body by eating that same body part from an animal.
“Eating penises and testicles can make a man stronger and enjoy a wonderful sex life,” the website says.
Although there is no scientific evidence for such claims, men across Asia are believed to “eat [animal testicles and penises] so that they can be potent in bed. The brain gives energy to the head, while the testicles have a power of their own.”
The website diet-blog.com says animal testicles are promoted as an aphrodisiac because they are supposed to also contain testosterone.
However, one would have to eat them raw to get the benefits, as heat tends to break down the hormone.
For now, bon appetit!