Henry grew up in Uganda and has lived in the United States since the age of 19. He learned to cook everything from scratch and grew up eating primarily locally grown veggies, legumes, fruits and grains. Henry learned how to garden and farm at a young age, and ever since, has been growing his own food whenever possible while eating a wholesome diet full of good energy. Henry is the founder and owner of Jajja Wellness, a line of wellness tonics available for sale at the co-op. Read our Q&A below to learn more about Henry!
When did you start cooking? Tell us more about your story with food.
I’ve been cooking for as long as I can remember. In Uganda, we did not have the usual kitchens like in Minnesota, so food preparation is more manual. We cook everything from scratch, and I grew up cooking over a fire in our outdoor kitchen. Food preparation is a conversation, a time for bonding, and a time for putting your energy into the food and honoring the earth that grew it!
How are your values reflected in your cooking?
The number one thing that comes to mind is that your food will taste better if you cook with positive energy. When food burns in Uganda, we typically say the person cooking was angry or having a bad day. Energy impacts how the food tastes, so I always try to cook with a positive, upbeat attitude.
You run a small food business: Jajja Wellness. What do you make, and what is your vision for this business? Where did the idea and recipe for Jajja Wellness come from?
Jajja Wellness truly originated in my Ugandan grandmother’s kitchen. She was a healer and a juice maker, so everything she made had some aspect of healing and wellness. She taught me a lot about juice making, so I infused those values and recipes into Jajja Wellness beverages. You can find them on the shelves of all three Mississippi Market locations.
How has the pandemic impacted how you view food, cooking, and your business?
The biggest thing is we could not connect with customers through in-store demos and events until recently. I missed that personal touch of the business. The other thing is that customers are paying more attention to their health and wellness. They are buying better-for-you products, and we are happy to offer Jajja Wellness as a healthy product.
How do you come up with delicious recipes and ideas for classes at the co-op?
In Uganda, we don’t really use recipes. Cooking is intuitive, and we spice according to taste rather than measurement. It is a creative process and unique to each chef. I draw upon a lot of the staples I ate growing up in Uganda, and since most of our food is plant-based, I also use fresh ingredients.
What staples should every home chef keep in their pantry?
In Uganda, we always have matooke, which is similar to a plantain. And we would often eat cassava (a starchy root vegetable high in vitamins and minerals). But, here in the U.S., I would have to say I always have rice and salt in my pantry. Rice is a nice complement to any entrée or green.
What is your favorite go-to recipe? Favorite Jajja Wellness product?
My go-to recipe is probably Ugandan rice. I usually make this for my kids and pair it with a stew. It’s a savory and comforting meal! For Jajja Wellness tonics, it’s so hard to pick just one flavor as I love them all! The co-op carries two favorite flavors: Pineapple Ginger and Hibiscus Lemongrass.
How can co-op shoppers best support you?
Community support is so important for small businesses. I love when people try our flavors during our in-store sampling. To support us, please buy our tonics and tell all your friends and family about us. You can also follow us on Instagram @jajjawellness, and we will tag you in any photos you share.
Take a class with Henry!
Ugandan Cooking | Wednesday, Sept. 28