Our food our culture: is it adopted in restaurants, hotels and supermarkets?

The Chronicle

Pathisa Nyathi
Grabbing a pen and a notebook, I walk into a restaurant along Robert Mugabe Way in Bulawayo. I am under the command of my stomach. It’s 1:00 p.m. My eyes wander to identify a table where I can sit down and order a meal.

I can’t find a single empty table, so I decide to sit next to a man I don’t know. Apparently he knows me. To make us talk, he tells me that he is very sick, although he does not eat like a sick person. I am drawn to his eyes, often a reliable measure of illness, and confidently declare that he is as fit as a violin. Indeed, he admits that his illness is caused by hunger.

He eats voraciously. He is already dipping his right hand into a meal of white isitshwala and what Bulawayo people nowadays call amalusu.

In our culture, conversations begin and continue when the lineages of individuals have been identified. “Ungumfoka bani? I inquired, but after telling him, he had a clean bill of health. He is a Mr Mlilo who works in South Africa.

He attended Mzingwane High School from 1974 to 1977 when Obadiah Mlilo, his relative, was the headmaster of the school. Mr. Mlilo seems well aware of the story of the Mlilos and the five brothers who came from South Africa to settle in Zimbabwe. All kinds of conversations ensued, some going all the way back to the Wanezi mission, in which he participated.

I had brought a notebook and a pen so I could sit down and write an article about food. I wrote a book called “Beyond Nutrition: Food as a Cultural Expression”.

We quickly hit the same musical note. He loved amasi, which he eagerly consumed after dealing decisively and conclusively with the guts. I loved the dish too until a week ago.

We soon find out that we both like ulude. He too is in love with the same indigenous vegetable, especially when fresh cream has been added to it. It’s true for me too.

Mlilo goes on to tell me that border agents at Beitbridge know him as Mr. Lude. There were times when they suspected he was carrying dagga, as the two plants have a common resemblance.

So, it started to look like food was the commodity we shared in common. I had planned to write an article before arriving at the restaurant. We met at a fine dining restaurant and shared a lively conversation about food.

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, Africans in Bulawayo, like everywhere else in Rhodesia, so they were forbidden to walk on the sidewalks. They shopped through openings in the walls in order to maintain a certain disinfection distance, a sort of buffer zone between whites and blacks. Supermarkets in the central business district were off-limits to Africans.

Only next to the town hall were goods, characteristically called curiosities where Africans were allowed to sell their wares. The name remained well naturalized.

In Victoria Falls, home to arguably Zimbabwe’s largest curio market, they are known as izikuriyo. It is a name for very curious artifacts that Africans produce. Vendors were allowed to sell them because they presented no business to white-owned supermarkets that did not produce curious curiosities.

The current situation is very different from that of the colonial era. All sorts of items are casually sold outside the big supermarkets, ranging from rat killers to tshangane bags. It would be futile for the Bulawayo City Council to ban the practice and control its implementation. The stomach dictates and does it dictatorially. No democracy or rule of law when it comes to an empty stomach.
I have observed that as we blacks, inaccurately described in terms of color as we are far from ebony, have begun to shop in supermarkets that were once the preserve of whites, certain products African foods were excluded.

For example, the understanding of fruits included pears, kiwis, grapes, mangoes, papayas, guavas, peaches, and plums, among others.

More than 40 years later, native African fruits have not made it to supermarkets. The colonial hangover persists for a long time. You will not go to a supermarket to buy umbumbulu, umtshwankela, umnyiyi, ubhuzu, izibunduma, umtshekisane, umhlagawuwe, amawobowobo, uxakuxaku et cetera. They’re too native to qualify, maybe that’s the thought.

Certain types of meat have arrived in supermarkets, but at a snail’s pace.

Goat meat seems to have done it recently, competing with lamb and mutton which, along with pork and bacon, were the preferred meat besides beef of course.

The newest entry in the meat category is what is disparagingly called chicken makhaya. There is chicken, real chicken that needs no description. Then there’s the chicken, the roadrunner in rural areas with few roads to tell.

This multi-faceted chicken is eaten on communal lands, recently promoted from tribal trust lands and native reservations. Chicken makhaya is served in many restaurants and supermarkets these days and poses a serious threat to broiler, which has the unassailable position of master of the refrigerator. I haven’t seen chicken makhaya in a fridge yet!

Many insects and caterpillars are only beginning to enter supermarkets. The mopane worm is a good example, although the method of preparation is foreign. Locusts have not yet flown off store shelves.

Not too long ago I heard of people on board a Ugandan plane who were arrested for selling what the passengers were buying like hot cakes – grasshoppers. The guy who filmed the transaction was also arrested.

Who is the African trying to please? Locusts are for inferior people who don’t board airplanes. This seems to be the statement of African airlines that do not serve any African cuisine. Mayebabo!!

The birds that we know and whose flesh we eat do not fly yet and end up in supermarket fridges. Ithendele, the guinea fowl, and isikhwehle, the partridge, have yet to gain approval from the standards association with little knowledge of African cuisines.

We certainly spend a lot of money and effort running away from our past, our ancestors and ourselves as if humanity is measured in terms of social and physical closeness to white people.

The definition of vegetables has also been restricted to exotics. It is only recently that ulude, fresh or dried, has become available in prepared form in some supermarkets. In the western suburbs, children are heard almost daily shouting: “Ulude ledelele lentanga! You can buy these vegetables either from these amazing traveling vendors or at the 4th Avenue Multi-Commodity Market or eMkambo in Makokoba Township.

African vegetables don’t seem to be qualified to grace supermarket shelves.

In some hotels, indigenous cuisines are prepared and served on certain days. Otherwise, the dishes of the day are exotic, beets, parsley, baby corn on the cob, olives, etc. We like it that way. The colonial ibhabhalazis found the best partners in Africa.

Mlilo observed that in South Africa there are Portuguese restaurants that serve Portuguese dishes, prepared Portuguese style with characteristic Portuguese chilies. The same goes for Indian cuisines, Italian cuisines and of course, cuisines of other nationalities, except African ones.

Colonization was not entirely political. Africa Mayibuye!!

Source link

About Raul T. Casey

Check Also

Top 5 Most Popular Fried Chicken Restaurants in Madison, Wisconsin | restaurant review

This list is based on feedback from previous customers. Unsplash Scots and Africans started living …