Zimbabwe: Restaurants embrace First Lady’s call for traditional foods

There has been a growing appetite for traditional African cuisine following First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa’s programs promoting indigenous dishes, which have high nutritional and medicinal properties.

Local hotels and restaurants are accepting the First Lady’s call to include more traditional dishes on their menus.

One such hotel is the Villa Gianni Boutique Hotel, which mainly specializes in dishes that strongly reflect the flavor and appeal of Zimbabwe.

It has become popular with diners, including international guests.

Nestled in Avondale, Harare, Villa Gianni Boutique Hotel, has a well known chef, Dulsie Mudekwa as part of the team and they cook some of the traditional dishes to ensure that guests get well prepared dishes and a unique Zimbabwean experience , and therefore value for money.

Many of the mouth-watering dishes on offer are packaged in such innovative ways that even those less inclined to traditional meals flock to the joint to taste them.

Most of the country’s young people considered traditional dishes to be inferior, preferring exotic dishes which unfortunately exposed them to obesity, hypertension and cardiovascular problems.

The Villa Gianni Boutique Hotel offers many dishes.

Yesterday they were serving exceptional and uniquely prepared sorghum coated fresh sea bream, fish in peanut butter, fish wrapped in banana leaves, madora, pulses in peanut butter, okra, mazondo, zvinyenze, road runner and beef bones.

Starches included peanut butter rice, sorghum sadza, white sadza, and traditional rice.

Their drinks included maheu and baobab cocktail.

Ms Mudekwa said they have a lot to offer hotel guests.

“People are now looking for foods that build and protect their bodies. Most people, according to our observation, now follow traditional cuisine religiously.

“At Villa Gianni Boutique Hotel, we like to promote traditional dishes because they have all the nutrients and value. They are not devoid of any nutrients,” she said.

“You can enjoy your sorghum, millet and rapoko sadza which promote good health. Health and food are quite related in the sense that whatever we consume is what we produce for our health.

“When people talk about nutrition, it means everything you have eaten and the result it produces. We discourage people from having fast food because nowadays there are a lot of cardio-metabolic diseases or lifestyle diseases like cancer, hypertension, diabetes.

“These are lifestyle diseases and they are caused by the food we eat.

“Our mother, the First Lady, tried very hard to promote traditional cooking. We saw her travel the country saying, ‘Let’s eat our traditional dishes.’ She also started a national traditional cooking competition which made people enjoy and fall in love with our indigenous dishes hence a growing appetite for traditional African cuisines in our country.

“Secondly, after the nutritional value, we say that our traditional food is locally available, which means that you can access it even at the rural house or in the city.

“That means it’s cheaper and there’s no need for us to have a population of people who live in poverty, because you can grow these things in rural areas and in your home.

“It’s your source of food, income, etc.”

Ms Mudekwa said Zimbabwe was endowed with agricultural expertise, rains and land that could be used to support its citizens.

“By simply promoting these foods that are grown locally here in Zimbabwe, we are promoting good health; we are ending poverty.

“We’re ending disease, we’re ending a lot of these things, so these are the healthiest meals you can have and you can see all over the world they’re actually trying to stay healthy.

“Now there’s a healthy vibe that just happened, but we already have these healthy things. They’re cheap and available locally,” she said.

Villa Gianni Boutique Hotel’s chef, Mr Morris Mushungwa, said their food was prepared from locally available ingredients.

“We prepare our food using local ingredients, which is encouraged by our mother, the First Lady. She encourages us to consume nutritious indigenous dishes.

“We grew up eating these traditional foods and most of them were readily available in nature. This food is healthy and it was rare to see our elders complaining about some of the ailments that affect our youth today. We encourage Zimbabweans to return to tradition and consume our locally available dishes,” he said.

The First Lady held traditional meal contests across the country to promote the adoption of indigenous dishes.

She repeatedly reminded the nation that apart from the health benefits, there is great tourism potential in traditional dishes, as some people visit the country to taste traditional dishes.

As part of her efforts to promote traditional dishes, Amai Mnangagwa donated traditional cereals to the chiefs’ wives.

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