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South African Cuisine Essay, Research Paper

South African cuisine is a combination of the recipes from the many cultural groups that have co-existed in the country over the past 350 years. The Khoisan, the first known inhabitants of the country, were mainly hunter-gatherers. Later, the potato, gem squash and other vegetables for their dishes. Local vegetables that play an important role in South African cooking include tomatoes, potatoes, green beans, cabbage, mealies, and pumpkin. Fruits such as quince, peaches, mangoes, citrus, apricots, grapes, pomegranates, and melons are eaten fresh, dried, and also preserved. The naartjie is a variety of indigenous tangerines from which a regional liqueur, Van der Hum, is made. Because of the mild climate, almost all vegetables and fruits that were not native to South Africa were introduced successfully to this fertile land. Thus produce is common in this diet, which adds a fresh and incomparable quality to this diverse cuisine.

African cuisine combines traditional fruits and vegetables, exotic game and fish from the oceans that surrounds her, and a marinade of cultures, colonies, trade routes, and history. Africa is a whole continent, from arid desert, to sub tropical wetlands and plains.

Because the South African coastline borders both the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, seafood is abundant, and of course, an important part of the South African diet. The fish and rice recipe our group is preparing is a good example of South African Cuisine, as fish is common, and the healthy preparation is as well. The braai is a favorite way of cooking fish in South Africa. This reflects the influences from the many cultural groups. For instance, one could easily be offered biltong (jerky) and chilli-bites as a starter while waiting for the sosaties (kabobs). The waters are rich in kingklip, snoek, red roman, hake, cod, pilchards and sole, to name a few. Other delicacies from the sea include abalone, oysters, mussels, calamari, shrimps and crayfish.

The large herds of cattle are a tribal man’s most valued possessions. Cattle are not only the ultimate symbol of wealth but are also the central focus of the tribe’s social, religious and political life. Seen in this light, it is not surprising to understand why cattle are not slaughtered for food. Only very special occasions such as weddings and sacrifices to the ancestors can justify the slaughter of cattle. However, once the cattle have been sacrificed or killed for these important occasions, all parts of the animal are carefully cut up and fully utilized. As most tribal people prefer not to obtain meat from their cattle, they seek it instead from their herds of domesticated goats, sheep and fowl. Traditionally, most of the meat eaten is obtained from hunting, not from the domesticated herds. As a rule, women are forbidden to consume the meat of animals, which have aborted or died during birth, lest they suffer a similar affliction.

The main staple of all the Bantu-speaking tribes is maize, which ironically is an alien plant introduced into Africa originally from America via Europe. The next most important staple crop is millet or Kafir corn. As this is an indigenous crop, it was the basic staple before maize was introduced. These are both ground down, either on a stone or pounded by heavy poles in a wooden container or sometimes taken to a local trading store to a mechanical grinder. It is then mixed with boiling water to form a thick porridge.

There are a great number of taboos regulating the drinking, eating, and procurement of milk. Many of these stem from the fact that cattle are usually considered to be the exclusive domain of men. Women are not usually allowed to mild the cattle or even touch the milking utensils.

If you were to be invited to visit the circular huts of any of the Bantu tribes, you would be treated with the same hospitality, as you will find in all of Africa. Food in large earthenware pots would be spread out on mats on the floor. The menu would probably consist of Putu; the thick cornmeal porridge made from mealies, topped with a hot spicy stew and homemade beer.

If you were to be invited by an Afrikaaner, hospitality means “lots of food”. The table is set with a crisp, white, linen. In the center is a huge bowl of fruit, and cruets of vinegar and Worcestershire sauce, and salt and pepper shakers. Brightly polished silverware and china dishes, probably from England, adorn the table. Wines are from the Cape of South Africa. Dinner would consist of fish, Green Bean Bredie, a stew made with a “thick rib of mutton” cooked with potatoes and string beans. They would serve Bitlong, and mealies in some form are a must whether as a vegetable, a bread, a souffle, or in a soup.

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