IF NATIONS of the world were to be asked to draw up a color map of their national cuisines, Zimbabwe’s would come out out as green, brown to represent sadza, nyama and muriwo, i.e, thick maize meal porridge, meat and vegetables.
There is no doubt that sadza, muriwo and nyama are what make up what most Zimbabweans east on a daily basis. The cornmeal-based dietary staple without doubt overrides all the other cuisines in the country with some people preferring to eat sadza in the morning, in the afternoon, and in the evening.
As one of Zimbabwe’s groundbreaking, stand-up comic puts it: Zimbabweans are fond of the green, brown and white colours that make up their daily food.
What is surprising though is that the country has such a rich culinary heritage – a heritage that has barely been explored by its people. First things first, Zimbabwe food – at least outside the popular green, brown and white – is quite varied. It comes in different shades and colours. As could be expected, with colonization, Zimbabwe adopted a heterogeneity in its food outlook with the downside being the disregard of nutritional, traditional dishes.
Zimbabwean food such as salted groundnuts, corn meal with pumpkin, peanut butter stew, cassava, millet, yams among others are now absent from most people’s dining tables. Granted, Zimbabwe is a cosmopolitan society that enjoys a mix of both local and international cuisine but what has clearly happened in the trajetory of the country’s cuisine is that local food has tended to be marginalized. Despite that traditional food is rich in nutrients, many people, particulalrly in urban areas barely know about the intricacies of Zimbabwean food.
Consequently, most Zimbabweans have decided to settle in the comfort zone of eating sadza with meat and/or gravy and a relish. Today, Zimbabwean food has a dearth of fresh, green stuff – most of what people eat is cooked first that very little is served fresh and green expect salads that tend to be served on special occasions. Meat, especially game such as kudu, gazelle among others – which made up the cuisine of the ancestors of modern day Zimbabwean – are rarely served at dining tables or at restaurants.
Suffice to state that one cannot talk about Zimbabwean cuisine without mention seasonal delicacies such as mpani worms or spiny caterpillars and flying ants which are caught, dried and salted, and can be quite chewy. While in the past, Zimbabweans would typically sit in a circle and eat from the same plate that habit has now changed, and people now prefer to eat from their own singular plates.Also, it is considered to be quite rude to leave a little amount food in a plate. Thanking the person who has served you, especially by clapping your hands, is considered a sign of respect. Without doubt, may people in Zimbabwe prefer to eat their sadza with their fingers.
It’s quite common to hear Zimbos saying that sadza goes down well if only eaten using fingers and not a fork and knife. As with most things in Zimbabwe today, its national cuisine is quite bland and needs to undergo a rennasisance. There is need for the local cuisine to reflect the diversity of vegetables and cereals that are found in the country.
Zimbabweans need to move away from the green, brown and white colours that are the predominant colours of their food, and choose to add a dash of more colour. While there’s nothing wrong with having a cosmopolitan cuisine, there are so many ingredients that are locally available, and are just waiting to be rediscovered for purposes of awakening Zimbabwe’s national palate.