Z is for Zimbabwe
Gahhhhhhhhhhhhh FINALLY I HAVE MADE IT!!!! Good God, I have been beyond lazy about writing this post, eh? Well, to cut myself some slack it’s not really been laziness that’s been stopping me from getting round to this final post: birthdays, family meet-ups and EXTREMELY important translations about t-shirts and shoes (please note the sarcasm there) have all played a part in keeping me from bringing this project to its proper conclusion. To those of you who are still with me (i.e. my parents), I apologise for the lateness and, as an apology, can offer you solace in the knowledge that the ordeal is over. Crack open the champers, folks, it’s party time!
As was to be expected from the straggly end of the alphabet, Z’s offerings were meagre in terms of numbers: just two countries made it to the very end, clinging on by the skin of their teeth in the hope that maybe something magical might lay beyond the end of the alphabet. Well, all they’ve found is a stuffed Brit, rolling around on the floor with the top button undone on her jeans, surrounded by cutlery, rice and covered in peanut and tomato sauce. Should have trusted the majority in this case and hopped off the alphabet bus at S. BUT heed the advice of Slovakia, Switzerland, Sweden or Suriname they did not, and as such my choice for the finale was limited to Zambia or Zimbabwe.
But which to choose? Having not been to either country – or even to the African continent - at any point in my life, I had one teeny tiny shred of experience on which to base my choice: an unexpectedly long evening in Rotterdam. After spending a rather spectacular day in the city with a friend, I was left, alone and bereft, to fend for myself in the evening. As always, I decided that food would be a good way to while away the last couple of hours of the day, so I wandered over to an Indonesian restaurant and plonked myself down with my book at a table outside. Barely 10 minutes went by and I found myself in conversation with the two lads on the table next to me, one of whom was from – you guessed it – Zimbabwe. Well friends, I won’t bore you with all the details, but I can assure that for those couple of hours, we were the three of us the best of buddies, sharing lols as if we’d known each other for decades. And so, the meal that would finally bring this project to its conclusion was nothing more than the result of an evening of too many beers and the odd shot for good measure. This irresponsible behaviour will, of course, be left behind in my 20s, along with cycling home with no bike lights and wearing odd socks.
|She ain't no beauty queen, but BOY was she tasty|
So, what’s Zimbabwe got going on in the kitchen? Haven’t you been asking yourself that for YEARS?? I thought so. Well, Zimbabwe’s cuisine appears to be fairly typical of the more southern countries on the African continent, which means plenty of meat, beans and cornmeal. The latter is used in abundance to produce dishes such as bota – a thick cornmeal porridge-type malarkey flavoured with butter or peanut butter (hellooooo) – and sadza, which is basically the same as bota (don’t quote me on that!!) but with even more cornmeal to make it hard. Deeeeelicious. In defence of the somewhat bland-sounding sadza, it is often pepped up with chicken, curdled milk (ummm…) or boerewors. That, pals, is a type of sausage, which must contain at least 90% meat to be classified as a proper boerewors – take note, British sausage authorities. The word itself comes from the Afrikaans words for farmer (boer) and sausage (wors), and is a popular addition to any braai. I am sure I will offend almost the entire populations of South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana and the like by saying this, but a braai is sort of like a BBQ – or at least that would perhaps be its closest cousin over in this corner of the world. I have been assured by numerous pals in the know that a braai cannot even be discussed in the same category as a barbecue, and it is for that reason that I shall leave the topic alone, lest I infuriate true braai connoisseurs with my utter stupidity.
After a little research, I stumbled upon a recipe for peanut butter beef stew. By now, y’all know I’m not the biggest carnivore on the block, but given the fact that I’d be cooking this as my final meal of the project and indeed on my actual birthday, it felt apt to go for something a little bit special. Plus, I was due to celebrate with a gaggle of good friends who have endured weeks and weeks of sometimes bizarre recipes, so I felt I owed it to them. The recipe itself is by no means fancy; I’d even go so far as to say it was one of the simpler things I cooked, but the end result was an out-and-out success. The beef had been cooking in a lovely peanutty, tomato-y, onion-y sauce for what felt like about 5000 years, and as such was falling apart by the time it reached the table. The sauce tasted obscenely indulgent, but it was offset by piles of tasty spinach and brown rice, all of which were enjoyed with perhaps a little too much vim and vigour - we were all groaning in pain within about 2 minutes of nigh-on licking every damn plate clean. BUT regret it I do not. Nor do I regret the massive slice of key lime pie or homemade bounty bars that followed, plus the indecent amount of red wine. If you can’t trough such disgraceful volumes of food on your birthday, when the hell can you??
|Birthday beef dinner|
And that’s it. Done! 26 weeks (of cooking, at least. We won’t mention the writing), 26 letters, 26 countries and 26 meals. Not of all of them were a taste sensation (I’m looking at you, Latvia), but each and every one was an experience, many of which I was fortunate enough to share with other people. Whether or not you like to cook, there’s no doubt that food brings people together, and it’s the same all over the world. Not one country I researched was like ‘people in this culture love to lock themselves in their rooms alone and share their food with NO-ONE’; quite the opposite, food and eating is something that all people need to do, so why not do it together? So, if you’ve by some miracle or another managed to stay awake through this post, I urge you to go find a recipe right now (and, if necessary, a friend who is willing to cook said recipe), invite your pals over and chow down together. Talk about your day, get your hands messy, wipe your mucky faces with the sleeve of your jumper, for that is joy.
Thanks – and hats off – for joining me on this little adventure. My 2018 diary looks forward to being filled with invites to dinner!