Biting into a moist slice of carrot cake I wondered what made it ‘traditional’ food, for carrot cake is hardly regarded as Zimbabwean fare. I soon discovered that baobab powder in the icing and the marula and mongongo nuts were the ‘traditional’ ingredients in the recipe. Their replacing of the more conventionally used walnuts and the baobab’s tartness served to make this a fabulous cake.
The slice of cake was the last course of a carefully crafted and delicious meal, part of a roundtable discussion last month on traditional and organic food hosted by Bio Innovation Zimbabwe (BIZ) and the Traditional and Organic Food Forum (TOFF).
BIZ – an organisation that investigates novel natural ingredients in indigenous plants – is one of the members of the Traditional and Organic Food Forum (TOFF), which was set up last year to raise awareness about traditional and organic products. What is ‘traditional’ you may wonder? These are foods that are indigenous to Zimbabwe; they can be grown naturally or are uncultivated, wild foods. When they are incorporated into our diets – whether prepared in old ways or are innovated into more modern dishes – they are an essential part of a healthy diet.
Our BIZ and TOFF meal started with a spicy sweet potato soup with popped amaranth, nuts and fresh coriander as toppings. The main course featured seasoned mopane worms, dried meat in peanut butter and roadrunner chicken, served alongside a selection of salads made with millet and nyimo beans. Whilst some of the dishes might not be considered ‘traditional’, this was definitely a meal that celebrated traditional ingredients and demonstrated how they can be incorporated into modern cuisine.
A key part of the roundtable event was sharing the results of a recently conducted survey which targeted urban consumers to find out what they thought about traditional foods. It turns out all respondents were concerned about diet and health. Traditional food is associated with many health benefits including, being nutritious and natural (unprocessed, organic and additive free). For this reason, they are helpful in the relief of the symptoms of conditions including diabetes, hypertension, cancer, HIV and more.
The survey sparked an interesting discussion among the 20-something participants who had been invited and who came from a variety of fields: schools, doctors, Community-based Organizations, NGOs, restaurants and food producers were all represented.
Roundtable participant and Diabetes specialist and physician, Dr Mangwiro explained, “Traditional foods have better nutrients than our maize. And there are not a lot of additives like in our so-called Western diets.” Mangwiro agreed with the BIZ approach but warned that traditional foods should not be adulterated too much. “If they are super-refined, it will be just the same as a Western diet.”
The roundtable discussion helped to shape the TOFF-led campaign to get more traditional foods onto our plates. Although price might be a barrier, urban consumers can access these foods in many supermarkets: from UpMarket and the Maasdorp Market in Belgravia, the Amanzi Market and from the BIZ offices. Also look out for the Traditional and Organic Food Festival coming up in October – it’s a great place to stock up.
BIZ is also challenging people to come up with innovative ways of getting traditional ingredients on your weekly menu. Get involved in their recipe competition on www.naturallyzimbabwean.com. You’ll also be able to find the carrot cake recipe there – definitely worth a try!
UpMarket and the Maasdorp Market: Wednesday and Saturday mornings – Maasdorp Ave, Belgravia
Amanzi Market: Friday mornings – 158 Enterprise Road, Highlands
BIZ Offices: 20 Garland’s Ride, Mount Pleasant. Phone: 0772 158 314