Main News Zimbabwe

‘Make traditional dishes more appealing’

First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa and Minister of State for Midlands Provincial Affairs and Devolution Larry Mavima look at dishes prepared during Amai’s cook out traditional meal cooking competition in Gweru yesterday. — Pictures: John Manzongo.

Tendai Rupapa in GWERU

TRADITIONAL dishes can gain more traction if prepared and packaged with creativity using modern ways that appeal to the younger generation and consumers who do not appreciate their medicinal and nutritional benefits, a food technology and design teacher has said.

In a moving presentation which left people awestruck during First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa’s Cookout Traditional Meal Competition here yesterday, Mrs Chenesai Sithole, exhibited various ways through which traditional meals can be prepared to capture the imagination of people, including children who viewed traditional food as inferior.

Yesterday’s competition brought out the beauty and appeal of traditional cuisine with an African themed set up.

Covid-19 prevention protocols of masking up, sanitising and maintaining social distancing were observed.

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Speaking from a position of knowledge and with tangible examples, Mrs Sithole who was among the competitors, showed various ways to promote cultural modernisation of African foods and brought out the uniqueness of the foods.

“As a teacher, I want to promote traditional foods in line with our new curriculum 5.0 so that we take traditional foods and put them in classes. This is because traditional foods have adequate nutritional value. We get proteins, carbohydrates, mineral salts, vitamins, water and fibre. Most of our African foods are a total dish. You get all the seven nutrients. Just by eating a mere simple meal for example pan cakes with rupiza.

“Why I thought of this is because our young children, teenagers and some Westernised people in Zimbabwe no longer appreciate our traditional foods. But if you prepare them interestingly and prepare them in a modern way I think they will be attracted to these traditional dishes,” she said.

Mrs Sithole had many innovative dishes that included ox-head and zumbani salad.

“I also prepared ox-head and zumbani salad. I prepared this one because muzumbani is in vogue and is being used almost in all homes because we believe it strengthens our immune system. We agree that zumbani is helpful, but it does not just strengthen the immune system alone. Zumbani has fibre diet. Zumbani is a leafy vegetable which gives us foliate and enhancement of the brain. If you give it to your children, their IQ (intelligence quotient) will grow higher. It enhances memory and helps the elderly not develop Alzheimer and amnesia because it’s a leafy vegetable. 

“I also prepared a brain tat. I took out the brain from the ox-head and prepared a pie. That pie contains all the nutrients and mineral elements that are needed to make the brain work, strengthen our bones and our marrow and not develop diseases like anaemia and others. Most teenagers like rice, pasta, macaroni and fresh chips. I have used sweet potatoes to make fresh chips. I fried okra to make crotons. When I invite the child over to take the chips and crotons he will run unlike when you call your child to eat derere and mbambaira.”

Mrs Sithole said most African dishes promote proper movement of food in the bowels.

Some of the dishes prepared during Amai’s cook-out traditional meal cooking competition in Gweru yesterday.

“Okra has that elasticity and fibre which promote proper movement of our bowels to prevent constipation. I also added water to my dishes because it also prevent constipation and aid digestion among a host of benefits,” she said.

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All the African dishes that are found in Zimbabwe, Mrs Sithole emphasised, can be taken to class and have pupils answer question papers about them.

“If we enhance the preparation methods we can take them to class and answer question papers with them. I believe that African dishes are composite. You can even prepare a total vegetarian meal with all nutrients using African dishes,” she said to applause. 

Mrs Sithole also prepared mapudzi, cucumber and milk smoothie. Another contestant, Mrs Virginia Njelele, the wife to Chief Njelele of Gokwe South took part with a mixture of dried vegetables which she said was rich in nutrients and medicinally.

“As a chief’s wife, I prepared dishes that we consume in Gokwe. What I considered unique among the dishes I prepared are four types of dried vegetables that we mix and come up with one dish. We mix black jack, nyevhe, mowa and muchacha.

“Black jack helps increase blood in the body and strengthens the bones. Muchacha also invigorate the body and preserve health.”

The mixed dried vegetables, Mrs Njelele said, were ideal for the diabetic and children who suffer bone dislocations.

“I am personally diabetic and sometimes suffer diabetic attacks. However, when you started this programme of eating traditional foods and drying them, I am stronger because I now consume them more often. I also used to have a child who suffered bone dislocations, but this is now a thing of the past. We thank you heartily for your intervention Amai,” she said.

She thanked the First Lady for allowing chiefs’ wives countrywide to be part of the competition. There was a moment of fun when the First Lady invited guests to coin appropriate Shona names for her programme. 

Names that sprang up induced laughter and these included “Machikichori naAmai”, “Hadyana Yaamai kubika neudzamu”, “Makwikwi aAmai mukubika zvechivanhu” and “Kubika zvechinyakare naAmai”.

The First Lady promised to take all the contributions into consideration and said she would hand over the programme to the Ministry of Environment, Tourism and Hospitality after completing the finals. All the dishes that were prepared were cooked on the fire to give them the rich traditional taste that comes with meals prepared on fires.

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Mai Chief Njelele came out tops in yesterday’s competition, while Mrs Molla Mpofu of Zvishavane came second. The winners walked away with pots and other kitchen utensils. All contestants were given food hampers, courtesy of the First Lady. Amai’s cookout traditional meal competition is spreading to all the provinces before national finals slated for Harare where people will witness the African delight and the benefits of the programme.

Amai Mnangagwa was full of praises for those who took part in the competition.

“The aim of this competition is to encourage Zimbabweans to embrace preparing and eating our indigenous dishes. This also includes where we get the foods and the preservation methods,” she said.

The First Lady said the people of yesteryear lived long because of the food they ate.

“There were no fridges, but they were able to preserve the food. Today, most women do not have store houses. Whatever is cooked is thrown away into bins if not consumed fully. All excess food is thrown away. This was not the case in the olden days. People knew their seasons and preserving food for future use. This year we want to thank God for giving us adequate water that made many things germinate from the soil. There are many things including termites, vegetables, okra and fruits. This is the time for women to preserve these vegetables.”

The First Lady said the older generation was not susceptible to diseases largely because of the food they ate.

“In the days of old people did were not affected by many diseases. They survived on this food which has medicinal properties. There were no hospitals but they lived on this.”

Amai Mnangagwa said the consumption of traditional dishes helped people heal faster after combining the food with the pills they got from hospitals.

“To help the boys and girls at hospitals, eat sorghum porridge, eat vegetables with peanut butter, eat moringa leaves, sweet potato leaves, pumpkins among many other foods. If you then take your pills after two days you will be healed. At hospitals they emphasise that pills may not be taken on empty stomachs. They encourage you to eat first. If we combine this food and medicine from the hospital we would have cured someone,” she said. 

She said most countries enjoyed Zimbabwean food because of its rich soils adding that it was critical for people to pass the knowledge from elders to young children and learn the dishes.

Midlands Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Larry Mavima expressed gratitude for the First Lady’s competition which he said was necessary for the health of the nation. 

“This programme that has brought us together here today came after we faced challenges because of eating unhealthy food. Eating junk food or fast foods brings many dangers like obesity, cardiac challenges and stroke, diabetes, cancer and early death. Nutritious food is important because it helps our health. You have done well for this programme Amai which encourages nutritious food and ways of preparing these dishes.”

“These competitions ensure that people embrace our indigenous dishes and learn how to prepare them. Let us teach each other the various ways of preparing these dishes which are prepared differently in relation to the culture and norms of the communities we will be in. This competition will not only ensure people will have good health, but will ensure people observe their culture,” he said.

He said all the competitors covered all districts in the Midlands Province.

HERALD