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Zambian Cuisine

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Overview of Zambian Cuisine History Edit

Map of Zambia

Map of Zambia- Click to enlarge

Zambia is one of the Africa's most peaceful countries and is richly endowed with natural resources, occupying an elevated plateau in south central Africa. It's economy is relatively weak. Zambia’s geographical location kept it free of European and foreign influences until the 19th century. Copper, one of the country’s most important natural resources, had begun drawing European settlers in the early years of the 20th century. Because of Zambia’s isolation from the rest of the world for the greater part of its history, its cuisine has stayed very traditional.

Historically, the Zambian taste and use of ingredients has not changed a great deal. Before intercontinental trade started at a wide scale, the most important vegetable food staples were rice, sorghum and millet.The British influenced eating and drinking habits, importing new breeds of sheep, goats and cattle. They also planted high-quality coffee.

In general European explorers and traders introduced several important food staples to the country, after their first journeys to America and Asia. Important staples, which had been cultivated by the Indian cultures of the Americas, found their way to the "old continents". Beans, cassava, groundnuts, maize, tomatoes and sweet potatoes thus were introduced to Zambia and indeed Africa as a whole as a direct cause of the European exploring of the American continent. Asian seasonings like pepper, cinnamon, clove, curry and nutmeg were introduced as well.

Today the principal food crops are cereals; millet, sorghum, rice and maize. Root crops such as cassava, sweet potato and yams(though rare) are also important locally. Perennial cash crops include both groundnuts and cocoa.

The Zambian diet as with most parts in Africa is heavy on starches. The predominant staple food in most parts of Zambia has always been Nshima although in the western parts rice has been the staple food. Nshima is a food cooked from finely ground maize. In other instances it can also be prepared from Cassava flour, sorghum and millet. Nshima is eaten at any time of day and all year round regardless of season. It is usually served with a variety of vegetables and meat/fish.

Cuisines of Zambia Edit

Zambian cuisine has remained largely free from oh Nshima. Samp is another traditional recipe that is very easy to make. It only has two ingredientoked; add hot peppers, cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper to taste. Serve the caterpillars over a bed of greens.

Preparation Methods for Zambian Cooking Edit

Traditional preparation methods include steaming food in leaf wrappers (banana or corn husks), boiling, frying in oil, grilling beside a fire, roasting in a fire, or baking in ashes. Because Nshima is the most common dish in Zambia, there are a lot of preparation methods for it. . There is a kind of Nshima that is cooked from cassava meal (Sima ya Chikhau or Chinangwa), sorghum meal (Sima ya Chidomba) and finger millet meal (Sima ya Kambala). Nshima can be cooked from any grain and tubers that can be transformed into meal or flour. Nshima yibilsi (raw Nshima) and Nshima ya mgayiwa (cooked from corn or maize that is not hand processed) are other variations for this Zambian dish.

Usually, Nshima is served with Ndiwo (a relish cooked from domestic and wild meats that include Beef, goat, mutton, Deer, buffalo, elephant, warthog, wild pig, mice, rabbits or hare, antelope, turtle, alligator or crocodile, monkey, Chicken eggs and green vegetables). There are three basic methods of cooking Ndiwo: the first involves boiling all fresh meat, fish and available vegetables in plain water; the second is made using exotic meats such as mice, termite ants, caterpillars, and certain birds like baby doves that are strictly roasted and fire dried; the third and most common involves using two special ingredients: chidulo (made from burning dry banana leaves, Peanut leaves, or pea leaves, bean stalks and leaves or dry maize stalks and leaves) and kutendela (peanut powder).

Special Equipment for Zambian Cooking Edit

If you want to prepare some of the traditional Zambian recipes at home you don't need any special equipment besides your normal pots, stew pans and storage containers. You might use a wooden spoon because it enhances the flavour of the food. However, Zambians use a traditional cooking equipment to prepare their meals. Because most people live in rural areas, without electricity, gas or running water, most of them cook like their parents and grandparents did before them. Fuels used for cooking in households in Zambia are firewood, charcoal, kerosene, cow dung, and crop residues. While charcoal is the main fuel for cooking in urban areas, wood is predominantly used in rural areas. Cooking devices used are: three stones fireplace, metal charcoal stoves, improved charcoal stoves, and electric cookers (in the urban areas).

Shelled sorghum is dried for two weeks before cooking in a storage bin made from wood and grass. Shelling maize is usually done by a hand-driven shelling machine.

A special cooking tool that can be found in the Zambian kitchen is the biltong box, which is used for drying out large strips of meat. Small salads are sometimes served in coconut in the Zambian households.

Mthiko is the cooking stick that is specially made for cooking Nshima and Ndiwo. The significance of the mthiko cooking stick is reflected in the beliefs and customs of the people. Men and boys are traditionally prohibited from using or eating off of the stick. The masculinity of men and that of boys of puberty age is believed to be compromised if they use the cooking stick in this manner. A woman’s femininity is often also measured, among other criteria, by how well she cooks or ‘handles the mthiko cooking stick’.

People in Zambian Food Edit

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Because Zambia is mostly a rural country, there aren’t many local chefs in the true meaning of the word. Mostly everything related to preparing the food is done by women. Because the Nshima dish is eaten everyday by the people of Zambia, the Ndiwo served with it is the only thing that brings variation to the everyday meals. Finding a different type of ndiwo or relish for each day’s meals is one of the most demanding tasks for all mothers and housewives in Zambia. This responsibility challenges the women’s creativity every day. When the family is very poor, the same Ndiwo is sometimes served for several days in a row. This makes the family bored with the meal, which is every mother and wife's nightmare. The condition of eating the same type Ndiwo with Nshima for more than four consecutive meals and feeling bored with it is known as ichintendo. When the kutinkha state is achieved, the woman is blamed. To avoid this, the housewife has to be very creative and to cook one type of Ndiwo one day and a different one the following day. Nshima with Ndiwo is the most important meal and it is so embedded in the traditional culture of the people that it features very prominently in the languages, expressions, tales of hospitality and wisdom and folk tales. When you are a guest in a Zambian’s house, refusing to eat completely is considered rude unless you are close acquaintances or good friends with your hosts. Even if you are full, you always have to eat everything the host puts in your plate. If you do not, you are considered impolite.

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