Thursday, November 05, 2015

African Food Adventure

On this African adventure we visited primarily two countries South Africa and Botswana. We also made a quick stop in Zimbabwe, Zambia, and a fictional collaboration of these two countries known as ZimZam.  The basic plan of action was to quickly drive from Johannesburg to Botswana, and after a few days make our way to Victoria Falls at the Zimbabwe and Zambia border (ZimZam). Then take a few weeks to meander down to Cape Town and the Southern most point of Africa.

Food wise the plan was to figure out what kind of candy we could get, sample the local snacks, and in Allison's case taste as many wild games as possible.

I did what I always do when I visit someplace new, I instantly panicked, and within the first few days I visited as many stores as I could to try and get a vibe for the candy scene in Africa. The one thing that really struck me was the amount of chocolate bars available all over Southern Africa. It was surprising because this is a pretty hot place and a pretty hot season when we were visiting. Many warm countries don't sell many chocolate bars because they melt easily in their warm weather. Some countries even formulate special chocolate bars that don't melt as easily, but not Botswana or South Africa. They have a huge range of bars, often not kept in refrigerators, and made with high quality chocolate.  This did lead to a few messy chocolate bars disasters, in particular with the Tex bar that I had to re-buy because mine had melted beyond recognition.  Even the new one I purchased melted in the few seconds I set it down on the table to take out my camera and shoot a few photos.
After a day or two of panic shopping for African candy, I started to calm down and looked around much more casually. I discovered a few treats that were all over the place and I also came across a few really unique treats too, most notably the Monkey Gland Sauce Flavoured Potato Chips (you can read the review here). I also noticed that similar to other European colonized countries, brands like Cadbury and Nestle were in abundance and this included many of their standards. Fortunately there were also many original Cadbury and Nestle products as well. I also found a lot of licorice, which I imagine is due to the Dutch influence, but could also have something to do with the fact that licorice doesn’t melt.

The most surprising food that everyone seemed to go nuts over in all of the countries we visited was baked goods. All of the grocery stores had exceptional baked sections with a vast array of cakes and pastries. The most popular baked item seemed to be sliced bread, and there was an obsession with slicing it immediately.  Each and every store had at least one bread slicer, some as many as 5 or 6. My favourite baked product in Africa had to be the rusks. If you've only ever sampled European or North American rusks in your life, then you just don't know how good a rusk can be. The variety is fantastic as well, Sweet rusks, savoury rusks, all kinds of grains and fruits as well. In my mind however the buttermilk rusks can't be beat.

Allison's adventure on this journey was a little more meat focused, but maybe I'll let her explain:
"Canada is known for great game meat, and I enjoy some of the standards, like deer and moose, but have also sampled some more northern specialties like caribou, elk, and muskox.  In Botswana, some opportunities arose to enjoy some African game meat!  The first time, I had a choice between a few meats.  Impala is known as the "McDonald's of the savanna", as they are plentiful and many animals hunt them (and they also have a marking on their behinds that looks like an "M").  So I chose the impala, thinking, "If everything else eats them, why shouldn't I?"  In the following days, I also sampled kudu and eland.  I missed a chance to try giraffe stew - I was too late and it was all gone - but I was secretly happy to miss it, because with their long necks, interesting fur patterns, and slow graceful strides, they just seem too ... *nice*... to eat."

This was a great adventure both food and travel wise. Southern Africa is truly a beautiful place, and the food is fantastic. I'm sure I'll be back, if at the very least to pick up more rusks.


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