IT’S COOKING ON THE ROAD
By Philip | 10 June 2018
As we reported earlier, Una suddenly turned away from any cow / milk products after 4 weeks into our trip, which made us rethink our entire structure of how to cook as this is one of the main things that you do when you are away from the conveniences of everyday urban life like we lived it. The fact that we couldn’t braai in the traditional way any longer was all but planned and we took the challenge on and got very creative around all forms of salads with tinned beans and tuna, fresh cabbage and carrots etc.
We must realize that much of the African diet is based around chicken / meat (and interesting parts thereof) and pretty much always the same variety of – yes – healthy but somehow monotone vegetables like, butternut, maize porridge, pap, kale, potato, tomato, onion, here and there avocado. Fruits are rare, who would have thought, and street bananas are small, apples are dry, watermelons are white and non-aromatic and we even heard a Zimbabwean telling us, that he sometimes goes a month without any fruit.
It also has showed us how much of our everyday food intake is based on patterns and habits that need a drastic rethink. It also amazes us how little variety there is in the habit of cooking or creative or lets say joyful preparation of food in this part of Africa.
It seems the staccato-like rhythm of women preparing huge amounts of mielli pap (maize/polenta style) in big pots is the only real involved cooking method there is. You could just cook a butternut and add some pap to it with Cinnamon it makes the most delicious side dish or topped with a fried egg a nourishing cool meal, or cut into a roll and fried a veggie burger like patty.
I always claimed to be a reasonable cook and I enjoy cooking and was excited to learn more about open fire cooking and food on the road and in the wild. A Portuguese speaking camp guard who happened to be a chef in Tete, Mozambique showed me the first time in my life how to prepare and cook a whole fish on open fire. It was a painful realization but an ever more pleasant experience this night on the banks of the Zambezi.
We took a reasonable sized box of fine ingredients, like chili salt (The Urban Farmer, Cape Town), truffle salt, smoked paprika, coriander seeds and different curries, turmeric etc. to spice up our route.
What we missed most was good quality bread because the toast all over Africa is morphing more into a gluey-substance-like-addiction-bomb pumped with carbs and taste enhancers. Lekka but ugly. The further north we come the more dry the bread gets and as soon as you start warming it up it turns into a airy cracker.
But if you put this toast into your cast iron jaffle maker and add tomato, onion, cheese and an raw egg the most delicious Wildstyle breakfast dream comes true, braaied in the iron tree ash from the previous nights fire.
So we started experimenting with baking our own bread here and there and it turns out fulfilling and real basic. It’s a whole science in itself as to how far to keep the coals away from the cast iron, how long to cool off, not to mention the dough raising process, surrounding temperature and the punching down, but only once maybe twice, moistening with butter (no butter in ZIM) or olive oil etc.
Thinking further we started missing a good pizza as this is really something you wont get in Africa (I mean a good one!). As the standards are high because my brother bakes the by far best pizza I have ever eaten and in fact sometimes I wake up dreaming about the dessert Nutella Pizza Neapolitana style from his Überquell Brewery, baked for only 90sec in a steady temperature pizza oven of 673 degrees (or something like that!).
But suddenly on our last day in Botswana, Francistown the pain got to strong and we created our very own pizza oven and in Kufunda- Zimbabwe we took it further and got the dough and the sauce and everything right that we managed to get our wild friend Gary ”Crocodile Dundee” Wingate to admit, that this was the by far best pizza that he has ever eaten. How is that for leaving a footprint and for Wildstyle like open fire cooking.
That evening after a pizza feast for young and old, over 10 village kids were happy and we felt a sense of achievement that doesn’t compare to any our previous feelings, we somehow shared our own little Wildstyle African experience with the memory of those kids and new friends close to us. Never forget, it’s a good thing to know where you have eaten your best pizza ever.