Rural Zimbabwe has a lot to offer in terms of culture and hospitality. The countryside is quite beautiful with its vast open spaces, serene setting, and traditional influence. According to the national census of 2012, about two-thirds of Zimbabweans live in rural areas. Though most of the land in these areas is farmland, there is still much to see and discover here.
So it was inevitable that Liz and the FOSOA crew would head down to Mutoko village, which is a 4-hour journey from Chitumbwiza. The village of Mutoko is where Liz’s mother was born and bred. On their arrival, she was met by her grandmother, who warmly welcomed her with a hug and the customary greeting.
In Zimbabwe, it is common practice to greet a visitor with a regular handshake when they enter your compound. Once you have ushered then into the house and they have sat down, you then ask them how they are and extend the greeting by cupping your hands. However, in Mutoko village, there is a slight variation to this greeting. The host and the visitor greet each other by shaking and then clapping their hands. With such an exuberant greeting style, an outsider would be forgiven for thinking that a song and dance was about to break out!
On top of that, the host must offer their visitor a cup of water after they have sat down. It is also customary in many African villages for the host to prepare a special dish for visitors, especially if they have travelled a great distance. To celebrate her visit, a dish of sadza, green leafy vegetables, and chicken was prepared. The chicken was not your exotic broiler variety but what is known as a “roadrunner chicken.” This is an indigenous breed of chicken that is often allowed to roam freely and fed on home-made feed.
Preparing this meal was indeed a family affair as everyone chipped in to help. Sharing everything and spending time together is simply part of the communal nature of African people.
Preparing the Chicken
There is a lot of preparation that must be done before cooking chicken. For example, it is important to have very hot water ready to help remove the chicken’s feathers after it has been slaughtered. This task was undertaken by the wife of Liz’s cousin. She placed the slaughtered chicken in a large pan and poured some hot water over it. Once all the chicken feathers had been stripped off, a fire was lit between three large cooking stones. This is the traditional method of cooking in Africa, and in this case, all the cooking was done outdoors.
The task of cooking the chicken fell on the shoulders of Liz’s aunt, Rachel. She placed a cooking pot over the fire and poured in some cooking oil. Once the oil was hot, she added the chicken pieces and fried the meat. After the chicken had turned brown, Rachel tossed in some chopped tomatoes and onions into the pot. She stirred the ingredients together for about a minute before pouring in some water to make soup. As the chicken was being prepared, Liz’s mother and grandmother were busy getting the green vegetables ready.
How To Make Sadza
Sadza, which is also known as maize meal pap, is made from mealie meal. Once Aunt Rachel had finished cooking the chicken, she got ready to cook the sadza. As a big pot of water was being heated over a fire, she mixed some raw mealie meal and water in a large bowl. When the pot of water had come to a boil, she then poured the mealie meal paste into the boiling water. She stirred the mixture continually for a few minutes before placing a lid over the pot.
After letting the mixture boil for a few minutes, she poured a few cups of dry mealie meal into the pot. She stirred the mixture repeatedly until the mixture began to thicken. Sadza is supposed to have the consistency of mashed potatoes, which is why you have to add raw mealie meal and stir continually.
As the mixture thickens, it becomes much more difficult to stir, so you have to use more force to turn the mixture over. Clearly, this is no task for the weak. When the sadza was ready, Rachel placed a lid over the pot and let it sit for five minutes.
While taking a walk around the homestead, Liz stumbled upon a Moringa tree. According to her grandmother, the tree was about 5 years old. This was quite an amazing find as Liz has had an avid interest in the plant. Once planted, the Moringa tree generally takes about one year before the leaves start growing.
In a traditional setting, there are many ways to utilize this plant. In her village, the locals take the Moringa leaves, dry them, and then add the leaves to their regular tea. You can also boil the leaves and drink the water. But the leaves aren’t the only part of the tree that can be made use of. Moringa bark is also beneficial as you can peel off some bark and boil and drink the water. Through her online research, Liz discovered that Moringa can also be turned into a capsule.
The Moringa plant, which is also known as the “miracle tree,” is native to Africa, Asia, and South America. It is a versatile and valuable plant that is said to have innumerable medicinal benefits. It boosts strength, enhances longevity, heals chronic pain, and also has antifungal and antibacterial properties.
It seems like it was a lucky day for Liz as she discovered another tree that is considered to be very precious in Zimbabwe. This is the baobab tree. The tree is venerated as a magical tree that has the power to grant wishes. All you have to do is hug the tree, make your wish, and wait for it to come to pass. And this is exactly what Liz did. We will wait to hear back from her to see whether this superstition is indeed true.
At the end of the day, the entire family gathered around in the house for the traditional sing-along session. Singing and dancing are a core part of African culture, and you haven’t really partaken in Africa until you witness the local song and dance.
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