If you enjoyed the main course on Letlhafula Culture Day, you would be absolutely delighted with the dessert Botswanacraft Marketing is offering in the form of a 36-page traditional recipes booklet.
“Botswana Traditional Recipes ÔÇô a selection of favourite recipes for anyone who loves African cuisine” is the result of collaborative effort between Botswanacraft Marketing, the organisers of Letlhafula and outsiders they have established a working relationship with. The latter include the Department of Culture and Youth and lecturers at the University of Botswana.
The book, whose official release coincided with Letlhafula Culture Day, offers a selection of traditional dishes, many of which feature at the annual cultural festival that is held in Gaborone every May.
The introduction to the booklet states: “Each traditional dish has as many recipes as there are cooks, and there will never be agreement on the correct method to prepare any menu. A Setswana menu is no exception. The recipes in this book describe some of the typical methods of preparing the various dishes and are by no means exhaustive.”
That explanation notwithstanding, there are still people who are going to frown upon the inclusion of “western” ingredients in traditional dishes.
Neo Moutswi, proprietor of a hugely successful traditional food eatery in Gaborone, says that such innovation is not desirable since it includes having to introduce harmful chemicals to otherwise uncontaminated traditional food.
In the booklet, ingredients for mophane worms prepared for a family include onion, green pepper, tomato, chilli powder and cloves of garlic. Ingredients for other dishes include peanut butter, brown onion soup, aromat, cooking oil, barbecue spice, margarine and bicarbonate of soda.
According to Boitshepo Giyose, a Motswana who works at the secretariat of the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) in South Africa as a food and nutrition security advisor, the best thing about traditional food is that it is organic.
“Traditional food is healthy because it has not been processed ÔÇô it goes direct from the field to the stove to the plate. That way, it retains its natural goodness because when food goes through any sort of processing, it loses a lot of vitamins, minerals and fibre and may subsequently have to be fortified ÔÇô that is, putting those vitamins and minerals back,” says Giyose who holds a Masters Degree in international nutrition from an American university.
The Botswanacraft recipes booklet is the first edition of an on-going project and the publishers welcome comments and suggestions for subsequent editions. Here is a suggestion: in the coming editions it may be helpful to select appropriate pictures for the recipes of some dishes.
The picture that illustrates the dikgobe recipe does not show the dish itself but the faces of two women; for phaleche, morogo wa rothwe, delele and setampa, the picture used is that of three-legged cast iron pots; differently-sized calabash cups are shown for mosukujane ÔÇô wild mint tea; and, morogo wa rothwe is illustrated with the lid of a cast iron pot. Pot pictures dominate ÔÇô altogether there are six of them.
Generally, the picture quality is excellent but some pictures, like those that illustrate bogobe jwa mabele and bogobe jo bo apeilweng ka morula could have used a bit more Photoshop editing. When bogobe jwa mabele is brown in colour, the picture in the booklet makes the dish look whitish.
Due to space constraints, it has obviously not been possible to illustrate each dish with a picture. There are no pictures for some dishes like phane, segwapa sa dobi, morogo wa dinawa and serobe.
However, the criterion used is questionable on score of the fact that some dishes like mosata are uncommon and it would have helped the reader if there was some sort of illustration.
The booklet is divided into four recipe sections: meat, relish, cereal and variety. The latter includes recipes for gemere, mosukujane and lerotse jam.
Although a national festival that still dwarfs all its imitations, Letlhafula, and by extension its recipe booklet, is not fully representative of what the country has to offer in the way of traditional cuisine. Save for mosata, delele, bobola and bogobe jo bo apeilweng ka morula, most of the recipes are mainly from Setswana-speaking tribes.
Botswanacraft’s general manager, Nicola Hart, acknowledges that point and says that in the future they will add more dishes from other cultures.
The department of social services released its own recipes booklet but Botswanacraft’s, despite its shortcomings, trumps the former in all departments and shows all promise of getting better and better.
The future appears bright for Botswana’s traditional food industry if the innovation planned for the industry bears fruit. The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth is in the throes of developing a national policy on culture whose primary purpose is to promote all aspects of Botswana culture. The draft plan covers diverse food ways aspects, such as food drying processes, storage and preservation, animal slaughter procedures and taboos, recipe publications, directories of specialists in cookery and food industries, patenting of recipes of traditional food.