The thought of having a meal without meat is unimaginable. Even hardcore Rastafarians will tell you the same thing: meat is essential. Meat is a necessity.
Eating meat in Botswana has rather grown into an instinct. In Setswana, there is a saying, which goes “legano le a kua”, (translated, it means ‘the mouth is screaming’).
When you hear someone saying this, it means they are craving for meat.
Village loafers, retired herd boys and former cattle rustlers are, in fact, people who have plenty of unrecognized expertise. At big gatherings, like weddings and funerals, they usually cook meat for crowds.
When it comes to cooking meat, they are the professionals who are called upon to do the honours as the cooks.
When a cow is slaughtered at such occasions, the meat is usually cooked by men. Women are never really allowed near the big pots, unless when it’s time to eat.
Men normally congregate at the back of the yard and make a huge bonfire, preferably out of mophane wood. These men come through with ready sharpened Okapi knives, worn in self made leather pouches, which stick out from their belts.
They use their sharp knives to skin the ox and the slaughterer is given the ‘telwane.’
According to Lister (40), a retired cattle rustler in Tonota Village, this is the piece in between the genital parts.
“The back side is usually thrown to the dogs,” he said. The piece is usually roasted and eaten as a snack.
Once the ox has been skinned, the meat is cut into several portions with an axe. It is then thrown into 4 different sized pots.
As the meat starts cooking, the men use their sharp knives to cut a long branch from a Mogwana tree. The branches are then carved nicely to make a ‘leswao.’
It is a v-shaped meat pounder, which is a cooking utensil. After carving their leswao, each man usually places theirs nicely beside their designated pot, ready for action.
The meat is cooked in five different stages.
The first pot (size 25) is usually used to cook ‘seswaa,’ which is basically pounded meat that is meant for the ordinary masses.
Seswaa is usually made from the legs of the ox.
A big bone with plenty of meat, known as ‘Lesuhu,’ is normally taken out time and again as a sample. The lesuhu is normally eaten by the man-in-charge of the seswaa pot to test if the meat is cooked enough to be pounded.
The second pot (size 20) is then meant to cook serobe and mogodu, which is a mixture of the intestines.
The third pot (size 20) is used to cook mokoto, which are a mixture of meat and the intestines. Mokoto is a delicacy strictly meant to be eaten by the men.
The pot which is used to cook mokoto is usually safeguarded and it’s normally cooked by an older man with many years of experience.
The fourth pot is usually used to cook the cow’s head. The head is usually eaten by the uncle, uncle meaning ‘Malome,’ who is the younger or older brother from the maternal side of the family.
The uncle usually feasts on the delicate tongue, eyes and the brain. “He usually cuts off the ears and the nose and gives it to small boys as leftovers,” says Mogamba (60) a farmer.
Inalame, a.k.a, Detective Columbia, a village loafer in Tonota, says the herd boys who help out are usually given meat.
“They are given parts like the spleen ‘Lebete,’ the hooves and the lungs,” he said. “Parts like the heart, kidney and the liver are meant for old men and women who don’t have teeth.”
Under normal circumstances, when a cow or goat is slaughtered for home consumption women get to eat the chest; and the head man of the household eats the head and the thighs.
If and when meat is distributed amongst the family, the grandparents take the intestines since the meat is soft and tender. The fathers’ younger brother, also known as ‘Rrangwane,’ takes a portion called the ‘Tshiamo,’ which is the portion between the ribs and the hips.
Younger people and women don’t appreciate cultural delicacies. Perhaps the reason could be that they are being deprived of eating meat dishes like mokoto and the head (tlhogo).
Bastian Malabola, a cattle truck driver, says it should remain that way. “Men usually have the upper hand when it comes to providing meat so there is no reason for women and children to complain,” he said.