Updated: Mar 17
Botswana is well known for its music, wildlife, national parks, diamonds, traditional dances, and its traditional meals. It is known for its different tribes along with their different clothing. Sounds good right? Today’s focus is Tswana traditional dishes, yum!
There are different kinds of Tswana dishes. In fact, there are over hundreds and hundreds of them but today I will be listing the ones I know. These dishes include Seswaa, my fav, which is basically beef that is pounded without any vegetables; Dikgobe, a dish that consists of beans, corn, and lamb (optional); Morogo wa dinawa, a green leafy vegetable made from beans; Mophane worms; Bogobe, also known as Pap; Madila, identified as sour milk, which is made from fermented milk that is either placed in a container for days or just placed in the sun for around 3 to 4 days until it turns thick in appearance and sour in taste; Bogobe jwa lerotse, some kind of porridge that is made from melon, albeit a less sweet variety of watermelon which is indigenous to the country of Botswana. This fruit is more similar in taste to the cucumber when raw. It is peeled, chopped in smaller pieces and then boiled. The meal consists of sorghum meal and served along with sour milk: morula, which is identified as marula in English.
This type of plant/fruit is what we call an indigenous meal. It has a green covering on the outside when it is yet to be ripe and this skin is removed before the fruit is being sucked on. Mind you, you have to be careful while sucking the fruit because it has a big seed and you can easily choke on it which will cause problems and can even cause death. You are definitely not looking forward to that so you should adhere to my advice.
Furthermore, the above mentioned dishes are really easy to make. The cherry on the cake is that they are made with accessible ingredients that we can all find somewhere around. They do not take plenty of time to make either which is an advantage to people who might feel a bit lazy to make meals that take longer to prepare. As such, the dishes are not only easy to make, or less time consuming but also tasty and nutritious.
In terms of nutritional value, these meals contain plenty of nutrients as fat, protein, vitamins, minerals, and water which quite do a lot to our bodies more than we think. They provide with energy to carry out our daily tasks, they function as the source of the building blocks for repair tissues, growth as well as substances necessary to regulate chemical processes. Moreover, they help us stay away from diseases too; diseases as high blood pressure, eating disorders, Type2 diabetes, heart disease, tooth decay, cancer, osteoporosis, stroke, and obesity. This is a blessing, I believe. I mean imagine eating the food that makes you less susceptible to sicknesses, unlike eating junk food, enjoying it, and later getting sick. Getting to know all the advantages of eating these traditional meals and fruits, we can agree that they are tasty and healthy meals that would do no harm to try.
Meanwhile, Morula/Marula is not just for sucking on. People allow the outer side of the fruit to turn yellow to use it in the process of making Amarula beer which numerous people cannot miss out on in certain Botswana occasions including weddings. No wonder this beer is also unsurprisingly found in bars in different countries and different continents.
Talking about weddings, culture, and beer. Botswana has what it calls Bojwala JwaSetswana which when translated to the English Language is Tswana beer.
This Tswana Beer is made from maize meal, corn malt and crushed sorghum malt. The sorghum malt provides a dark shade to the beer; the ingredients are then combined in a cast iron pot which is called pitsa ya Setswana: a cauldron with three stands used for EVERY meal including the non-traditional meals. The following is an image of the cast iron pot in case I got you lost:
Returning to the subject, this beer is usually made for traditional occasions such as weddings and family gatherings; where the elderly are involved, of course. It has loads of proteins as well as starch, considering its concoction is made from ingredients that contain all sorts of starch. Therefore, we can conclude that this beer can cause weight gain which is an advantage or a disadvantage depending on the individual. Yet, it is still a good drink to the public because of all the nutrients that it engenders.
Personally, I have never been any happier sitting around the fire with family and embracing our culture through the food mom and grandma would make. I simply cannot get enough of the food, my body insists on more and more and I am pretty sure this does not happen to just me. I get so excited holding a plate filled with diversities of my motherland's meals. To this, my mom always chuckles when I “mmm…” to her food. She knows how to really bring enthusiasm to someone’s face though her food: a gift that was bestowed upon her by her ancestors; a gift that always invites the “wow” from the crowd.
I find it really important to let the present African generation and those that are yet to come know that it is imperative to learn about their country's meals. I find it as a means of knowing where you come from and knowing what makes you different; I find it as a cultural signifier and means of identity.
Sadly, I think African food is unrated and underrated by people from other continents and from Africa itself. Africans have imbibed the perception that African food tastes bad and nasty which inadvertently spreads bad vibes and jaundiced stereotypes around. As a way out, Parents should really take time and introduce the African dishes to their children while they are still young. This is to carry what the ancestors have taught the current generation through to the succeeding generation. This chain or cycle helps us to maintain our connections to the roots and retain our identity. By so doing, our children, no matter where they are, will not forget how home is, what home is and where home is. This, I believe, is an important thing to teach the upcoming generation.