I am currently on location in Harare, the capital city of Zimbabwe enjoying a good holiday catch up with food, family and friends. Things seem pretty ordinary here despite complaints that the econony has gone down way below rock bottom since the latest elections. Upon examining this report closely, I must admit that life just seems to keep ticking along and people simply make adjustments to survive.
A person is spoiled for choice on things to do here. And there is absolutely nothing that you would expect in a first world city that you wouldn’t find here. The services you find here are second to none, from luxurious spa treatments with high grade staff (http://www.skinspazim.com), to Zumba classes with your choice of bollywood style, or rumba (zumba4zim). With a great number of places to go out to, such as Maestro or Circle night club for a hip night out, or the vast number of quaint coffee shops, you are not likely to fall short of places to go, budget permitting. What strikes me most about the local definition of “worse than rock bottom” is what has always rung through about the resilience of Zimbabweans. Clearly they just want to get on with life, and so they just do it. Here are examples of how and perhaps maybe why Zimbabweans get on with it
Well, it is December and what this means is that local or indigenous foods, fresh, dried or preserved are in abundance and are quite affordable.
Mazhanje (sugar plum)
This fruit grows in abundance naturally and is in season from November throughout the rainy December and January. I was keen to make jam out of these but my attempt resulted in an epic fail.
The skins are just not good for jamming as the result is an awful sensation of bitter grit and unripened fruit residue, which means to get the pulp requires painstaking scooping and patience. I will have to give it another go next time. My mother in law tells me with such fruit in abundance, people can still nourish themselves during hard times thus indigenous produce provides some form of food security.
These are known as Mopane worms in English, widely known as just “phane” in Botswana. These are not actually worms but caterpillars that flourish on mopane trees. They are normally harvested, squeezed and sun dried. They are then eaten as a snack or soaked to rehydrate then grilled or stewed. They are highly nutritious. A little bit of research has led me to find some eat them freshly harvested off the trees. If this isn’t enough to make you squeamish, why don’t you go ahead and contact My Burnt Orange, who can arrange for you to have this gastro naturo experience right here in London.
If you like the taste of fish sauce, belacan or any stinky fish, you will love these dried salted little swimmers. I ground these in a blender to use as a substitute ingredient for my shito recipe. It was great, a tad on the salty side, but it worked especially if dried/smoked crayfish is not locally available. Alternatively, kapenta is also enjoyed fresh and stewed with sadza (pap, polenta), or the dried version soaked to de-salt and rehydrate and then stewed.
Now I got over excited when I smelled these fragrant peppers. They are just like “kpakpo shito” which has got much prevalence in Ghanaian cuisine. These may not be an original Zimbabwean delight but an import from many Zimbabweans of Malawian origin.
Eating out and entertainment
In terms of coffee and cake or breakfast with tea, I was spoiled for choice. I got to enjoy a cuppa or brunch at several places. Freshly Ground at Sam Levy’s Village was just OK, we only went there because Pistachios had not opened yet. Then there was Alo Alo in Arundel Village. It was filled with bone China and everything you would hope to find delightful. It was very quaint. But what really took the cake for me was Cafe Nush Organik’s. The service was amazing and that is just what makes an experience unforgettable. One other place I just managed to get time for was Willowmead Junction. Absolutely stunning place.
I really like to take it easy but seeing as I was enjoying the city of Harare during the festive season, I went out a couple of times. Maestro seems to be the fab hip place to be for the calm and collected. It is a restaurant of international standards and even delights its patrons with live music. It most definitely is a place to catch up with friends and good conversation over a glass of wine. Circle was the spot to be on New Year’s eve, the VIP section that is. Great music, great atmosphere, cool people. I even got my required dose of azonto.
There is so much more to write about Harare, I didn’t even cover the food lovers market but I will leave it here with a final thought, that this is a world class city whose roads may fall apart every now and again as they all do, but with a people so robust they can withstand anything, their spirits will never be broken.
Sara zvakanaka (Shona – stay well)