Tendai Rupapa in CHINHOYI
People in Mashonaland West Province yesterday had an appreciation of Zimbabwe’s rich traditional dishes, thanks to Amai’s Cook-out Traditional Meal competition rolled out by First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa.
The competition was designed to showcase the importance of traditional food varieties and their nutritional value to encourage their incorporation into modern lifestyles.
The event brought together men and women including chiefs’ wives from all the districts, and they battled it out in the cooking competition, which the First Lady officially launched yesterday.
It will spread to other provinces before national finals in Harare.
Amai Mnangagwa is the country’s health ambassador and works hard to promote healthy eating.
Yesterday’s competition was held in adherence to World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines to prevent Covid-19 transmission such as wearing of face masks, sanitising and maintenance of social distance.
One of the participants in the competition, Mrs Marceline Dongo from Makonde prepared chidhudhu, rupiza, mutetenerwa and gavi remupfuti.
Chidhudhu is prepared using grated green mealies, while for rupiza, pumpkins are used.
An elated Mrs Dongo said the cooking competition helped pass knowledge on traditional foods from one generation to the other.
“I want to thank the First Lady for what she has done. If we continue on this trajectory, we share knowledge among elders and the youths. These foods which include mufushwa, mukoyo, muchekecha are found in the bush and they make us healthy and protect us from diseases,” she said.
The sentiments were shared by another participant Mrs Shingaidzo Makaza from Chegutu District, who said although she was 62-years-old, she was still very energetic and raring to go because she always ate traditional dishes.
Among the contestants was a teacher at Chikangwe High School in Hurungwe, Mrs Caroline Shinya, who described the First Lady’s programme as highly-beneficial to the nation.
“Traditional foods are richer in nutrients than refined foods. They prevent diseases. Methods of preparing these traditional foods preserve nutrients. We shall pass this to schoolchildren who in turn will pass the knowledge to the communities they live in,” she said.
Mrs Grace Marecha from Zvimba was full of praises for the First Lady saying she had previously benefited from an initiative of the mother of the nation to teach women to bake bread.
A youthful Mr Nickson Mbofana prepared several dishes that included madora in chilli, muboora, derere, nhopi, roadrunner, mutsine, munyemba and rice with peanut butter while another participant from rural Kariba took the First Lady through the preparation of Utsiga wild fruit as a desert.
Mrs Dorcas Chigodora, who is Mai Chief Mashayamombe of Chegutu District, spoke glowingly about the First Lady’s programmes.
As part of her dishes, she had sweet cane (ipwa) for dessert which she described as a unifying plant.
“Sweet cane in the olden days was taken to promote unity. You can give someone when moving about. The First Lady is uniting us as a nation. Let’s unite and if we unite we go forward. People of yesteryear did not get sick because of the nutritious food they ate,” she said.
Mai Chief Mushawa from Mhondoro Ngezi, Mavis Macherechedze, said: “When we go back to our communities we will gather other women and share with them the knowledge we learnt. This programme is important because it makes us learn to give our children and families healthy food. Traditional foods are nutritious and build our bodies.”
Meals prepared at the competition included starters, main courses and desserts.
For starters there was among other foods, maheu made from mukoyo (a tree root), maheu made from musekesa, maheu made from maize-meal, mutetenherwa wemhodzi dzemanhanga, roasted groundnuts, gavi remupfuti, zumbani tea and mawuyu juice.
Main meals had sadza from millet, sorghum and maize, road-runner chiken, mufushwa, muboora, mutsine, derere remashizha remusango, munyevhe, nyemba fritters, nyemba sausages, mukunda nzara (mixture of mutakura, nzungu, nyimo, nyemba, beans) rice with peanut butter, madora, matemba (dried and fresh), fish, rupiza, mumhare, chimukuyu chine dovi and moringa.
Dessert comprised pfutare (pumpkin mixed with honey and groundnuts), gaka reminzwa, water melon, roasted matemba, mutsiga, dried mangoes, mabumbe (made from mapudzi seeds) among many other dishes.
In her address, the First Lady said the main purpose of the programme was to open the floor for women and men of Zimbabwe to showcase the importance of traditional food varieties and their nutritional value to encourage their incorporation into our lifestyle.
“You may remember that in 2019, I hosted an introductory food, arts and culture festival in Harare where all provinces were given the platform to exhibit the various foods consumed within their respective communities.
“Today we are continuing in the same vein by raising awareness on the significance of our cultural foods on bodily function and how they are immune boosters. We are in the time of Covid-19 and as a nation we have become more health conscious than ever before,” she said.
The mother of the nation said in people’s consciousness, they must not sideline the dense nutritious value that indigenous foods have and how these prop up antibodies in fighting against various ailments.
She said she had included traditional chief’s wives, who as the custodians of culture, will be given an opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge of traditional foods.
“We are not leaving anyone behind as children from grade four to the young adults in tertiary level are going to compete in their own category, thus prompting the dissemination of the importance of traditional foods from a tender age. Even hotels will compete amongst themselves in a bid to promote our cultural cuisine to tourists and in our local hospitality industry.
“It is sad to note that many amongst us have now started consuming some of our traditional foods out of fear of Covid-19.
“Today it is all over social media that many traditional foods are now being associated with medicinal qualities to fight Covid-19. Surely, we cannot be eating our own food varieties as medicine yet we had them all along and could have boosted our immunity every day of our existence.”
As the ambassador for health, the First Lady said she was calling upon health professionals to help unpack the medicinal qualities embedded in some traditional food varieties for the benefit of the nation.
“Our forefathers consumed these food varieties and were healed from many diseases of their time.
“Let us implore and encourage the young to be proud of their culture and heritage, to like their own types of food varieties, to always ensure they consume it, to come up with various means and ways of preparation of our own traditional dishes to suit the times we are living in today.
“Let us learn from other cultures, especially Asians the likes of Chinese, Japanese and Indians who have invested more into their traditional food varieties ensuring consumption of such foods has passed on from generation to generation. Today they are among the best nations in fighting Covid-19 because they rely more on their traditional diet which in most cases is an immune booster with medicinal qualities.”
The competition, the First Lady said, will first take place within provinces in line with lockdown regulations where people cannot gather as large groups.
Amai Mnangagwa gave an account of an air trip during which travellers were given a taste of Kenya traditional cuisine and kindly urged local airlines to be part of the cook-out programme and follow suit to popularise local traditional dishes.
“Why are we ashamed? We urge air hostesses to intervene. We want visitors to taste our millet sadza before landing. They are giving us their food to eat so after travelling for some distance we should give them our traditional meals.
“We should explain to them the food and make them taste our dried meat with peanut butter. This should be done by our boys and girls to popularise our traditional dishes,” the First Lady said to applause.
Winners from provinces will then meet in Harare for the finals where a mystery basket will be given to participants to prepare a dish from whatever ingredients they find in their respective baskets.
She said she will be going around provinces for the first round of the competition, speaking to contestants reassuring them of the importance of this exercise.
“I am hopeful that at the end of this competition, many of us would have learnt a lot about our traditional food varieties and the importance of preparing and consuming them regularly. To the media fraternity, I want to challenge you to use your power to publicise and inform our people about our traditional food varieties as well as encouraging consumption of such. Let us all join hands in supporting, promoting and encouraging preparation and consumption of our own traditional food varieties.”
There were 20 contestants including men in yesterday’s inaugural competition where Gogo Rosemary Mujuruki from Makonde district came out tops followed by Mrs Shinya who took the second position.
The winners walked away with hampers of kitchen utensils that included a set of pots and cutlery among others.
All the contestants were given an assortment of foodstuffs that included maize-meal, cooking oil, sugar, rice and laundry soap by the First Lady.
Mashonaland West Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister, Mary Mliswa-Chikoka, praised the First Lady for rolling out the competition.
“These competitions bring back memories of our traditional way of life which encouraged the consumption of healthy natural organic meals. Even in this Covid-19 period, though we now have a vaccine, that vaccine only works if our bodies’ defence mechanism is strong through nutritious food. I survived Covid-19 and this kind of food is what I ate. I am a testimony to the benefits of these traditional foods,” she said.
Speaking on behalf of chiefs’ wives, Mai Chief Charumbira said: “Representing the spouses of chiefs, I want to thank the First Lady for this programme. She is doing many programmes in trying to preserve and promote our culture. As Chiefs’ wives, we encounter many things in our communities and her programmes are tailor-made to rectify these challenges.”
Representing the Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Mangaliso Ndlovu, the ministry’s Permanent Secretary Mr Munesu Munodawafa expressed gratitude to the First Lady for the educative competition.
“It is also our hope as a ministry to encourage hotels to embrace our traditional dishes,” he said.