Tafadzwa Zimoyo recently in Victoria Falls
While people in Zimbabwe have different eating styles, many of these are now Euro-centric, neglecting locally produced food that is usually viewed as healthier.
One such traditional food that rarely crosses the minds of Zimbabweans is game meat.
Consumption of game meat has died for many reasons, one of which being that hunting is now treated as poaching, and is thus a criminal offence.
Even with this limitation, game meat can still be acquired legally in Zimbabwe, with some of the meat readily available in supermarkets around the country.
But rarely do families go for game meat during their shopping, and if you happen to open any refrigerator in a Zimbabwean household, you are likely to be confronted with beef, chicken or pork.
Now, a group of people from various countries has come together in a bid to promote game meat to the upper echelons of the dinner table.
They move from country to country “putting game meat into people’s mouths”, as a way of making them realise how good the meat is.
Last week, and on Africa Day to be precise, this group decided to mark this important day on the African continent with an event reserved for tasting game meat in Victoria Falls.
The event was aptly named “Taste of Game Africa”.
“Eland is good and great depending on the cut of the meat, impala steak and liver are great, wildebeest is good and it depends on your cook. Bushpig is good and warthog is really good.”
These were some of the comments you could hear people mumbling after tasting a variety of game meat at the game meat tasting dinner.
The dinner was hosted by Oppenheimer Generation Research and Conservation and Shangani Holistic in partnership with Michelin Star chef Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen at the Zambezi House.
Well, it was not only a tasting experience of the game meat, but a learning curve too on wildlife, tourism and meat economics.
Chef Daniel Volponi said gaminess, like so much in life, boils down to diet and exercise.
“You have a very distinct, almost metallic flavour in game meant that can be the result of a higher iron content,” he said. “Anything that is wild and not farm-raised is going to have a more active lifestyle, with a more active heart rate.”
The organisers of the “Taste of Game Africa” decided to celebrate Africa Day and meat eating in style.
Guests from as far as South Africa, Nigeria and The Netherlands converged at Zambezi House just to taste and enjoy game meat – and they did that in style, clad in their African designer wear.
The game meat tourists included media personalities, business moguls, social media influencers, hunters, chefs and of course those who love game meat.
With some African music playing in the background as guests were ushered and welcomed with their favourite drinks, one could feel at home no matter the race, age and colour, as everyone was African at that particular time.
This was the second Taste of Game sensory experience following the launch last year, with the aim of further exploring the game meat landscape in support of Africa’s Wildlife economies.
The focus was on Zimbabwe, the game meat sector and the state of African Wildlife Economies.
Imagine people flying from all the place to Zimbabwe just to taste game meat!!
The temperature was 28 degrees Celsius in the afternoon, while at night it fell to 19 degrees Celsius, creating an atmosphere conducive for celebrating since it was cooler.
It was a relieving, breath of fresh air experience.
Since it was held at the offshore of the Zambezi House, the only scary part was the “Beware of the Crocodiles” sign which was by the shrub.
The tour guide identified as Gibson said crocodiles sometimes came out of the river at night, hence the sign just before the event started.
Huge three legged pots were on fire, while a full buffet with some of the popular local traditional food and fruits were on display.
Who knew game meat was that good, especially that which is found in Zimbabwe? A colleague said it was about the flavour when tasting game meat.
“Although the sensory quality of meat includes orthonasal and retronasal aroma, taste, as well as appearance, juiciness and other textural attributes, the focus of the guests at the event was primarily on flavour,” chef Vicky Clarke from Fresh Catering and Events in Johannesburg said.
She said one of the highlights of the event was the sustainability of eating game meat.
Clarke arrived in Zimbabwe from Johannesburg a week before the event, and went to Shangani and Hwange, among other game parks, to look for the game meat.
“We made sure before eating the game meat, we highlighted the sustainability of eating game meat because that is far better from a health point of view and more affordable than any other meat,” she said.
“So, for this event, we arrived last Sunday, with no food and it was quite daunting for us as cooks. All the meat you saw here came from Shangani as we spent days in markets, townships, researching and understanding about the game meat which was on sale.
“I must say I have never seen and worked with better produce in my life. It has been a fantastic and incredible journey in Victoria Falls for my life.”
Since it was about game meat, games were also played whereby some selected guests were blindfolded and those who guessed the right type of meat they had tasted while blindfolded walked away with eat out vouchers at selected restaurants in the country.
Game meat which was on offer included duiker, eland, kudu, beef, warthog, rabbit, buffalo and impala.
During the day, there was a discussion on the influence of species, age, gender, muscle anatomical location, diet, harvesting conditions, ageing of meat, packaging and storage, as well as cooking method on the flavour of game meat.
Head of research and conservation, Duncan MacFayden, said in an interview that besides loving European dishes, what needed to be done in society was to educate and commercialise wildlife.
“This function is about showcasing what wildlife economies are all about,” he said. “It is about research, unlocking inclusive wildlife economies.
“People need to know that Zimbabwe has the most fantastic wildlife and we need to change the narrative of people, the food they eat and what most people are forgetting is that it is key to the African economy and there is a need to work with the community on wildlife.
“We have the resources and expert knowledge in Africa and everything we do has to be Afrocentric and not Eurocentric. What has been displayed here shows the richness of Zimbabwe when it comes to game meat.”
Although the event was strictly by invitation, an astonished tourist Isaak David managed to sneak in and was left in awe by the amazing tasting of the game meat on display.
“This is my first time in Zimbabwe and I decided to visit the country because of Victoria Falls,” he said.
“I didn’t know about Africa Day. As you can see, I was the only one looking awkward during this event with no attire.
“I chose to gate-crash the event because my wife is out viewing the falls. The game meat is so yummy and I wish to take some home. I hope the chef will give me the directions on how to cook it.”
So, next time you visit a supermarket or a butchery, ask for game meat and start an eating habit that can lead to variety when it comes to decorating your dinner table.