Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Food in South Africa

Some people have asked us how the food is in South Africa. That is one of the things that we wondered a lot about when we came so we’ve been having fun finding out the answer to that question. There are some foods here that we wouldn’t commonly eat at home or in some cases, like butternut squash, not as frequently as they eat it here. They like to barbeque a lot or braai as they call it.  A favorite food for a braai is a long rolled up sausage called a boerwors roll. I tried a few bites and didn’t like it, but then I don’t like sausage in general so I’m no judge. Frank enjoyed his. They also like tripe, which neither of us tried, but Frank did eat Mopani worms, which I think are more Botswana than South African. Another thing I won’t try is the termites or flying ants. They come out with the first heavy rain, and people catch them and eat them, saying they taste like peanut butter. I think I’ll stick with the peanut butter, which isn’t that great here either. They eat jerky or “biltong” in all forms from many different animals including ostrich and other wild game. I haven’t seen these, but I guess you can buy a grilled chicken with feet and head—they are called walkie talkies J A staple that a lot of low income people practically live on is pap or cornmeal porridge served in a variety of consistencies but usually very stiff so it can be eaten with the hands. It tastes to me like cream of wheat, but with absolutely no flavoring so it’s very bland. I ordered some in a restaurant though with tomatoes, onions, garlic and cheese added and it was very good. Butternut squash is often called pumpkin here and is served frequently, and usually in combination (alongside not mixed) with creamed spinach. While food in the grocery store seems pretty comparable in price, food in restaurants is considerably cheaper. I'm guessing that must be because of cheaper labor here in Africa.
Our first meal in South Africa--sandwiches made from the cheese Nikki gave us, treats left by the mission office couple who set up the apartment.
Mopani worms--yes really worms! And no, I didn't try them.
Boerwors, tradition African food
Pap (the white stuff)
We had an interesting “traditional” lunch the other day here at the CES office at the end of some training. They were sandwiches called “quarters.” The reason for the name is that you slice a complete whole loaf of bread vertically through the middle and then each of those halves are sliced horizontally to create a quarter of a loaf of bread. The soft inside is then pulled out (by hand) and then filled with any ingredients. I can think of some things that would have made it delicious, but we had Russians which they say is like a hot dog, but is more a small sausage and bologna which is not Oscar Mayer J No vegetables, but some sort of mango chutney and some cheese. There was also a bunch of chips (French fries) added in.  The bread was really good, but the rest not so much and they are way too big and too fat to really eat unless you’re really hungry.
Quarters minus a few bites
A lot of things are very much the same—the chicken (without heads and feet) is very good. I think their beef tastes a little like liver, but they think it tastes the way beef should and that ours is tasteless because of all the antibiotics, etc. that we give our cattle. That may be true but I like the American beef much better. The stores have most of the food we need to cook the things we do, but many are not quite the same. Any hint of Mexican ingredients are either expensive or stale (the case with the corn chips we tried) and I haven’t found what they might be calling tomato sauce yet.  Their bread is very good though. I especially like one that we’ve been buying called brown dumpy bread (why dumpy I don’t know.) It has a really nice grainy texture but stays moist. You can buy good rolls and bread for very little—the equivalent of 15 cents for large bakery rolls. I was worried about having fresh milk since I like milk and thought it would all be the boxed kind. It turns out that their milk is really good, in fact so good that I suspect that the 2% really contains more cream that than. But I’m not letting my suspicions keep me from switching to 1% just yet.

The really great thing about the food is the fruit and vegetables. There are entire big stores that sell fruits and vegetables. Rachel would love the sweet watermelon that are so big you can’t put them in your refrigerator without cutting them in half first. Mangos and avocados are sold on many street corners in little pyramids and bundles at very low prices. Because there is so much fruit, the juice is really good and really cheap. We can buy cartons of 100% fruit juice for what would be a dollar. An interesting fruit that we’ve eaten here is a lychee fruit. They have a fairly hard red shell but a delicious inside. Bananas are abundant too and always ripe—no green bananas in sight. This means that they ripen very, very quickly. And remember the banana tree we had outside of our door, well it kept getting zapped by the electric fence surrounding our property  so the bananas broke down, but didn’t break off completely. I don’t know if they were ready to ripen or they are ripening because they are partly detached, but in any case, we are eating little finger sized bananas from the tree and guess what? They taste just like bananas J I’ll bet none of you have banana trees outside your door! 
The fruit and vegetable STORE!


  1. Elder and Sister D. We have enjoyed your blog and following your journey and mission in South Africa. We have made Boerewors and will share the recipe. An ingredient that adds to the special taste is vinegar, quality spec and toasted corrianderseed. Lettuce and radishes are up in Idaho and the work goes well! Elder and Sister Fesler feslerron@gmail.com

  2. Mom and Dad, what an awesome post! That bread looks and sounds especially delicious to me. And Dad, what courage to eat worms! Kinda gross that the beef tastes like liver!

  3. The fruit and vegetable store has me completely jealous!