Cuisine and Crops in Tropical Africa – Colonial and Contemporary

Revised 13 December 2013

Over the coming months I will continue putting up brief notes on cuisine and crops in Africa,  covering the following and related topics.   Some of these are summary overviews, not intended to reflect specific conditions in all areas; others are geographically specific.

Some of the topics covered include

  • Generalizations about food and diets in tropical & sub-tropical Africa
  • Eating during the Nineteenth Century
  • —  What colonial explorers had to say
  • —  Indigenous and introduced crops
  • Cuisine and crops before Colonization
  • Food and War in Pre-Colonial Africa

* * * * *

1. A few generalizations about food and diets in Africa:

The regions being discussed are dark and medium green - tropical and sub-tropical areas of Africa.  Source:  Regenwald

During and before colonial times, as now, the daily diet in most areas of Africa  has been overwhelmingly ‘vegetarian’.  This is not because people can’t get meat – or because any special benefit is seen to being vegetarian – but because meat has not been a central part of the diet as it is, or has become, in many other areas of the globe.  However,  dietary preferences are now changing and meat consumption is therefore slowly increasing – especially among the more wealthy.

The most popular meat includes  small ruminants (goats and sheep) as well as poultry, but particularly in rural areas their consumption is generally reserved for special occasions.  This is primarily because livestock have traditionally operated as ‘savings banks on the hoof’; also providing much-needed manure.  They are therefore worth more alive than slaughtered – except for emergency cash needs and for use in celebrations.

A cattle herd in central Burundi, c. 1910  These cattle are maintained primarily for wealth and prestigue.

A herd of Ankole cattle  in central Burundi, c. 1910 These cattle were maintained primarily for wealth and prestige – still the case today.  The breed is exceptionally hardy and resistant to certain internal parasites.  Source: Hans Meyer, Les Barundi.

Ankole cattle which I passed end of last year, in central Burundi, on their way from Tanzanya to the slaughter house in Burumbura.  This is a 3-day march, organized by livestock merchants who buy the stock from farmers in Tanzania and bring them to Burundi to help meet the increasing demand for meat in the country

A herd of Ankole cattle that I passed in central Burundi, on their way from Tanzania to the slaughter-house in Bujumbura (capital of Burundi). This is a 3-day march, organized by livestock merchants who buy the stock from farmers in Tanzania and bring them to Burundi to help meet the increasing demand for meat in the country.  Perhaps one of the last, great cattle drives.

Fish are commonly eaten in many areas – often dried so as to be transported for sale and/or stored. Also, a variety of bushmeat (aka wild animals), are caught in traps, speared, or chased down – and this is still the case today.

An oil of traditional fishing along Lake Tanganyika, with the Congo hills in the background.  The painting is over 50 years old, by a Belgian and I was fortunate in having it given to  me.

An oil painting of traditional fishing along Lake Tanganyika, with the Congo hills in the background. The painting is over 50 years old, by a Belgian and I was fortunate in having it given to me.  It is accurate.

Colonial rule has resulted in the importation of a number of foods and cooking techniques that have been adopted or adapted to local diets and means.  In central Africa, with Belgian Influence, frites (French fries), white bread, sandwiches, croissants, omelettes, tea, coffee (to drink rather than chewing on coffee berries, which was the case in pre-colonial times) and several other dishes and ways of cooking are widely popular.

Cheese omelet with white bread and coffee or tea, introduced by Belgian colonials, have become popular in urban cafes and restaurants. Here, coffee and hot milk are being served in thermoses.   I ordered this at an internet cafe.

Cheese omelette with white bread and coffee or tea, all introduced by Belgian colonials, have become popular in urban cafés and restaurants. Here, coffee and hot milk are being served in thermos. I ordered this at an internet cafe, the meal was about $1.50.

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About dianabuja

With a group of BaTwa (pygmy) women potters, with whom we've worked to enhance production and sales of their wonderful pots - fantastic for cooking and serving. To see the 2 blogs on this work enter 'batwa pots' into the search engine located just above this picture. Blog entries throughout this site are about Africa, as well as about the Middle East and life in general - reflecting over 35 years of work and research in Africa and the Middle East – Come and join me!
This entry was posted in Africa-General, Agriculture, Colonialism, Cuisine, Food, History-Recent, Livestock and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Cuisine and Crops in Tropical Africa – Colonial and Contemporary

  1. Pingback: Colonial Cuisine in Africa and What Followed « Dianabuja's Blog

  2. Pingback: Most Popular Blog Pages – Why?! « Dianabuja's Blog

  3. dianabuja says:

    Serving coffee and tea in thermoses is very common in cafés and restaurants where folks are likely to linger. Especially Sunday mornings, which is ‘the’ time to go out with family and friends and enjoy a brunch – many having done a jog of an hour or two. Burundians are very sportif and many belong to running groups who run on the weekends, just for the fun of it, socializing afterwards.

    Like

  4. maria says:

    a thermos for coffee – how interesting

    Like

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