Makadii Zvenyu! It’s only proper as an African and a proud young Shona woman from Zimbabwe that I greet you in my mother tongue and officially welcome you to my little corner on this platform. My name is Hazel Matebwe and I thank you for stopping by…

As a proud African woman far from home, the two things that l always miss and hold dearly to my heart are family and food! This is because both family and food form an integral part of our daily interactions as Africans, and today, I will show how the African culture and family is indeed mainly centred on food – good traditional food for that matter. I will also show you why – if you by any chance meet me on the sidewalk or in the train – I am most likely to start ranting about how much I miss home.

I find it somewhat strange that in Africa, you will find American, Italian and French dishes – even Indian – served in restaurants and homes. …why isn’t that the case for African dishes in European restaurants and homes? Could this be a product of or a new form of colonisation?

Recent migration of Africans to Europe and the American continent is directly linked to the availability of a variety of African dishes with the introduction of African food shops and markets. However not all foods from the vastly diverse regions of Africa have managed to penetrate this mainstream food culture away from home – and honestly those popular dishes are from African countries that have reached the global stage through endeavours such as fashion, sports and entertainment, i.e. Nigeria.

Jollof rice, a popular West African dish

Yet, even though one finds such restaurants that offer a variety of African foods, I have come to realise that the experience does not invoke the same feeling that the taste and flavour of the very same food invokes if one were partaking of the meal in their motherland. This perhaps demonstrates the connection that food has with space, sense of belonging and a good conversation with one’s nuclear or extended family.

As an African who recently moved to Europe, I think there is an absence of diversity of the African culture in Europe, America and other continents. This could be because we are the minorities of such worlds, or because our culinary cultures are hard to mainstream. For instance, one can find an African food shop in Europe, but the shop can be far from where most Africans stay which means driving a long distance to buy foods such as cassava, maize meal or any other traditional African vegetables. Or the food can be a little pricey.

For most such as myself, the expenses that come with such a hustle to find food does not make sense and we end up buying what we find in the local stores around us. In other cases, because the food is cooked out of its original context, a certain flavour may be lost – because the food is not cooked the same way as it is done back home. Therefore the absence of properly-cooked African food feeds the hunger and desire for one’s motherland taste, smell and view. All these are interconnected really!

I find it somewhat strange that in Africa, i.e. Zimbabwe, where l come from you will find American, Italian and French dishes – even Indian – served in restaurants and homes. My question is why isn’t that the case for African dishes in European restaurants and homes? Could this be a product of or a new form of colonisation? Maybe! However, to avoid over-generalisation, it is vital to note that in countries such as Britain, some Africans stay close to African food restaurants and shops and the food is widely available compared to other European countries.

In other cases though, I think the lack of African eating choices in Europe shows how African cultures are viewed by white people here. They are seen as not so relevant. Yet, we Africans revere European food, until we come here and realise just how important that our food is to us. Food is a part of one’s origins.

Some may feel after moving abroad that they have left a part of them in Africa, it’s absolutely okay and nothing bizarre because one will always miss the traditional foods and no matter where you go the taste of motherland food will always be a part of you. It’s like DNA y’all! See you next week. Ndinokutendai!

Hazel Matebwe
Author

Hazel Matebwe is a Freelance writer (Journalist). She is Zimbabwean but moved to Germany in 2018 and at the moment she is currently pursuing Health Education. Before moving to Germany Hazel acquired a B.Sc Honours Degree in Media and Society Studies and also has worked for The Times New Ziana as a Sports and Entertainment Reporter in Zimbabwe. Hazel has experience in Childcare, which is what she loves doing. When she has free time she enjoys writing, travelling, cooking, sports and music. Instagram @hazeMatebwe Twitter @hazelmatebwe