In a recent webinar, Educating South Africa about Edible Indigenous Plants, Ishay Govender (journalist and founder of SA PoC at the Table) facilitated a discussion about why we eat the way we do. The panel includes urban landscape designer and organic food gardener Joy Phala; functional medicine practitioner and indigenous ingredient expert Dr Tracy Nelwamondo; and nutritionist and author of Eat Ting (Quivertree) Mpho Tshukudu.
The thought-provoking discussion delves into the historical and colonial influences on current plant and food choices, changing mindsets and potential ways forward.
Dr Tracy Nelwamondo who is also the founder of Modern Traditions, a company that make tasty, nutritious food from African indigenous ingredients, as well as the plant-focused Malie’s Ice Cream, says that it’s so important to have the patience to experiment and play with different and modern ways to use ingredients.
“When you love something, you spend time with it,” she says and explains that in her process of experimenting with an ingredient, she would use one ingredient, let’s say marula nuts, in various different ways for a whole month. So much that her family jokingly says, “Oh, what’s in this dish? Let me guess – marula nuts!”.
On the topic of why indigenous food isn’t represented in mainstream agriculture and the impact that colonialism and apartheid had on the food we see now as mainstream, Joy Phala weighs in: “If you’re the king or the master, or the new ruler, you’re not interested in what the indigenous people of that land have to offer in terms of food or ingredients. You bring in your own culture and experience to make yourself so pervasive throughout everything in that land because you want it to be more representative of you.”
“And as a result our culture is not represented, and our food is not represented, our cuisine is not represented. And if our cuisine isn’t represented it doesn’t get time to evolve. And
that is why we didn’t get to play around with our cuisine as Tracy mentioned. Our food wasn’t considered food,” Joy says.
Ishay Govender talks about the importance of including the nutritional, medicinal, cultural value of edible indigenous plants in our syllabus, while Mpho Tshukudu says that South Africa should invest in capturing the knowledge with research papers.
Watch the video below and subscribe to SA PoC at the Table’s YouTube channel to keep up to date on challenging and sometimes irreverent takes on the food and beverage industries www.sapoctable.com
Author: Leanne Feris