Zimbabwe, which means house of stone, is literally a land of gold. It’s that land that produces moisture and nutrient-rich soil, and it’s that soil that feeds the plants. These plants grow to produce food that gives the Zimbabwean people the strength they need to survive. Dovi (peanut butter stew), sadza (cornmeal porridge), and mapopo (papaya candy) are all staples of Zimbabwean cuisine. They represent legacy, life, and endurance. The people of Zim (as the country is affectionately called) are lovers to the foods native to their land, even after they move away. Here are two examples of Zimbabwean people who use food to pay homage to their homeland.
When Missed, Recreate
Evis Chirowamhangu arrived in Toronto, Canada in 2005 as a refugee. Now she is a beloved entrepreneur who makes her meat pies (popularly known as Mnandi Pies) in a commercial kitchen and sells them at local farmer’s markets. Meat is extremely popular in southern Africa, often prepared with a particular blend of spices that include clove, sage, and garlic cooked over an open fire. This key blend of warm spices is called braai and used in barbeques throughout southern African nations.
A slow-cooked beef and kale stew is a popular favorite. The concept of meat pies, however, was introduced to Zimbabwe in the late 18th century by way of colonization from the British. Nonetheless, meat pies played a considerable part in Chirowamhangu's childhood. They were the inspiration to create her own version of this nostalgic culinary treasure.
Fast forward to 2014. Chirowamhangu is unsuccessful in finding a meat pie in Toronto that reminds her of home. So she decides to develop her own recipe. The problem with that was she couldn’t get the right blend of spices to produce the taste she remembered. Her family members in Zimbabwe send her the spices she needs and eight months later, a star is born. This recipe is as much unique as it is delicious. By the way, Mnandi (as in Mnandi Pies) means delicious in Ndebele, an ancient Zimbabwean tribal language.
“Everyone who tastes them, loves them” says Chirowamhangu. “It's quite humbling.”
So the next time you're in Toronto, make sure you look up Chirowamhanguand to try one of her Zimbabwean meat pies. Hopefully, you will love them too.
Writing to the World
Living a decade in paradise didn’t change how Princess Tafadzwa felt about her homeland. Reigning from the country’s capital, Harare, Zimbabwe is still a fond memory of nostalgia from her current home in Bermuda. So what did she do? She started a blog dedicated to Zimbabwe. Tafadzwa offers everything from creative recipes to children’s books, but it’s the food that drives her to write to the world. The food is a cultural representation of her heritage, her identity. That’s how she stays connected to Zimbabwe.
Unfortunately, Tafadzwa doesn’t consistently have access to the foods that are native to home. So in the true spirit of a Zimbabwean, she allows her creativity to birth unique recipes using available ingredients. One dish that isn’t compromised is sadza, a thick porridge made with white cornmeal. It’s a staple that’s synonymous with the Zimbabwean dinner table, as well as the primary source of starch and carbohydrates.
I asked Tafadzwa what she wants the world to know about Zimbabwean people. She responded, “We will always find a way to be happy, even when things aren’t working out.” It's that mindset that will change the world and build a brighter future, one bite at a time.
Chirowamhangu and Tafadzwa are proud of where they come from, as they should be. Even though they are no longer Zimbabwean residents, they continue to uphold the proud heritage of their homeland by using food to educate their family, friends, and community.
So, as it seems, you can take the girl out of Zimbabwe, but you can never take Zimbabwe out of the girl.