South African Eats

by Tamra Bolton

Africa. Safaris…elephants…lions…vast savannahs…all of these bring to mind exotic images, places I long to visit, things I want to see.   I have dreamed of going to Africa since I was a child. I want to see for myself all the wonders this continent holds.  Maybe you have dreamed of such a trip too.  Realistically, in today’s political climate, not all places in Africa are primed for travelers, but some places, like South Africa are great places to experience all Africa has to offer.

Not only can you visit game reserves and see the famous African wildlife, but you can explore the pristine beaches and climb rugged mountains.  You can also indulge in some of the finest wines and most exotic traditional dishes, while dining in some of the poshest eateries imaginable.

Cities like Cape Town offer a wide range of dining opportunities, especially to sample dishes like bobotie, one of the national specialties.  This South African version of the British shepherd’s pie has curried meat instead of minced and a frothy custard for the topping instead of mashed potatoes.  While strolling through the villages around the Cape, you will want to enjoy some biltong, a jerky-type meat, usually beef that is a favorite of most South Africans.  This was a life-sustaining staple carried by the Boers in the 1830’s when they made their historic Great Trek northward into Africa’s interior.  I love foods that have great stories and in South Africa, you can bet that almost every regional dish has a story worth hearing.  Just the names of the dishes are intriguing: potjiekos (a stew cooked in a 3-legged cast iron pot over hot coals), sosaties (cubed lamb, usually cooked shish-kebab style), and melktert (a dessert custard in a round pastry shell).

If you’re adventurous, you can try grilled game such as ostrich, crocodile, eland, springbok and antelope.  If you have the nerve, you can also sample a popular treat, the caterpillar-like mashonzha worm, served grilled, stewed, any way you prefer!  I’ll try anything once…just once.

After you’ve had your fill of the local cuisine, why not head for the Winelands and tour the fabulous vineyards there and enjoy the wine tastings?  One of the stops on my itinerary would be the La Grange Fromagerie, where gourmet cheeses are available for tasting and purchase.  The Franschhoek Chocolate Factory would also be on my list.  Can you imagine sampling the best wines, cheeses and chocolates all in the same day?  My idea of heaven on earth!

When I first dreamed of a trip to South Africa, I was only thinking of the dramatic landscapes and exotic animal life, but now I realize that at the tip of the African continent lies a magical mix of ancient and modern, extravagance and simplicity, and much more…just waiting for the adventurous traveler to explore.