The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

Feb 16, 2011


It had always puzzled me that Alexander McCall Smith's gently meandering paean to Botswana, that deals with its mores and traditions and breathtaking beauty and solicitous folk, hardly describes in any detail any of the country's cuisine. Seven novels into the series, with Blue Shoes and Happiness, appears - as far as I can make out - the first interesting reference to food.
"I was always interested in cooking, Mma. When I was a girl I was always the one in the kitchen, cooking all the food for the family. My grandmother was the one who taught me. She had always cooked and she could make very simple food taste very good. Maize meal. Sorghum. Those very plain things tasted very good when my grandmother had added her herbs to them. Herbs or a little bit of meat if we were lucky, or even chopped up Moopani worms. Oh those were very good. I cannot resist Mopani worms, Mma. Can you?"
A little later, we see Mma Makutsi has prepared just the sort of delicacy that her fiance likes.
She soon found out what Phuti liked to eat, and she made sure that she always cooked these dishes for him. He liked meat, of course, and T-bone steaks in particular, which he would pick up and gnaw at with gusto. He liked marrow and broad green beans doused in melted butter, and he liked chopped-up biltong soaked in gravy and then served over mashed potato. All of these dishes she did for him, and each time he complimented her enthusiastically on her cooking, as it it were the first time that he had said anything about it. She loved these compliments, and the nice things he said about her appearance. In her mind she had been no more than a woman with large glasses and difficult skin; now she found herself described as one of the prettiest women in Botswana, with a nose that reminded him of ... and here he mumbled and she did not catch what it was that her nose reminded him of, but it was surely a positive association and so she did not mind not knowing what it was.
Of course, I hope you recall that Ramotswe has, rather cunningly, published her own cookbook (Mma Ramotswe's Cookbook).


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