The first person I met in Zimbabwe was my cab driver from the airport, who’s first language was Shona and who’s English was very broken, but I still managed to pantomime-ask him what I needed to eat while here.
On Tuesday, we actually didn’t have any meetings scheduled, and so I did what anyone does when visiting a new country: I caught up on work. Butbutbut–Brian and I did have the chance to leave the compound and get dinner at Gava’s.
Gava’s was over in a dark, sleepy little part of town where a lot of the embassies are located. We sat outside at a picnic table–most of the restaurant consisted of tents–in beautiful cool weather that smelled like charcoal. The occasional bat flew through the dining area, as we listened to Zimbabwean takes on American Top-40 over the radio. We ordered German craft beers, peanut butter rice, and a couple “samplers,” so we could each try different stews. The food came fast, and the waitress came by with a pitcher of warm water for us to rinse our hands before we ate.
- Peanut butter rice. So delicious! White rice–that I might normally say was slightly overcooked, very soft–with a light, but not pasty, peanut butter taste. It was easy to eat with our hands. How hasn’t this become something that we eat all the time in America? Here’s a recipe. (Although, it is exactly what you think, so you already know how to make it.
- Hanga (guinea fowl, or road runner) stew. The best meat I’ve had in the past couple of years, which is odd because it was dark and oily–not something I’m usually into. But it was also very, very soft. Well, the best piece came off of a bone that looked like a shark’s fin (what part of the bird is that!?). The other piece, a wing, was a little dry and tough. All of the “stews” were only in enough broth to keep them moist, so they were were also easy–if messy–to eat with our hands.
- Goat stew. Very good. So reminiscent of when my mom used to make pot roasts: in color, texture, and flavor. Not gamey at all, which Brian warned it might be. I actually thought I might want some goat stew the next day on the way to lunch.
- Ox tail stew. Brian was nice enough to trade me a piece of his ox tail to try, even though I decided that the hanga was not up for discussion and only let him choose from the goat stew and the maguru–and so really, only gave him the option of trying the goat (see below). The oxtail was like the goat stew–a pot roast flavor, but much softer than the goat, as well as a fattier, which led me to prefer the goat.
- Maguru (beef tripe, tongue). It actually took me a little bit to work up the courage to take my one bite of maguru. The bottom was tough, sinewy, white muscle, and the top was dark, gray, and hairy–just the way the top of a cow’s tongue should look. You need a better photo. I took my bite and powered through: It took forever to chew through the tough underside and I was having a hard time with both the idea and the feel of the hairy top of the tongue. The taste was also slightly fecal, something I can only compare to that time that I tried Limburger cheese (imho, a 10/10 on the fecal barometer). I’m not 100% sure whether my mind created the shit-smell because it was otherwise repulsed by the meat and wanted to try and convince me to reject it, but I chewed and chewed and chewed and swallowed. A bit of the stringy sinews got caught in my back molars and I spent a good minute digging them out, ungracefully, so as not to risk tainting the rest of my meal. Brian, to his credit, actually tried a bite after watching all of this go down, and after hearing most of the above commentary. His facial expression as he chewed could only be described as pained, and he kept repeating “I can’t hang. I can’t hang.”
Only when we were done with our meals did I see “sadza” on the menu board. I considered ordering some to-go, to try later, but the waitress had already gone for our checks.
Will I ever try sadza? Or will I disappoint the cab driver that I will never see again? And, what is it, even? Tune in next time.
Update: The greens are rape (pronounced /rap/). We went to dinner with new Zimbabwean friends later in the week, one of whom was quite amused when I asked how to spell it, and felt it necessary to tell me it “wasn’t that kind of rape.” According to this book, rape is common in Appalachia and known as broccoli rabe, but South African rape might be genetically-distinct enough that “broccoli rabe” doesn’t feature on the Wikipedia page as a “Common Name.” I’m not a gardener so I don’t know what degree of genetic difference is required to have two different plants. At the very least, they’re probably closely-related to broccoli rabe, “turnips, collards, and kale,” as the book suggest.