The variety of African cuisine is a reflection of the fact that African continent became the home for people from different tribes, social and ethnic groups. Cuisines in different parts of the continent vary greatly as well as cooking techniques and eating habits. The task of the given paper is to analyze the cuisines of Southern and Western Africa and find out what typical meals are, what food habits people from different parts of Africa have and what peculiar features these two cuisines possess. First, it is necessary to mention some information about the first immigrants, who came to Africa and their impact on the development of local food habits and main cooking techniques.
First Immigrants to Southern and Western Africa
First people, who inhabited Southern Africa, were gatherers and hunters. They ate such natural products as crayfish, tortoises and squash. Besides, original Africans enjoyed dried meat and sweetened biscuits, which are still popular among Africans nowadays (DeWitt 1998).
The first explorer from Europe, who came to the southern shore of Africa, was Bartholomew Dias. He discovered a water route from Portugal to the Far East and this way activated trade between India, Europe and the Spice Islands. Thus, since the mid-1400’s Europeans used the African land as a stopping point on the way to the Far East. Two centuries later in, 1652, Dutch settlers founded the first European settlement at the Cape of Good Hope. They planted their gardens with cucumbers, watermelons and potatoes, and, as a result, the trade between Europe and Southern Africa increased greatly as Dutch East India Company brought a great number of new food habits to Southern Africa’s culture. Slaves from the east, who worked there as farmers, brought with them some species that added new unique feature to the traditional Dutch and English dishes.
Among the other countries, which contributed to the development of Southern African cuisine were France, famous for making wines, and Germany. The latter introduce pastries and backed food. Britain, in its turn, brought pies with meat. Besides, foods from China and India played a great role in the development of Southern African cuisine.
With the increase of White Africans population, native African cuisine broadened due to the introduction of different cooking techniques from Eastern and Western cultures. Native products, such as coconut, chili pepper, tamarind, pumpkin and others, were used now together with new foods, brought from abroad. (Murphy, 2010)
Concerning the cuisine of West Africa, one should mention that it was influenced mainly by the Arabs. The thing is that African kingdoms of the West traded slaves and ivory for the Arab’s herbs, salt and spices.
The great effect of the development of local cuisine had American culture as many ingredients were sent here with the slave trade ships. Thus, Gambian rice, yams, peanuts and black-eyed peas became popular in the southern states of USA. At the same time, many new ingredients were brought to Africa. Some American food was brought to Africa from Europe.
Food Habits Patterns
Food habits in Southern and Western Africa are closely linked with the desire to have a healthy lifestyle and avoid diseases. Thus, White South Africans, Asian Indians and Europeans, who live in Africa, have diets that resemble diets of European countries.
On the contrary, the traditional diet of black Africans is based on meat and empty calories from prepackaged foods, found in the West. Many existing diets are inadequate in minerals and vitamins and can lead to different diseases. Besides, there are vitamin A, iron and iodine deficiencies, which can cause vision impairment, anemia and goiter, throughout Africa.
In this way, food habits patterns are as different throughout Africa as the existing cuisines themselves as people of different cultures, lifestyles and worldviews inhabit Africa. Thus, Southern Africa is characterized by more healthy food habits while Western Africa with less healthy ones.
Typical Meals of Southern and Western Africa
One may characterize multi-faced South African cuisine as spicy, subtle, rich, fresh, elegant and at the same time simple.
As the coastline borders on the Indian and the Atlantic oceans, the food habits here features the use of various seafood. Among the treasures from the ocean are many varieties of fish, served in all possible ways. The local specialty is rock lobster, which may be prepared with lemon butter or as a salad. In Southern Africa, cooks serve crayfish braised with chilies or in curry. Salt cod is prepared with chili pepper in a manner of Scandinavian cuisine. Besides, picked fish and barbecued snoek are among typical meals in South Africa, as well.
Speaking about meat, one should mention well-known meat pies, which once arrived to Africa from Britain. African recipes of today are different from the traditional ones. Among other typical meat dishes are frikkadels (small hamburgers), stew and sausages. Latter are made of pork or beef and are popular is fried or grilled forms (Harris, 1998).
Sweet or hot curries are usually served with chopped vegetables, pickles or chutney. This is the result of Asian and Indian influence on the cuisine; however, pickles and chutney are made with local fruits cooked with chili peppers, garlic and onions. By the way, local vegetables are of major importance for the Southern African cuisine. These vegetables are potatoes, tomatoes, cabbage, corn, green beans and pumpkin. Among the most favorite fruits are peaches, citrus, quince, grapes, melons and many others. Mild climate of South Africa created favorable conditions for cultivation of not native fruits and vegetables and, due to which the cuisine of Southern America became rich and abundant.
Popular deserts include backed goods, such as cakes and pies with custard or fruit creams. Fruit-based ice creams are also rather popular meal here. One cannot, but notice the traces of Dutch influence, despite it is situated far away from Africa. Drinks include a native beer and internationally acclaimed wines, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Burgundy and others. After dinner, Africans from the South drink English-type tea and American-type coffee. Between meals, people drink fruit smoothies.
Summing up, South African meal can be either simple or elegant, with drinks or desserts, native or international, but whatever it is, it has its peculiarities, which stand out and characterize this cuisine in its entire splendor (Harris, 1998).
In Western Africa, typical meal is light on meat but fat and starchy. It is usually cooked on the pot. The main feature of this cuisine is the usage of chili pepper, which is believed to produce the general cooling effect and the effect of so-called “gustatory sweating”. This feature is common throughout Africa. As well as in Southern Africa, people in the western part of the continent bear much seafood, but unlike the other cultures, they mix meat and seafood together in many dishes. The most popular product is peanut, which is present in almost every dish. Besides, local people like rice, sweet potatoes, root vegetables and other food, which may be cooked many different ways (Eles, 2000).
Summarizing the results, we may say that African cuisine is plentiful and varied. The thing is that the continent is full of people with different cultural roots. Many years ago, people from all over the world came to Africa and founded their settlements there, developing their native food traditions and merging them with original African ones. Today, several forms represent multi-faced African cuisine and each of them depends on the part of the country, its climate and living conditions. The food traditions of Southern and Western Africa that were studied within this paper have their peculiarities as well as common features.