Last night – the 4th of June – I had the pleasure of experiencing the Home-Hosted Meals that are available in Victoria Falls for tourists and locals alike. There is a small handful of families and hosts/hostesses that open their homes up to visitors who are looking for an authentic and personal traditional dining experience in one of the two high-density suburbs in Victoria Falls – Chinotimba or Mkhosana.
These families then prepare a traditional spread and treat their visitors to a warm welcoming home cooked meal of sadza (a traditional maize meal similar to polenta), chicken or beef stew, kail (a variety of spinach), carrots, green beans, kapenta (whitebait fish), and last but not least, a traditional favourite dried Mopani worms – known as macimbi in the local Ndebele language.
There are a handful of these dinners that occur every Wednesday evening across the two townships, and what I found most interesting is the conversation that was shared between the visitors (who are just absolutely fascinated by the traditional cuisine) and the hosts/hostesses – who gladly share, teach and explain the traditional township customs to the visitors – who on this occasion all happened to be from the USA.
One of the comments which I could not help but giggle at was one that went along the lines of “Goodness! – I can’t believe how well behaved your kids are!”
Some of the families hosting the dinners have up to around 8 children and grandchildren living with them and indeed their behaviour was something to behold when compared to Western-world standards! It was an evening full of questions, answers, laughter and chit-chat, all of the guests seemed to thoroughly enjoy their traditional meals, and some of them were even brave enough to try out a dried Mopani worm or two!
Some may express concern about the safety aspect of having Westerners wonder through these parts of town – to them I simply say “try it and see!”. All of the visitors who I spoke to were taken hugely by surprise at how relaxed, welcoming and happy the vibe is, unlike other parts of the world. Crime is very minimal in Victoria Falls, probably because of the nature of the people, who seem to have a really laid-back, loving, humorous and friendly approach to life.
A Home-Hosted Dinner (or lunch, they also do lunches) is truly a must-do activity if you are keen to really immerse yourself into local customs, cuisine and culture. The vibe of these suburbs in the early evening really is a unique experience – the sights, sounds and smells of fires, evening church bands, urban chatter and of course the beautiful night-views over Livingstone which can be glimpsed at certain high points in the townships really do make for a fulfilling cultural experience. A huge thanks go out to the welcoming host families for opening up their homes in the name of cross-cultural education, experience, fun and food!