Flags hanging in a mall in Durban
Before I went on my blogger break last month , I wrote about our experiences traveling as an interracial couple in South Africa . The comments astounded me.
Street dancers in Durban
Many shared their honest and sad stories about experiencing discrimination both at home and abroad. Several were sneered at, pointed at, or treated rudely because they were with a person of a different race. Amy, a fellow round-the-world traveler, mentioned that the only time she and her husband saw mixed races in South Africa was when a black police officer and a white police officer joined forces to shake them down for a bribe.
I would love to believe that these are isolated experiences. I would love to defend Alabama---my home state---because a restaurant refused to serve Sherryl and her boyfriend , and to defend India---my motherland---for the astonishingly sad experiences of Ekua, a Ghanian-American woman traveling solo . And, though I am a glass-half-full-kind of girl, sometimes the hatred that seeps from others disheartens me.
And, then, I shake myself and remind myself that this world is a good place and there are good people here . I remember that differences are not insurmountable. I know this because I have seen South Africa's food.
There are so many things that divide us: not just the biggies like race, religion, and language, but also minor things like the type of clothes we wear, the way we say certain words, or the types of activities we like. But, food is the great uniter. Everyone everywhere eats.
Tandoori kebabs with french fries (!)
I can think of no better place to explore that phenomena than in South Africa where the food melds tribal African, Dutch, English, Malay, and Indian cuisines. Take, for example, these lovely tandoori kebabs served at an Indian restaurant with a helping of french fries.
Vegetarian bunny chow
Or, take THE Durban contribution to South African cuisine: bunny chow, a fast food dish consisting of spicy vegetable or meat curry ladled into a hollowed out half-loaf of bread. Fifty years ago, the bunny was the food of the Indian workers, forced to eat with minimal lunch breaks; today, restaurants are packed with eager middle-class families eager to indulge in their favorite Durban delicacy.
Chicken bunny chow
We tear the edges off the bland bread at the unassuming Oriental Restaurant at the Workshop in Durban, which most agree serves the best bunny in the city. We dip the bread into the steamy, spicy curry, leaving our fingers stained turmeric yellow.
Or, you can find bobotie in the Cape region, a mixture of minced meat with an egg custard topping, often served with a spicy sambal or papad. Inspired by the Indonesian bobotok, Malay slaves and later Malay servants cooked bobotie in the kerrie-kerrie (curry) shops on the streets of the Cape Peninsula, during an Apartheid regime when English and Dutch cuisine were favored to the exclusion of all other food.
That Dutch influence led to some wonderful recipes in their own right, such as malva pudding. It is one of the true travesties of American cuisine that our version of pudding cannot hold even a miniature candle to continental puddings, especially those in South Africa and England. In those countries, pudding is basically a sweet moist cake, usually served with a creamy custard; popular examples are sticky toffee pudding, rum raisin pudding, and chocolate pudding. The Cape Region's malva pudding is usually flavored with apricot jam and served with Malvacea madeira wine (hence the name of the dessert).
It's not uncommon to have a meal of bobotie or bunny chow followed directly up with malva pudding as dessert. Sounds like the perfect combination of diversity and deliciousness, doesn't it?