Food, Family & Freedom: A Tribute to Madiba

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Mixed technique by Patrice Murciano

George Bernard Shaw once said “there is no sincerer love than a love of food”. At a time when nations of people mourn a legacy and icon of our time, someone dear and truly loved, and others share common ideals and sentiments with the beloved Mandela, the closest bond I have to Tata Madiba is our shared love of food. I write what many may consider to be in bad taste, but it is the source of my inspiration and connection with the man himself.

There’s something so sanctimonious about breaking bread. After researching a foodie piece “Eat, Love, Budapest“, I came across the text ” if we break bread with them we are less likely to break their necks” illustrating just how powerful food and the simple an act of sharing a loaf of bread really is. Business deals in Tokyo, treaties in the Middle East, and marriages in India are all congregated around this act of eating and peace.

Nelson Mandela not only hungered for freedom, equality and wining the fight against both black and white domination, but Mandela craved trifle. Yes! Our president had a sweet tooth. He was a simple man in his political address and a simple man when it came to breaking bread with his family. After 27 years imprisoned, he craved food that reminded him of home, of family, and more so his mum.

Whilst his diet changed over trying years, Madiba became one of the most eclectic multicultural people I know. From the authentic chicken curry from Farida Omar that was secretly fed to him at Pollsmoor Prison, or George Bizos Grecian lamb on a spit to celebrate their successes, Ray Harmel’s chopped liver in times of turmoil or Graca’s Mozambican meals like stuffed crab locally known as Cashinas.

I find it fascinating that a politician, pioneer and freedom fighter who has shared tables with kings, queens and respected world leaders, when hiring his personal chef Xoliswa (pronounced Ko-lees-wah) Ndoyiya, she was asked an honest question “can you cook our home food?”

mandela food

Nelson Mandela and his Chef Xoliswa

This shows that what we already knew politically about Madiba, staying true to who you are, was as important in his domestic life. He aspired to go somewhere, change notions and educate the unenlightened, yet on this journey he never forgot where we came from or the people who were there when he began the great trek, his walk to freedom.

What was home food? What did this revolutionary enjoy?

Nothing could beat his chef’s cooking. Sometimes when the cravings abroad began he would gingerly request a plate of Ukutya Kwasekhaya (food from home) to ease his craving, to bring him a piece of home when he missed it most. His favourites varied from maize meal served with sour milk (Maas) a staple amongst many growing up here in South Africa, to Ndoyiya’s infamous Sweet chicken that Nandi. Mandela said this turned family meal times into a “competition”.

Learning this that reaffirms all that the world has come to learn. We are, at the end, just peoples who after a long day at work, whether that job be ploughing farms, auditing Fortune 500s or fighting for the equality of our neighbour, come home to a good home cooked meal, sharing it with people you love and realizing just how grateful you should be to have that opportunity to take it for granted. It was men like Nelson Mandela that fought for these rights, these opportunities, and now it’s our responsibility to do the same. To hold his legacy close and fight for those who have so little to lose, remind those who forget, and always cook a good meal. It’s the least we can do.

With a sincere shared love for food, Tata ngiyabulela, I salute and thank you!

About Llewellyn Lambert

A twenty something South African bloke, who loves Foraging for good food, quaffing the best local wines and sometimes even falling in love, with boys obviously. Often found procrastinating on Twitter or lost in a small town. Chef, restauranteur, hipster wanna be and now, artisan of words, self proclaimed of course.