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Zim dishes a hit at key UN gastronomy forum

MOUTHWATERING Zimbabwean dishes, famed for their high nutritional value and medicinal properties, were the toast of the Food Market Day during the 8th United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNTWO) Forum on Gastronomy Tourism here where people scrambled taste food prepared by winners of First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa’s cookout competitions who showcased their talents on the global stage.

It was a first of its kind occurrence to see women drawn from different communities showcasing their culinary skills at the big UNWTO event, demonstrating how the First Lady is committed to empowering communities.

Food Market Day- Culinary Plaza, affords different countries the opportunity to showcase their food and Zimbabwe was participating for the first time.

In what left a lasting impression at the event, Zimbabwean women, who included chiefs’ wives, expertly prepared the food using traditional utensils and indigenous ingredients adding an African flavour to the display.

Visitors to the Zimbabwe stand were treated to beef fillet, bream, biltong, dried vegetables served with rupiza, nhopi, manhuchu maize and roundnuts

Drinks served included mahewu, mapfura (Marula) wine and baobab juice.

For dessert, people were treated to hodzeko cheese cake and mawuyu mousse.

The dishes proved popular thereby overshadowing other stands with delegates from all over the world coming back for more.

Traditional grains on display which included sorghum, millet and rapoko which the First Lady is promoting back home, also attracted the attention of many who wanted to learn more about them.

Part of the guests who thronged the Zimbabwean stand to taste traditional dishes that were being served during the 8th UNWTO World Forum on Gastronomy in Donostia, San Sebastian, Spain, yesterday

Also the national fabric which is the brainchild of Amai Mnangagwa, fascinated the guests describing it as playing a symbolic role in the preservation of national values, culture and identity,

Among the chefs was Mrs Priscilla Charumbira, the wife to the deputy president of the Chief’s council Chief Fortune Charumbira, who paid tribute to the First Lady for making them believe in themselves and putting Zimbabwean food on the map.

“We are in Spain at the invitation of the First Lady, Amai vedu who was invited here and asked us to accompany her to this occasion of the UNWTO where we are showcasing our food as a result of the cookout competitions that were started by her. When she assumed office, we were invited to State House where Amai gave us traditional grains. We didn’t know at the time her vision towards the cookout. She started by empowering us to grow the grains and now we are into cooking the same grains. In this manner we are bringing back our culture. Our First Lady always says Zimbabwean food is medicinal and nutritious,” she said.

Mrs Charumbira highlighted how popular the Zimbabwean stand was at the event.

“A lot of people are coming to our stand, they want to see the grains that we grow in Zimbabwe. They are particularly keen to see the things that we do because here the food is now mainly genetically modified but our food is natural. They want to see the originality of the grains before they are corrupted by modification and the processes of genetically modifying crops. We are here representing the other chiefs wives in Zimbabwe and we are going to impart what we have seen and learnt here. The whole journey that we came through as a result of the First Lady’s initiatives and where we are today as a result of that, is a success story. We are grateful as chiefs wives because now we are taking it back to the roots, to the communities because that’s where we are.

“We are imparting the knowledge to chiefs wives, headmen’s spouses and this is going to revolutionarise the food that we eat in our families because as a result of colonialism we had abandoned these things which are actually good for our health. These days we are seeing people have hypertension, diabetes – diseases that were never in our lineage. We are seeing that once we bring back the food we will live healthier and longer. Our grandmothers would go so old to the point of being polished on their backs which is no longer happening now. But we know that if we start eating our food and our fruits it’s going to come back and we are so happy as chiefs wives. Thank you Amai,” she said.

One of the Zimbabwean dishes that were served to guests at 8th UNWTO World Forum on Gastronomy in Donostia, San Sebastian, Spain, yesterday

Mrs Naume Chimanikire, the wife to Chief Seke said she was delighted to have been part of the First Lady’s traditional cook-out competitions which has seen her travelling from Seke to Spain.

“We are so happy to be at this place which we never dreamt of through the works of our mother, Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa. I wish to thank her because no one ever dreamt that they would one day board an aeroplane and come to Spain to cook nhopi and rupiza. I wish to thank her for the wonderful works that she is doing back home. Our mother has great vision. When she started working with us on assuming her position as the First Lady of the Republic of Zimbabwe, she started by visiting provinces to assess the challenges and see for herself the situation on the ground. She then thought of the best way to solve the challenges and saw it fit to invite the spouses of chiefs and we went there for a discussion. She told us to return to our areas of jurisdiction and listen to challenges and we went back and told her. Our mother started by saying she wanted to end hunger which was a challenge in most communities. She then started by assisting us to grow traditional grains like rapoko, millet, sorghum, beans, cowpeas, roundnuts and groundnuts. She provided us with inputs. She discouraged us from selling all our produce saying we needed to reserve some for personal consumption. We planted and showed her before she said we now needed to enter into competitions to see whether we could cook the traditional grains. We entered the cooking competitions until today and these are the competitions that have brought us here today. We would always hear about this without experiencing because the mere mention of the United Nations is astonishing. It is a very big level, but today we are here and we are so happy as spouses of chiefs for being uplifted by our mother. We have come to this place to showcase the food we prepared. Our mother has done us wonders and something that is remarkable in our homeland,” she said.

Similar sentiments were echoed by Mrs Angela Mloyi of Goromonzi in Mashonaland East Province, who said she now employs 25 people because of Dr Mnangagwa’s vision and all-inclusive approach.

“I entered the First Lady’s cookout competition in 2022 and came out tops in our province and became a second runner up in the national competitions. I then sought employment at a mining firm and they welcomed me well because of the certificate I received from the First Lady. I got a job because of the cookout competition where I showcased my skills. From a person who simply used to stay at home, I now employ 25 people who include six class one chefs. I thought this was the highest I could go, little did I know that preparing pumpkin leaves and pumpkins would land me in Spain. This had never happened before, but through our mother who is loving we are here. Today we are showcasing our traditional food in Spain,” she said.

Ms Clara Madzoke, one of the women who participated at 8th UNWTO World Forum on Gastronomy Tourism courtesy of First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa serves nhopi to guests at the forum in Donostia, San Sebastian, Spain, yesterday. — Pictures: John Manzongo

Mrs Mloyi said the First Lady had made her achieve greatness and eager to achieve even more.

“There are many foods on exhibition but because our mother was here, people are keen to taste our food. People want to know how best we cook that the First Lady would bring us here. Among other dishes, we have a cake that we have made from groundnuts, peanut butter, our traditional grains and we used honey to sweeten it. People loved this a lot because they say here most of their food is sweetened by sugar. Our food is very different. We have small grain muffins which is a fusion of five small grains that we have mixed and made muffins that we glazed with honey. The fact that our grains are all organic, to them it’s so amazing. The people love the taste. We also made sweet potato bites whose dough is made from sweet potatoes and the spice was made from watermelon seeds which is equivalent to black pepper. The people are awestruck and are tasting. All this is because Dr Mnangagwa encouraged us to use locally available ingredients to produce something. We dried the watermelon seeds, smoked them a bit and produced a spice that is not known here in Spain,” she said while bubbling with confidence.

Mrs Mloyi spoke about the Marula wine that she was showcasing.

“We have Mapfura wine which has become popular with visitors to our stand. We get the Mapfura fruit in Mwenezi. Our communities are getting some money during harvest time because of the First Lady who encouraged them to gather the fruit and take it to the factory to process the wine which is very fruity and tasty. The wine is popular and we are not sure whether we can satisfy the demand. We also have baobab fruit that we are using to make yoghurt. Baobab is loaded in Vitamin A. There is usika which is common in Mashonaland West Province which can cure hypertension. We also use usika to make juice, wine and we can also use it as a spice if we intend to make a sweet and sour spice for pork ribs. The usika fruit did not come into existence in 2018, it has always been there but not so popular, through our First Lady, it is now widely known and we can now use it for many things with health benefits,” she said.

Mrs Zuriñe Maguregi, who is Spanish, said she was charmed by Zimbabwean food, especially matemba.

“I have tasted Zimbabwean food like matemba and I like it so much since it is salty. I think it’s nice as a snack. With my friend we have tasted a cake made from peanut butter and I think he liked it too. I think through food you can learn very much about different culture and it’s a very nice reason for travelling around the world to taste and learn to cook that kind of food and that way you can remember the time you would have spent in that country for holiday for example,” she said.

Mr Majed Almuhanna, from Saudi Arabia Culinary Arts Commission, described Zimbabwean food as nice.

“Its really nice to discover the taste of Zimbabwe. The cooking with Amai concept is very nice. I look forward to trying this in my country. I loved the way Zimbabwe uses baobab powder to prepare many dishes from food, drink to dessert because in Saudi we only eat it raw. I have learnt a lot of cooking techniques from Zimbabwe. We are connected all over the world and it’s amazing sometimes how simple ingredients can bring Zimbabwe and Saudi Arabia together,” he said.

Mr Luis Ramirez from Chile was over the moon after tasting Mapfura (Marula) wine.

“It’s very aromatic, not bitter. I love it. Chile is a wine country, but this wine from Zimbabwe is very fantastic. I personally liked its cooling effect,” he said.

One of the visitors to the Zimbabwe stand, who identified himself as Pablo, quipped: I enjoyed the food, especially the meat. Its very natural and very tasty. This is the most tasty meat that I have tasted. The beef is very tender and delicious. I tasted the food more than twice and I enjoyed rupiza and nhopi. I wish to visit Zimbabwe soon,” he said.

Another visitor to the stand added; “I am here with my friends and we are an international group and we have tasted every cuisine in the event and our favourite is by far Zimbabwe. I thank you for this experience.”

Mrs Clara Madzoke from who was one of the Chefs, said she was proud of the First Lady because of what she was doing to empower communities.

“I came first in the Midlands cooking competitions and came second nationally and regionally. I thank Amai that I took the second prize for Zimbabwe as she always encouraged us to aim higher. Amai has brought us a long way with this programme which I am very grateful and thankful for. I thought this programme was just going to help me to live a healthy way and be able to produce and prepare food traditionally and learn more but this programme taught me a lot. I have become very innovative and creative. I have also been able to feed my children in a healthy way. I am also learning to be able to be productive and produce things which I would like to bring up to the market through this programme that has been brought up by Amai. Wow, Spain here we are. Who would have thought that we would come to this place through the programme introduced by Amai. Amai we love you, we thank you very much. We just don’t know how to show you and how grateful we are. Amai has not only looked at the rural women, but she has also been able to look at us in the urban areas. No one would expect someone from the urban areas to be able to be living a traditional life but this is what Amai is teaching us. If we look at this programme the way it has run, looking at the people that have come to attend this gastronomy programme, everyone enjoyed our dish and they are even asking for more,” she said.

The event also offered a platform for Zimbabwe to market its tourist destinations

Herald

Positive Eye News

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