Monday, June 4, 2012

Seswaa and Potjie: A Botswana Meal

Our tour of Botswana has officially ended. We started by making the flag, followed by not one but two craft projects, and we read and enjoyed books about Botswana. Even though a month flies by for me these days and I always feel like I am not ready to move on to another country, this time I feel differently. Botswana has been, by far, the hardest country to learn about. The amount of information that is out there, is very limited. While talking to people in the day to day, they would ask, "Where are you in the world right now?" And when I told them, "Botswana" the response was always, "Oh. I don't really know anything about Botswana." To be honest, it would appear that not many people do. 

What we did learn is that the people of Botswana are peaceful people. Their flag which is blue, white, and black represents water (which is inspired by their motto, "Let there be rain."). The black and white stripes which were inspired by the national animal of Botswana, the zebra, are representative of the racial harmony in Botswana. This is a vast difference from many of the other flags and countries that we have learned about. Many of them have red which represents blood shed. Many of the flags that we have learned about are somehow representative of battle and struggle and ultimately a "win". Botswana, on the other hand has a flag that represents peace and harmony. How could I not fall in love with a place like that? 

While I was preparing our dinner (and later when we ate it) we listened to music streaming of Botswanan radio. It was quite different from many of the more traditional types of music that we often listen to for our dinners. In Botswana, hip hop is very popular. The music is a very cool combination of traditional beats being remixed into a hip hop format. You can listen to Botswanan streaming radio here (there are five stations to choose from). 

If you follow me on Facebook then you may have seen a post where I mentioned the difficulty I was having finding food that was from Botswana and consisted of ingredients that we can and will eat. One of the dishes that I kept finding was phane stew which consisted of Mopane worms. I try to be adventurous with the foods that I will eat, but I can't bring myself to eat a worm, especially one that is a big fat bumpy caterpillar looking worm. Mopane worms turned up in a few of the recipes that I found. Ultimately, I found a web site which offered a couple of feasible options. Oddly, this website is from The UK and not Botswana, nonetheless, the food is Botswana food (You can check it out here). I didn't have the day off from work this time around as I usually do, so I tried to keep the meal simple (which wasn't that hard to do since I couldn't find many recipes). I made a meat dish and a vegetable dish. I asked my parents to bring bread and we served water to drink. I'm sure it sounds like we "cheated" or took some kind of shortcut, but really, when we ate, it was good. I don't mean, "meh, it was ok." kind of good. I mean, "Wow! I hope we have left overs." kind of good. 

For the meat dish, I made Seswaa which is a traditional Botswana dish. This is "pounded" or shredded beef dish. It is generally served over Ugali, which is a thick "mashed potato" type of dish made of corn flour and water. Since I was limited on time and I know what kind of flavor corn flour and water creates (also confirmed by many reviews of the dish), I decided that  the people who would be eating the meat, primarily, Preston and my dad, would not care if I made it. Preston would not like it and probably not eat it. My dad is so easy going that if you put food in front of him, he will eat it, it doesn't have to be fancy, it doesn't have to be paired perfectly. He will graciously eat what you offer and tell you that it was good, even if it wasn't. He's that cool. Anyway, the point is if you want to recreate this meal and be authentic then you should serve your seswaa over ugali. 

The vegetable dish we had was Vegetable Potjie. The recipe that I followed called for very little stock, in fact I had to add more. I didn't find any pictures of the potjie, but I had assumed it was a stew until I saw how little stock went in, then I wasn't sure. Ultimately, when the food was ready, there was so little stock left, that we decided to serve the vegetables without the stock. This dish which was so simple going into the pot, came out tasting like I had added ingredients that weren't there. It was delicious. It had butternut squash, potatoes, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, basil and oregano. It was sweet and herby and had far more flavor than I expected it to have when I was putting the ingredients in.

In Botswana, the most common desserts are fruit. A variety of melons are grown in Botswana, so serving watermelon for dessert was an ideal option for us this time around. I even read on one website that it is believed that watermelon originated in Botswana. I can't remember which site I found it on and I also can't say that I confirmed whether or not this is true, but either way, I think it safe to say that they have been eating watermelon for a long time in Botswana. 

We listened to our hip hop radio from Botswana, ate our yummy food and like I always do, I asked the trivia questions that I created for the evening. I even threw a couple of curve balls at my kids. All in all, everybody did very well answering the questions. I will admit that there are times when I write the questions and can't come up with good "wrong" answers so I end up making it pretty obvious which answer is correct by the ridiculousness of the wrong ones. 

Don't forget that the words that are highlighted in blue are links and of course, you can also find the trivia questions anytime by looking in the "Atlas" section on the right hand side. I hope that you have enjoyed our tour of Botswana. We will be spinning the globe again and setting our sights on a new country this week. 

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