Monday Meal Review: Namibia

As Ava scuttles off to the zoo with her grandmother, I stay behind to wrangle alligator for the first time. While she walks between the lanky giraffes and prowling tigers, seeking a tail-slinging alligator of her own, I coat ours with a bright layer of lemon piri piri sauce and pop it in the refrigerator for a few hours.  As she watches the lions, padding their way around their enclosure, scanning the perimeter, looking for a way out – wondering where the rest of Africa is – I place a loaf of Veldt bread in the shimmering oven.

Ava looks at the animals curiously but not exactly afraid. Not like she would be if she ran into them in the actual wilderness. She is an observer but not a participant in the scene.

But things could be different.

Last week I was confronted with a sordid, disturbing tale called The Veldt by Ray Bradbury from the 1950’s written about the veldt in southern Africa.  The term veldt is a lot like the term outback – it’s the way-out-there land, the I-hope-I-have-matches-for-my-campfire land. Namibia is loaded up with Veldt.

In this tale an American family lives in a mechanized house that does everything for them – rocks them to sleep, cooks dinner – the works. There is even a room called the nursery that the children use to conjure up their wildest fantasies.

Who needs toys when you can bring the entire world to your feet with a flick of the imagination?

This nursery is where Africa comes in. The children become fixated on conjuring up the veldt – complete with insatiable lions and intent vultures. By the end of the story – which I won’t give away – I was utterly disturbed.

While I won’t go into the story’s obvious racial issues (which reflect the times during which it was written), there is something to be said for that part of our soul that calls us to become lost in the wild. To be among the lions. To smile under the scorching sun.

However, unlike the parents in this story, who are unnerved and struggle to shut down the wild side of their children, I think we need to embrace our inner Africa.

How wonderful for a child to be interested in the world enough to pretend they are somewhere else. To put themselves in another person’s shoes. How grand for them to put down the video games in exchange for a brush with real wilderness. How wonderful to feel the excitement and joy of the way-out-there lands.

Perhaps now, more than ever, we can benefit from putting some thought behind how much we rely on technology in our day to day lives and how much we experience the world. For me, right now, technology really helps me see and learn about the world. But so does picking up my pots, opening my spice drawer, and cooking up a storm.

In this case, a Namibian storm.

What about you? In what ways does technology help you experience the world and in what ways does it hurt?

What are the limitations and what does it do that nothing else can?

Oh, and read the story if you have time. It’ll make for great conversation around your Global Table.


An Alligator’s Bite (Bushmeat Skewers) [Recipe]

What I loved most about this dish:

Oh, alligator… This was another one of those dishes that took some courage to try, even for me. It was a great help that the meat was nicely packaged in a vacuum-sealed bag, rather than something I needed to hunt. I’m pretty sure who would come out on top with that one.

In the end I liked the alligator quite a bit and, aside from it being a bit too spicy for Ava and Grandma Martin, so did everyone else. Grandma even prepped Ava for the experience, seeking out the alligators at the zoo. I think it’s important for children to know that their food doesn’t come from the supermarket and, short of a trip to Georgia, this was the best way to do it.

What I loved least about this dish:

Alligator meat, not suprisingly, is rather expensive at $16/lb. This will certainly keep me from making it very often (if ever again). Still, it was fun to try!

Bread of the Wild (Veldt Bread) [Recipe]

What I loved most about this dish:

Veldt bread is earthy, with a hint of spice but no sweetness. Although it’s strange to have spices in a savory dish, I think it really works here.  In fact, I think this would be great with anything, any time of day. Because it is made with 100% whole wheat flour, the texture is dense and hearty – exactly what you would expect out in the wilderness.

Ava liked it and happily munched away on her slices, as did her papa and grandma.

What I loved least about this dish:

After the bread cooled down it was still fine, but not nearly as good as when hot. I’d definitely bake this when I wanted it and serve immediately.

Mango & Chile Chutney [Recipe]

What I loved most about this dish:

I’m always interested in new ways to enjoy mangoes, and this chutney with ginger and hot pepper flakes is quite a treat. I found it was great to mix with my rice. Mr Picky and his mama also enjoyed doing this. Despite the chili pepper flakes the chutney wasn’t overly spicy and the sweet/tangy combination helped cool down the spicy kabobs.

What I loved least about this dish:

This was a little bit sweet for my tastes and I’d consider dropping the sugar back a bit, especially if your mangoes are very ripe. The amount listed is best for somewhat tart mangoes. Despite my best efforts Ava didn’t want to try it. I suppose the texture was a bit weird-looking (on a similar note, she still doesn’t like fruit pies).

Ava’s Corner



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