Book Review: Hunger for Freedom

Book Review: Hunger for Freedom – The Story of Food in the Life of Nelson Mandela by Anna Trapido

“The best way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” This is an old Xhosa saying emphasizing the role played by food in building concrete and lasting family relationships. Young married women were often advised by elderly women to keep the fires burning in their kitchen with the hope that husbands would always remember their home by thinking of what was being cooked in the kitchen. Some may think that is old fashioned but in this incredible book by Anna Trapido, pride in our food as South Africans has been reinstalled. In South Africa, food, just like football, is something that draws our nation together.

Hunger for Freedom by Anna Trapido is available at Lobby Books for R250

The remarkable stories of food in the life of tata Nelson Mandela makes you stop and think about your own memories. Each and every nation is known by its food. Food is like a label that defines a person’s background and even their way of living.

All of the delicious recipes in this book, as much as they define identity, also preserve memories: from the mildly fermented  amarhewu that Madiba drank as a herd boy in Qunu, to the chicken curry with roti he shared with Winnie Madikizela-Mandela on their first date. She thought the latter was a rather “dreadful experience …I had never seen that before. I was from Pondoland”. From seal barbecues on Robben Island to the banquets he attended as the first democratically elected president of South Africa. All of those memories are bounded by one aspect – food. As bitter as the times might have been, the memories about the food he ate make remembering them a little more pleasant.

This book reminds us that while food provides nutrition for our physical bodies, it also plays a vital role in healing the soul and giving us hope. Food has been portrayed as a unifier of people from various backgrounds, a barrier-breaker. It nourishes friendship. It was Manomoni Naidoo’s crab curry that “turned Madiba into this amazing connoisseur of Indian food”. Prisoners used food as a weapon through hunger strikes and the warders used the very same weapon as a punishment against disobedient prisoners by withholding it.

Hunger for Freedom is a delicious history and cook book with a variety of yummy South African and African dishes that should find a home in every South African household.

Zukiswa Pakama, Idasa

Hunger for Freedom by Anna Trapido is available at Lobby Books for R250.

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