A Homemade Meal in Zimbabwe

by Sydney Kahl / Mar 07, 2013 / 0 comments

Upon entering a native Zimbabwean home for a home cooked meal with three other Americans, I was optimistic about the experience. We traveled to the small village in Zimbabwe, unlike any town I’d seen in the US, by jeep.  Being an eleven year old at the time, I was used to a diet revolving around pasta. Before I left for my trip, my parents had told me to be open to trying new foods. I was hungry and looked forward to lunch as the five of us entered a small, two room home consisting of a kitchen and a combined living room and bedroom for a large family. 


Visiting Zimbabwe


A woman who clearly did all the cooking in the house started bringing out dishes, and set them on the coffee table in the living room. I could feel the moment of hesitation in the room as we all tried to decide where to begin this food tasting adventure. I didn’t recognize any of the food.


One platter contained silver fish, about two inches long, that looked as if they were simply caught, dried out, and put on the plate. They still had their skin and eyeballs. As I tried to get up the  guts to pop one in my mouth, the eyes looking at me prevented me from doing so. Although they appeared to be salty and crunchy, I could not bring myself to pick one up. Fortunately, my grandmother, who was with me, recognized my dilemma of not wanting to hurt our host’s feelings. My grandmother took both her and my share and gobbled them up as fast as she could - as if the fish were addictive French fries.


The next dish looked a bit more approachable and familiar. The food appeared to be mashed potatoes. However, as I reached to grab some, it was clear that this was some other kind of starchy dish. As I ate some, I realized it was supposed to be eaten along with something else, because this potato-looking dish had virtually no flavor, and almost a plastic texture.


As I ate with my fingers, sitting on the floor of this Zimbabwean house, I realized what a truly unique cultural experience I was having. This event, which occurred five years ago, was one of my most vivid memories from my trip to four countries on the African continent. I loved everything about the adventure.




Sydney Kahl is a member of the Youth Travel Blogging Mentorship Program.


Photo courtesy and copyright Sydney Kahl