Before I set about making my first-ever pho, I learned that the depth of flavour, its intense colour and clarity, is all in the making of the broth. According to Vietnamese cookbook author and chef, Charles Phan, the secret is in blanching the bones. “In Vietnam, we generally don’t have ovens, but we still need to make this broth be clear and flavourful. So … we blanch the bone.
The language of food echoes through the generations in rural Zambia. Many of the people with whom I’ve worked — men and women from different tribes in the south, the east, the west — repeat stories, or recall memories, about growing or cooking or foraging or preserving wild and indigenous food while growing up in a village far from any urban centre.
I’ve just been on a voyage of discovery. And adventure. And collaboration. I’ve travelled some 1,000 kilometres northeast, another 1,200 kilometres west, and finally, 500 kilometres back home to Livingstone. What a vast, empty country Zambia is, yet it’s home to 72 different tribes.
Tomorrow I fly up to Mfuwe in Zambia’s eastern province to introduce my bush gourmet cuisine to Norman Carr Safaris’ five-star lodges and bush camps in South Luangwa and Liuwa Plains. I will be away for six weeks, training chefs, assessing vegetable and community gardens, and redesigning menus to ensure they are as local and sustainable as possible.
There’s a malady, I believe, that is connected to the spirit. Not to the brain, not to the body. It’s a malady that envelops you, unfathomable, and in the moment, unfixable. A malady that is not of you, but is created by you for not being really in you. For being outside of you.
Lusala roots — hairy, weathered, and arthritic-looking, like an old man’s fingers — aren’t the most enticing wild edible I’ve set my eyes on. They are, however, versatile, healthy, and a perfect substitute for potatoes, which we don’t grow here because Chris farms tobacco and the two don’t mix for fear of viral cross-infection.