I was chatting to a friend in America a while ago, telling her about my average day on the farm here in Livingstone, when she suddenly piped up: “Annabel, you sound just like a Bush Martha!”
Trust me, I’m no Martha Stewart. I’m worse than useless at sewing and knitting, and you wouldn’t want me anywhere near a cake you’re decorating. But I do love cooking, I do love gardening, and I do love foraging. Here, in this rich, prolific environment, I not only go into the wild for food, but also for home decorating and for flower arrangements. And it is to the bush I’m turning for a shindig, a birthday party, we’re throwing on Saturday night at Camp Nkwazi, a neighboring safari lodge on the Zambezi River.
It’s a perfect time of year to collect dried seedpods and wild flowers. While the seedpods decorate the ground around the trees’ trunks, wild flowers in the canopy above are starting to bloom all over the farm. Right now our house is filled with scented wild jasmine to welcome our first guests for the party, who have traveled to Livingstone all the way from Virginia in America.
Anyone who follows my blog knows that I’m into North African-inspired cuisine at the moment, so it won’t come as a surprise to learn that the food for the party is mostly Moroccan. Hummus, marinated olives, spiced nuts. A lamb tagine with sweet tomato jam; another with chicken, prunes and almonds. Handfuls of fresh mint, dill and basil mixed into couscous, served alongside plates of spiced carrots, cumin-laced beets, sliced oranges and pickled radishes, and masses of mixed-leaf salad. Most of it made with ingredients from Livingstone. Most of it fresh out of the garden.
This evening our out-of-town guests will be joining us for a sunset cruise on the Zambezi River. As the boat navigates through the current, around the rocks and pods of half-submerged hippo, we’re likely to see elephants, baboons, and different species of antelope, drinking and bathing in the twilight. The riverine birdlife differs in almost every way from the birdlife we have in the teak woodland around our house. While we’re sipping our iced G&Ts on the boat, waders, skimmers, ducks, and geese will be flying up and down the river searching for a place to roost. Then, just before nightfall, we’ll return to Camp Nkwazi, where most of our guests are staying, to sit down for a supper of fish and chips, and lemon meringue pie.
Tomorrow we’ll be decorating the lodge’s reception for the dance party with wildflowers and seedpods, like the ones illustrated, that will be lit with loads of burnt orange and taupe candles. Simple. Zambian. Cost-effective.
I’m turning 50 next week, just two days before Zambia turns 50, too. Between my birthday on the 22nd and Zambia’s birthday on the 24th, Hindus in Livingstone are celebrating Diwali, their Festival of Lights.
It’s party-time … please raise your glass!