‘Under the Mongongo Tree – Bush Gourmet in the Zambezi Valley’ – A Prologue

Shortly after new year, Denise Landis, the founding editor of The Cook’s Cook magazine in the United States — the same publication that commissioned me to write about Nasturtium Capers for its December issue — invited me to write another story, this time a feature article on a subject of my choice shaped by her “fascination in agriculture, food, and cooking in your part of the world.”

In my subsequent proposal I expressed my growing belief in the concept of “sufficiency,” a word first coined by the American visionary and inventor, Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983). He believed the earth’s natural resources combined with human innovation could easily end world hunger, if only people understood the real meaning of “enough.” I wanted to illustrate this belief by writing a story about how we live here on the farm. Denise and her editorial staff approved of the theme, with an additional request for logistical details about what it was like living — and growing and preparing food — in the middle of the African bush.

A water sprinkler fashioned out of a used plastic milk bottle.
We recycle where we can: one of our water sprinklers fashioned out of a used plastic milk bottle.

I started writing the story, Under the Mongongo Tree – Bush Gourmet in the Zambezi Valley, before we left for our holiday in Australia, and finished it when I returned three weeks later. I think writing is sometimes enhanced by stepping away from your desk for a moment: it gives you pause and allows you time to really examine what it is you hope to articulate. In this instance, what I had originally envisioned in my mind’s eye slowly started separating into a Venn diagram, a series of interconnected circles each with its own sub-theme. Leaving Africa and later returning to it; a vision I had for a piece of land in the United States manifesting here in the Zambezi Valley instead; moving in with a man I first met in Zimbabwe nearly 30 years ago; lost but gained communities; eating according to the seasons. Circle upon circle upon circle.

After I handed in my story, the feeling of gratitude that so often overwhelms me when I am meditating or walking on the farm was made all the more intense by the realization of how privileged I am to live here.

Under the Mongongo Tree – Bush Gourmet in the Zambezi Valley is published in the current issue of The Cook’s Cook magazine on pgs. 37-42. Click on the above headline in Features listed in the Table of Contents, and you’ll be directed to the article.

The eye is the first circle; the horizon which it forms is the second; and throughout nature this primary figure is repeated without end. It is the highest emblem in the cipher of the world. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays. Circles. Reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 119.
“The eye is the first circle; the horizon which it forms is the second; and throughout nature this primary figure is repeated without end. It is the highest emblem in the cipher of the world.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson. Photograph credit: Cynthia Morris

Annabel Hughes Aston is a writer and an award-winning chef in Livingstone, Zambia. She is the creator of "bush gourmet" cuisine.

18 Comments

  • Bravo, Annabel!

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    • Thank you, Michelle … and Happy Easter to you!

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  • As I write this I am watching the terrible news unfold of all those young people in Kenya whose lives have been cut off before they could launch themselves into being productive adults. I am reminded how much a good education is valued in Africa and what joy I had in reading that you had started a pre school on your farm. Like you I am grateful that circumstances have allowed me the honour of staying in Africa and will keep planting trees even though I know that they will probably be chopped down after i’ve gone. So well done you. Keep up the good work. Love, laugh and enjoy whatever life brings nothing permanent is ever promised.

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    • Thank you for your very kind comment, Dal. What a senseless tragedy in Kenya. And yes, an education is an inalienable right. Planting trees is good for the planet and for the soul! All the best to you … Annabel

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  • Congratulations! Not sure there’s ever been a better title … completely sets the mood 🙂

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    • Ahhh … bless you, Georgie, and thank you. It wasn’t difficult to think of … the tree is raining Mongongo nuts onto our tin roof all the time at the moment, ensuring we never forget it. They sound like gun shots! Happy Easter!

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  • What a beautiful piece Bella! Having got your ‘mojo’ back, you seem to go from strength to strength. You are an inspiration!

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    • Thank you, my special friend. Much love this Easter weekend … xo

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  • Annabel you are amazing, and I just love reading your blogs, as well as this latest piece. You write so beautifully! I would so love to see you again some day. I can’t believe that 30 something years have passed since that crazy time in the White House. Lots of love Barrell xx

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    • Hearing from you has made my day, Barrel! Thank you for your super-kind comment . I would love to see you again, too. Any chance you’ll be in Vic Falls in the coming months? I hear on the grapevine you are doing wonderful work at Ruzawi. My nephews and niece are there. Lots of love to you, and please keep in touch. Annabel xo

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  • Congratulations Annabel – what a coup! This is hopefully the start to a productive literary business doing the things you love and value in a special part of the world with your great man Chris!! Well done my clever friend! You inspired me so much so, that I have revived the Birdwoods Blog after two years dormancy!

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    • Woke up this morning and read your lovely comment … what a great start to my day! Huge gratitude, Louise, for your interest and support. I am thrilled you have revived your Birdwoods blog. I’ve always loved receiving your news! Much love to you over in autumnal New Zealand … xo

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  • Annabel, a wonderful piece. And I love the full article in The Cook’s Cook. Really love the reverence you have for nature, the environment in which you live, and your inspiring resourcefulness. Makes me very nostalgic for Africa!

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    • Thank you, dear Zsa Zsa … such a kind comment. I am so very lucky to live here. Much love to you … xo

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  • Another fabulous article!

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    • Thank you so very much, Jenny. I really appreciate your support and interest. All the best, Annabel

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  • […] I published my last blog UNDER THE MONGONGO TREE – Bush Gourmet in the Zambezi Valley – A Prologue, many readers — particularly those with a slow internet connection — have written in […]

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  • […] I published my last blog post UNDER THE MONGONGO TREE – Bush Gourmet in the Zambezi Valley – A Prologue, many readers — particularly those with a slow internet connection — have written in […]

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