Your feet will take you away from home, but your stomach will always bring you back …

I have been experimenting with wild, indigenous and garden foods in the Zambezi Valley now for just over four years. Recently, I published a collection of recipes showcasing their development in three of Zambia’s provinces in which I have worked. The response, both in-country and beyond, has been unlike anything I expected. What began as an announcement on social media about my first-ever recipe book, produced for a client as an extension of my bush gourmet training programme for the company’s chefs, created a scramble for copies from hundreds of followers all over the world. The books my client didn’t buy were sold-out on the first day of the announcement, and I now have a growing waiting list for a reprint.

My first collection of bush gourmet recipes.

We’re not talking Jamie Oliver here, of course. The original print run was tiny, but I had no idea people were that interested. What I create is hyperlocal and focused often on ingredients you cannot buy in other parts of Zambia, let alone in other parts of the world. I received requests for my recipe book from different ethnicities through Africa, Europe, America and Australia. What was it, I wondered, they wanted out of owning this little bush gourmet recipe book?

Organic carrots from our garden.

I’ve thought really hard about this question. While I can understand native southern Africans, especially those in the diaspora missing home, might find the recipes appealing — with my contemporary twist on their traditional and wild ingredients — what else did it evoke?

A contemporary take on Zambia’s wild ingredients.
Some of the team with whom I work on the farm.

I read a Zambian proverb the other day that stated, “Your feet will take you away from home, but your stomach will always bring you back.” Yet what is home, exactly? For many, it’s a memory. An identity. A longing for a simpler way of being. So many displaced, exiled, refugee southern Africans have no idea where home is anymore. It’s no longer a piece of land, or bricks and mortar. Home, at least for me, has become more a feeling, a connection. It’s moved beyond bricks and mortar, transcending into something more elemental. It’s in the red hot coals as I’m roasting aubergines; it’s in the smell of bread baking in the oven; it’s in the thrill of tasting a new wild fruit foraged by those among whom we live. It’s allowing nature to show me its miracles, and then trusting them. It’s being present in real time, sensing everything coming alive, be it a taste bud, a loved one’s touch, a germinating seed, birdsong.

It’s in gratitude, too.

Thank you, everyone, for your continued interest in what I am doing here on this small patch of Kalahari sand in the upper Zambezi Valley. Thank you to those who read my posts, thank you to those who bought my book, and thank you to those who still want to buy one next time round.

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

8 Comments

  • Thanks for a great blog!

    Reply
  • Well done Annabel great work, a big step, looking forward to the next one!

    Reply
  • Lovely sentiments, lovely images and a lovely success story – keep them coming 🙂

    Reply
    • Thank you so much for this lovely comment, Katherine … and for taking the time to post it in spite of the firewall causing me great problems! I so appreciate your support and interest in what I do here. It must be chilly in Germany, and as such, I imagine you are hunkering down. It’s sweltering in the Zambezi Valley, with not a raindrop in sight. I envy you, haha!

      Reply
  • Your writings are so expressive and brilliantly illustrated dear Annabel. Home is where you can be creative, give love and be loved ….seasonal blessings from us xx

    Reply
    • So lovely to hear from you, Helen … and thank you for taking the time and interest in my blog. Wishing you all a very happy Christmas and lots of happiness and love in 2019! xo

      Reply

Write a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.