The annual Botswana Craft Letlhafula has become an important event on the national calendar, having grown by leaps and bounds over the years.
In 2007 Botswanacraft in collaboration with the then Department of Youth and Culture published its first edition of Botswana Traditional Recipes, which were taken directly from the dishes served during Letlhafula celebration.
Last Wednesday, Botswanacraft hosted a cuisine sampling of dishes to be published in the second edition of Traditional Food Recipe book. From morning the Botswanacraft backyard was a hive of activity with chefs, from different hotels, and home economics teachers preparing their authentic recipes in the big three-legged pots (poto), popularly used for cooking at big Setswana social events like patlo, and weddings, amongst others.
One of the organisers Kabelo Nkhwa, explained to Arts and Culture that while recipes in the first edition were taken from food prepared during the actual Letlhafula event, this time around they decided to involve professional chefs from various hotels for the second edition of the recipe book. She said to demonstrate their appreciation all the participating chefs would be credited in the book alongside their hotels.
Nkhwa noted that the second edition will have what she termed contemporary Setswana dishes, and a glance at the new recipes attested to that as they include a lot more of what one might term Western ingredients.
In recent years there has been an outcry that Setswana culture is slowly disappearing, particularly among the youth. It is therefore not uncommon to come across youngsters who prefer Western dishes at the expense of traditional dishes. Nkhwa stated that it was against this backdrop that they decided to come up with contemporary traditional dishes, to revive and sharpen people's appetite for Setswana traditional foods.
"When our children see some of the ingredients that they are used to, they will most probably be enticed to try the food," she said.
One might argue that making Setswana dishes contemporary is a dilution of the culture that is being revived and protected, but it is a fact that societies are always evolving as such culture is also bound to evolve. Already different families prepare mogudu (tripe) in different ways, with some adding curry and potatoes and the new recipe book will include such recipes. Some of the dishes, which were sampled include Lamb Neck Hot Pot, which has a variety of Western ingredients, Curried Mogodu, Mushrooms and Sweet Potato Casserole, Ntlo ya Letlhodi (Lentil Tower), Cajun Ox Tongue with Peanut Rice, Bogobe jwa Tlhapi most popular in the Maun Kasane area, Letshotlho la Korong le Dinawa (Letshotlho with wheat and beans), and menoto relish. For dessert, the book will have interesting recipes, including Lerotse Crumble, and Lerotse cake. Capturing the most delicious food was no easy task, as most of the dishes served were well prepared and had every guest salivating.
Curried Mogodu, Mushrooms and Sweet Potato Casserole, might sound a bit weird to someone hearing about it for the first time, but the dish is surprisingly mouthwatering.
Speaking at the cuisine sampling session, Minister of Youth, Sport and Culture Gladys Kokorwe noted that the Department of Arts and Culture under her ministry is mandated, among other things, to facilitate the preservation, promotion, and development of Botswana's culture.
"The production of this second recipe book is one of the major efforts to promote culture," she said.
Kokorwe applauded Botswana Craft and the National Food Technology Research Centre (NFTRC) for recognising the need to collaborate with the Department of Arts and Culture on the project.
"The role of the National Food Technology Research Centre is very important in this project as they ensure that the food included in the recipe books is of high quality," she said.
NFTRC is charged with laboratory testing and analysis of foods, product safety evaluation, quality assessment and control, training in food processing technologies, and development of food products and processes.
NFTRC managing director Dr Charity Kerapeletswe-Kruger, acknowledged the importance of promoting traditional food, to enhance their consumption both at home and abroad.
She explained that for this to happen the recipes need to be altered to suit the different tastes of international communities.
Drinks at the event included juices made from Morula, and Mmilo. Entertainment was provided by folk singer Solly Ramasole.