The best way to experience another culture is to experience their food. At least that's what Andrew Zimmern (from Travel Channel's Bizarre Foods) says. If culture is related to cuisine, then it must be a good sign that the food in Botswana is delicious. I have enjoyed everything I have eaten (except cucumbers, which I just do not like). Just a warning, Batswana love meat, so it is a little harder to be a vegetarian. My mom in Mochudi told me that eating a meal without meat is almost as if you didn't even eat at all. If you like meat, then you will enjoy the meat in Botswana, which seems tastier and fresher than in the US. I'm sure that it is indeed fresher and uses fewer growth hormones and chemicals in general. Many families raise their own cows, goats, and chicken so they know exactly how their animals have been raised and how fresh their food is. A traditional meal includes a maize or sorghum meal cooked so it has the consistency of mashed potatoes, vegetables that remind me of spinach, and usually beef. (I'm sorry if my description of food is lacking as I much prefer to be eating it than writing about it) There were a few things that surprised me about food in Botswana. For example, they eat pasta. My family enjoys covering it with a meat gravy, but other families add ketchup (their version of tomato sauce). They also have supermarkets, which provide almost everything that one in the US would. However, there are many street venders and small shops that sell food as well. Fast food gaining in popularity as KFC, Chicken Licken (a South African chain that reminds me of a slightly altered Chick-fil-a), and Pie City (serving primarily meat pies, which look like hot pockets, not fruit pies) are popular places to stop and get a quick bite.
What's in a name? In Botswana, quite a lot. Every Setswana name has a meaning. My name, Tiro, means work. Some other common names are Mpho (gift), Neo (also gift), and Lorato (love). Children are usually given names by their parents who use the name to describe something in their life. For example, if a woman is about to give birth and her husband or boyfriend suddenly leaves her, then she may name the child Mathata (problem or trouble) to describe the circumstances of the child's birth. Or if the child comes in a religious period of life, he or she may be named Thapelo (prayer). It may seem unusual for children to have names that may affect them negatively throughout life, but according to Setswana culture, if a mother is feeling pain, she must pass it on through the name to the child. If not, the mother, and quite possibly the child, will have that pain forever. Many names are also unisex (Mpho), while others are primarily male (Tiro) or female (Motlalepule). Motlalepule happens to be one of my favorite names because, although it's a female name, it means he who comes with rain. So, if a girl is born in the rainy season, she may be named Motlalepule.
Photo 1: Traditional cornmeal, spinach, and meat
2: Potatoes covered in meat with carrots
3: Fat cakes (fried doughy goodness) with some type of meat. If you look carefully, there is no fork in the picture because I used my hand. Eating without utensils is quite common in Botswana.
As you can see, the common theme is meat. And all of the above photos are of meals eaten at my house in Gaborone.