Eat African, lose weight T

Ill­nesses re­lated to obe­sity, such as di­a­betes, kill more peo­ple in SA than HIV and TB com­bined. Yet, as much as they never seem to work, we stick to West­ern di­ets and ig­nore the food we ate in our child­hoods. A new book by di­eti­cian Mpho Tshukudu and Cit

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Eat Ting Mpho Tshukudu and Anna Trapido Quivertree Publications 224 pages R273 at .... -

here are many pow­er­ful ideas in Mpho Tshukudu and Anna Trapido’s new cook­ing and nutri­tion book, Eat Ting, but the quote that best sums up the ethos of this beau­ti­fully worded and pho­tographed man­ual is this: “Since we are what we eat, if we ig­nore taste pref­er­ences and fa­mil­ial food fond­ness, we be­come some­one else. Es­sen­tially, the ex­ist­ing diet books serve up the idea that Africans need to change who they are to lose weight and gain health. This is non­sense.”

Eat Ting is the book we’ve al­ways needed – a book that recog­nises black South African re­al­i­ties and ac­tively pro­motes those ben­e­fi­cial foods we’ve been told we should no longer eat. Dishes that your grand­mother used to make, like slowly cooked tripe, of­fal and chicken feet. Low-GI legumes like tshidz­imba (samp, sugar beans and peanuts) and dik­goba (cow beans and sorghum). Veg­eta­bles like mo­rogo, wa thepe and amakhowe mush­rooms. And, of course, ting (fer­mented sorghum por­ridge). Now, not all tra­di­tional food is healthy – gem­mer (ginger beer) and MaSkhosanas (scones) must still be con­sumed spar­ingly – and the writ­ers are not say­ing that we should only eat tra­di­tional food (that would just be bor­ing), but they are ad­vo­cat­ing that we dis­band the idea that tra­di­tional food is “poverty food”, or un­so­phis­ti­cated.

The way that tra­di­tional dishes are cooked and the fact that they in­cor­po­rate so many good carbs, cul­ti­vated veg­eta­bles, and fer­mented milk and ce­re­als, make them ex­cel­lent for im­prov­ing your health and help­ing you lose weight. ‘Poverty food’

What I love most about Eat Ting is that it is clearly based on peo­ple’s lived ex­pe­ri­ences. In fact, every chap­ter is in­ter­spersed with anec­dotes de­rived from in­ter­views with black South Africans.

One chap­ter ad­dresses the seven prob­lems that are mak­ing suc­cess­ful black peo­ple over­weight and un­well. Among the universal mod­ern-day is­sues of stress and a lack of time, black South Africans have kids who don’t know how to eat tra­di­tional food, which is frus­trat­ing when cou­pled with the obli­ga­tion to eat at the “Triple M” – maso (fu­ner­als), mat­lapa (un­veil­ing of tomb­stones) and ma­g­adi (lobola).

We also carry psy­cho­log­i­cal scars from the past. Have you heard some­one re­ject tra­di­tional food now that “re tl­habologile” (we are so­phis­ti­cated)? Now-wealthy black South Africans gen­er­ally know what it’s like to not have enough to eat and, not only do they never want to feel that way again, they want to make sure their kids never have to eat food associated with be­ing poor.

A woman the au­thor called Lebo writes: “When my hus­band and I were first to­gether, we were young and we weren’t rich, but we had de­cent jobs and, for the first time in our lives, we had a fair amount of money. We both grew up quite poor and we just binged on ev­ery­thing. It was like, ‘Crois­sant! This is new! Let’s have 10!’ It was al­most like a re­venge thing. We were in hi­ber­na­tion mode – stor­ing for win­ter as if the time of plenty would go away. But it’s silly be­cause now it’s been 10 years and we need to calm down. Win­ter’s not com­ing. This is not Game of Thrones. The crois­sants aren’t go­ing any­where.”

Get­ting over that psy­cho­log­i­cal feel­ing of “stor­ing up for win­ter” means we must ad­dress it first.

And once we do, we will stop gorg­ing on huge por­tions be­cause we un­der­stand that the food is not go­ing to run out overnight. So did apartheid have any­thing to do with it?

What we eat and why we eat it is an­thro­po­log­i­cal, cul­tural and po­lit­i­cal, says Trapido. Although global ur­ban­i­sa­tion has led to a rise in con­sump­tion of en­ergy-dense, sug­ary foods (and an ac­com­pa­ny­ing in­crease in body weight), South Africa is an even more ex­treme case be­cause of apartheid.

Due to land dis­pos­ses­sion, “fam­i­lies were split up and ur­ban peo­ple no longer had ac­cess to the labour of grand­moth­ers to cook, or younger sis­ters to col­lect fire­wood and gather wild leaves”.

Those who went to work in ur­ban ar­eas of­ten lived in sin­gle-sex hos­tels where food was doled out by the em­ployer.

Be­cause of in­creased time spent com­mut­ing from black town­ships to white busi­ness spa­ces, there just wasn’t time for cook­ing any more.

Since slow sim­mer­ing was no longer an op­tion, peo­ple had to de­vise ways to add flavour to their food, which led to an in­crease in the use of stock cubes, pow­dered gravies and MSG (think Aro­mat).

The fact that apartheid out­lawed land own­er­ship and took away fer­tile farm­land from Africans meant that there weren’t many black farm­ers around the ur­ban cen­tres pro­duc­ing in­dige­nous crops, so even if you wanted to cook tra­di­tional veg­eta­bles, you couldn’t find them.

And then, per­haps the most in­sid­i­ous of all, was the ar­rival of state-pow­ered mealie mo­nop­o­lies. Maize, the highly re­fined, nu­tri­ent-de­fi­cient and bleached kind, was pushed at the ex­pense of other starches. This cheap, un­healthy food soon be­came many black peo­ple’s sta­ple meal.

The good news is that bad habits can be bro­ken. Ur­ban­i­sa­tion and ac­cul­tur­a­tion might have in­tro­duced un­healthy food into our di­ets, but the power is in your hands to change how you eat; to take con­trol of your diet and get back to nu­tri­ent-dense foods.

This might be the per­fect book you need to get go­ing.


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