‘Kind of a Big Dill’ is a series that looks at the food and food culture of Namibia. This post is about meat consumption and the braai, because they’re a big deal here.
This Hillshire Farm slogan presents what many would say is a unifying food in American culture. We are particularly fond of bacon, steak, burgers, or fried chicken. Americans eat a lot of meat. But let me tell you America, you ain’t got nothin’ on Namibia. The classic community meal in Namibia is the ‘braai’, an Afrikaans word for barbecue. I wanted Dan (my boyfriend visiting me in March) to experience this Namibian tradition, so we had a braai in his honor of his first day in Outjo. We bought four bags of chicken, and proudly showed them to my friends, who then asked, “but where’s the meat?”. Silly Americans, chicken and fish are not meat. Beef, goat, kudu, oryx, zebra, even ostrich. Now that’s MEAT.
Namibian stereotype: Hereros love meat.
The tribe that champions meat consumption in Namibia is the Hereros, who are famous for their cattle herding which can be seen all throughout the plains of Namibia. The measure of a Herero man is in the number of cows he has, and they rather keep their money in their cows than in the bank. With so many cows it’s unsurprising that milk and meat are the core of the Herero diet. The meaty focus was happily adopted by the other tribes, in what I’m guessing to be the origin of Namibia’s love for meat.
Meat doesn’t grow on trees.
While abundant in stores and on plates, meat in Namibia is also quite expensive. Those who cannot afford to buy it in the store, or do not have family members raising cows in a nearby village, go without meat. When meat is not available, however, it won’t be replaced with cheaper/leaner protein options. The protein sources are there, and for cheap, but a variety of factors (poor food access, lack of nutrition education, unfamiliarity with global foods) prevent them from being purchased.
What can be done about meat consumption?
Namibians spend a great deal of money on meat, and then say they will not eat fruits and vegetables in part because they are seemingly too expensive. High meat consumption and low fruits/vegetables consumption is just a small part in the obesity crisis of Southern Africa. Many Namibians are aware, at least vaguely, that red meat consumption is bad for them. At my hospital I held cooking classes that introduced staff members to new ways of preparing fruits and vegetables. In the coming months I will be replicating the classes at the community level. But as you can see from this post, trying to get Namibians to cut red meat out of their diets completely would be a missed steak.