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Meat Consumption – Kind of a Big Dill

Meat Consumption – Kind of a Big Dill

‘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.

Go Meat!

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.

Meat consumption
My and Dan’s shopping cart for the Braai.

 

Meat consumption
Biltong jerky, the main way meat is consumed in Namibia and South Africa.

 

meat consumption in Africa
Braai sauce is barbecue sauce. Best used on chicken in my opinion.

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 consumption
Doctor Herbert braaing chicken
meat consumption
My friends had to help me run the braai because I didn’t know all the protocols.

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.

Meat consumption
Waiting for the meat to be done.

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.

meat consumption
After eating, we dance! Also part of the braai.

 

weens
Meet the author / weens

6 Comments

  • Barbara Damon

    With my Teutonic heritage, I love red meat. My father’s favorite treat was raw chopped beef with minced onions on top — Steak Tartar. He would give the butcher specific instructions insisting that the leanest beef would be used only after the grinder had been cleaned. We would spread it on saltine crackers, top with the raw minced onions, salt and pepper. Yummy!!! This delicacy is now impossible to replicate because of the difficulty in finding organic beef and then to be able to find a good butcher.

  • Barbara Damon

    To further expand on my previous comment — Growing up we always had three things on our dinner plate — meat, potatoes and vegetable. Beef was easier to get than chicken. There was a recipe in one of my mother’s cookbooks for “mock chicken” that was made from veal. Potatoes were the staple. The question asked each day was, “How do you want your potatoes?” Sometimes mashed, sometimes boiled, sometimes, fried and the special treat of scalloped.

    Baba

    • weens

      I have to admit the word Tetuonic stumped me. There’s a diet popular amongst South Africans called the Banting Diet, that completely cuts out carbohydrates (grains especially) in favor of fruits, vegetables, beans and meat. I’m looking into it because I’m skeptical that cutting an entire food group out of the recommended guidelines could be good for you. It’s interesting though that the dinner you named above fits that diet (except they say sweet potato only).

      Also, that steak tartar sounds delicious. You have a knack for describing food that makes one very hungry. Or maybe it’s because it’s lunchtime.

      • Barbara Damon

        Teutons were ancient Germanic people. Considering that South Africa was colonized by the Germans, it is not surprising to find some of that culture remaining.

        Baba

        • weens

          That actually makes a ton of sense! The Hereros were the tribe that interacted with the Germans the most, and they are also the one that is most obsessed with meat. There has to be a connection.

  • Barbara Damon

    So, what other German attributes have the Hereros picked up? Germans are noted for their organization. They are not known for their compassion or emotion.

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