info - "Rainbow" cuisine
- wine history - short
list of favourite food places - recipes
African food celebrates the country's rich cultural heritage,
as well as taking advantage of the natural bounty of seafood,
meat, game and plants. All this food has got to be washed
down with something, and our wine has been earning rave reviews
internationally for 300 years.
Most travellers with special diet requirements (e.g. gluten
free, lactose intolerance etc.) can travel without any problems
if the necessary care and preparation was made beforehand.
LB Safaris have had lots of experience and will be able to
advise you accordingly. Please do not hesitate to contact
us should or ask a free
cost estimate for a tailor made travel package not forgetting
to fill in your dietary requirements clearly.
cultural melting pot
South Africa is triply blessed. A long and varied coastline
supplies us with an astonishing amount and variety of seafood;
our fertile soils and wonderful climate work together to produce
an enormous range of agricultural products; and our chequered
history has endowed us with a population with such diverse
cultural backgrounds that fusion is hardly anything new here.
Of course, you will find a whole range of restaurants serving
anything from hamburgers to sushi, but let's concentrate on
Our seafood is legendary, and is best sampled at one of the
West Coast's open air restaurants - not much more than simple
shelters on the beach. As well as mussels, fish stew, grilled
fish and lobster, you may be offered pickled fish - a well-loved
dish which you'll also find in some traditional Cape Malay
Other Malay specialities include fruity, spicy but not overpowering
curries, smoorsnoek (a fish dish not unlike kedgeree), koeksusters
(a sweet, syrupy treat), bobotie (a spicy mince dish), and
some Indian specialities, such as rotis and samosas, with
a local twist.
But our cuisine truly is multicultural, and nowhere is this
more apparent than at a typical South African braai (barbecue).
Now braais are assumed to be the domain of the Afrikaner male,
but the reality is not nearly so simple.
Yes, there is an awesome amount of meat, most notably the
very Afrikaner boerewors (a spicy, fatty sausage), but there
will almost certainly be sosaties too. This is a lightly curried
meat kebab, not unlike an Indonesian satay, which was brought
to this country by the Malays hundreds of years ago.
And of course, no braai is complete without pap en sous, which
is the staple diet of most of Africa. It's a grits-like maize
porridge, cooked up stiff, and served with a relish of vegetables,
usually tomato and onion at a braai, or wild spinach (merogo
or imifino) in a traditional African environment. You'll get
the opportunity to try this at most cultural villages, or
at one of the many African restaurants which are scattered
all over the country.
And, of course, all this food has got to be washed down with
something. South Africans are great beer drinkers, and no
braai is complete without the brown liquid. More worth trying,
though, is the thick, low-alcohol, nutritious traditional
African beer, brewed from maize or sorghum. But nothing can
beat a good wine from the Cape - a notable wine-growing region
for over 300 years.
Wine from the "Dark Continent"? To many European
and American wine drinkers, this is a strange concept. In
fact, there are vineyards all over Africa. Algeria and Morocco
have been producing wines for decades, and modern wine-making
has been set up in places like Zimbabwe and Kenya. But it
is down south in the Cape, where climactic and topographic
conditions simulate those of the old wine countries, that
the continent's finest wines are produced. Today, the best
of South African wine is up there with the rest, while in
the "easy-drinking" category no one beats us! History
has a way with wine, and the Cape's wine culture, which goes
back 350 years, is one that both reflects the country's troubled
colonial and apartheid past - but also shines with the potential
and expectation of the modern wine world.
From that long history comes a wine tradition of tastes and
styles with its roots in the classic "Old World"
of France, Germany and Italy, but also an acute awareness
of the contemporary consumer, as has been defined by wine-making
in the "New World" of California and Australia.
It has often been said that South African wine is in the unique
position of straddling both these wonderful worlds. It offers
marketing possibilities that can be harnessed for the challenges
of the new global economy. It can offer the wine-drinking
world all kinds of new flavour experiences. It can also show
the way to handle such sensitive issues as labour relations
in the reality of the beautiful Cape winelands.
It was the search for food that shaped modern South Africa:
spices drew the Dutch East India Company to Java in the mid-1600s,
and the need for a half-way refreshment stop for its ships
rounding the Cape impelled the Company to plant a farm at
the tip of Africa. There are sections of Commander Jan van
Riebeeck's wild almond hedge still standing in the Kirstenbosch
Gardens in Cape Town. That farm changed the region forever.
The Company discovered it was easier to bring in thousands
of hapless slaves from Java to work in the fields than to
keep trying to entrap the local people, mostly Khoi and San,
who seemed singularly unimpressed with the Dutch and their
ways. The Malay slaves brought their cuisine, perhaps the
best-known of all South African cooking styles.
The French Huguenots arrived soon after the Dutch, and changed
the landscape in wonderful ways with the vines they imported.
They soon discovered a need for men and women to work in their
vineyards, and turned to the Malay slaves (and the few Khoi
and San they could lure into employment). Much later, sugar
farmers brought indentured labourers from India to cut the
cane. The British, looking for gold and empire, also brought
their customs and cuisine, as did German immigrants.
And black communities carried on eating their traditional,
healthy diet: game, root vegetables and wild greens, berries,
millet, sorghum and maize, and protein-rich insects like locusts.
Today the resultant kaleidoscope - the famous "rainbow"
- applies not only to the people but to the food, for one
finds in South Africa the most extraordinary range of cuisines.
for the modern market
In the post-apartheid era, since 1994, South African wine
has returned to the world arena with significant impact, growing
from some 50-million litres exported that year to topping
139-million in 2000, representing more than 25% of good wine
production. It is still increasing, and Cape wine is reaching
even more consumers in more countries. According to the latest
figures from exporter association Wines of South Africa (Wosa),
international sales for 2001 increased 17.8% compared with
2000, despite the global recession. Internationally, the industry
is small, ranking 16th with about 1.5% of global plantings,
but production, at seventh position, accounts for 3% of the
As in most established wine-producing countries, new plantings
are taking place at a pace and new varieties of wine grapes
as well as new regions are being explored as the country finds
itself at the frontline of modern market requirements. Of
the 105 566 hectares under wine grapevines (compared with
98 203 hectares in 1997), according to the latest official
statistics, 21.38% is chenin blanc - by far still the country's
most widely planted variety. Sultana (11.28%), a grape that
is also used for non-alcohol purposes, is next, followed by
colombard and chardonnay.
African wine: past and present
The very first vineyard planted in South Africa coincided
with the arrival in southern Africa of the settlers from Europe.
In 1655, three years after his arrival in Table Bay, commander
Jan van Riebeeck of the Dutch East India Company planted the
first vines. In 1659 he wrote his famous report: "Today,
praise the Lord, wine was pressed from Cape grapes for the
Van Riebeeck, it was governor Simon van der Stel who firmly
established the wine industry in the Cape. He built the model
farm Constantia and founded the town of Stellenbosch. Both
are still considered focal points of quality winemaking. During
the 18th century, Constantia's famous dessert wines established
the Cape as a premium wine producer and its reputation was
Meanwhile, Stellenbosch grew as a hub of viticultural endeavours,
including being home to experiments that led, in 1925, to
cinsaut and pinot noir grapes being grafted together into
pinotage, a "local" variety well suited to indigenous
conditions. By the end of the 19th century, South African
vineyards and production were in decline. As in Europe, phylloxera
had taken its toll. To control production and the market,
a large farmers' co-operative, the KWV, was established in
1918. In 1925, Stellenbosch Farmers' Winery was founded. This
merged with another large producer, Distillers Corporation,
in 2001, and Distell is today, size-wise, a competitive player
on the international stage.
During the apartheid years, South Africa's wine industry was
turned inward and international trade diminished as sanctions
With the advent of democracy in 1994, the wine industry, which
had been largely in the hands of white owners and producers,
was forced to adapt. The KWV was dismantled into a commercially
driven venture in 1997 and, together with other players, formed
the South African Wine Industry Trust in 1999 to promote transformation
of the wine industry.
Most owners are still white, but recent years have seen black
partnerships and others coming into the industry. In 2001
a hands-on project, the Vineyard Academy, was launched to
provide vineyard workers with skills training in various fields.
Although consumption of wine in South Africa has not increased
for some years, there are now positive signs that some of
the bigger brand producers are looking at the potential of
the urban black market.