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Cookbook offers food for thought on SA's history and heritage

The University of Pretoria (UP) recently published a book titled HumanEATies, which features local recipes that explore the "tastes of togetherness" in South Africa.
Image supplied
Image supplied

Published by the Emerging Scholars Initiative Press (ESI Press) – a platform established in 2020 by UP’s Faculty of Humanities that encourages younger scholars to generate wider interest in their research – the book is an adventure in culture, history, identity, memory and emotions, and contributes to broader national discussions by picking up on the debate around South African-specific culture and our collective culture.

The recipes include everything from morogo to biryani, sugar beans to lamb neck, vegan curries to venison and milk tart to kheer, and reflect the combination of cultures and origins that make up the South African population. It showcases how we share our histories and heritage through food, how we celebrate, and how food travels in mysterious and circuitous ways, taking on new meanings in the associations it opens up.

“HumanEATies is a delightfully provocative engagement with food,” says Angelo Fick, director of Research at the Auwal Socio-Economic Research Institute. “We are given insight into how these dishes figure in the life stories of those who offer them to us. We are invited, by their reflections on their relationship to food and its preparation, to think about food and its many pleasures in our own lives, historically and in the present.”

The book was conceived in 2019 when the Faculty of Humanities celebrated its centenary. Staff and students were invited to submit recipes that had meaning in their lives. Many of the recipes arrived during lockdown, when cooking and baking presented a comforting distraction from the uncertainty and difficulty of the times. Dr Hennie Fisher of the Department of Consumer and Food Sciences spent hours with senior students in the EAT@UP unit, testing and styling the recipes for the book, which is a transdisciplinary project between the Faculties of Humanities, and Natural and Agricultural Sciences.

“The book exemplifies the ingenuity of many who study, teach and research in the humanities,” says Desiree Lewis of the Intra-University Critical Food Studies Programme at the University of the Western Cape. “It also manifests their passion, joy and pleasure in celebrating the senses. The photographs and text vividly share not only recipes, but also the memories, emotions and tastes of various ‘scholar-cooks’, reminding us that cooking can mobilise all those energies we value as engaged scholars: curiosity, dedication and passion.”

“HumanEATies provides a compendium of familiar, mouth-watering South African recipes that represent our diverse socio-cultural backgrounds,” says Relebohile Moletsane of the Intra-University Critical Food Studies Programme at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. “The visual representations alone invoke feelings of nostalgia and hope, and a desire to head towards the kitchen and start experimenting.”

Free copies of HumanEATies will be available as a free download on the ESI Press website after the book launch on 30 March 2023.

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