Whether you observe the rites of the Rain Queen or rejoice in a Cape Malay baby’s birth with rosewater infused rice pudding, South African food celebrations and ceremonies are as emotionally satisfying as they are tasty.

Did you know?

South Africans refer to edible indigenous plants as veldkos.

Food is almost everyone's favourite form of culture. One of the best ways to discover the past and present of a community is to observe their food related rituals, celebrations and ceremonies.

At its most elemental level there is no food without rain. At the beginning of the growing season almost all South Africans appeal to the ancestors for rain. The rites of the Modjadji (also known as the Rain Queen) of the Balobedu people of the Limpopo region include the pouring of African beer out of calabashes onto the earth and the Queen's intercession with ancestral spirits.

Food related celebrations and ceremonies are not confined to rural areas. In Cape Town, the Cape Malay people celebrate the birth of a baby with Kolwadjib rose water-infused rice cakes at Cape Malay naming ceremonies.

The Tshoa ritual of the San people requires food taboos and reintroduction of ingredients to ensure the health of young girls on the brink of womanhood. Similarly young Xhosa abakhwetha initiates undergo a harsh diet and detailed education programme in isolation from their community before being reincorporated as men. Afrikaans young men are often taken game hunting and daubed in blood from their first kill.

However and wherever you observe our South African food rituals, you will discover that South African food culture is deliciously diverse. We can say yum in 11 official languages and we love to do so!