Khoisan food revealed
Did you know?
San people traditionally used empty ostrich eggs to store water they carried as water bottles or buried in the sand to keep cool.
The term Khoisan food is something of a misnomer in that there are in fact two distinct food cultures subsumed in one phrase; San food and Khoi food. What the two communities do share is a common history of dispossession and assimilation into more powerful cultural groups and as a result much of the discussion on Khoisan traditional food below is based on the historical record rather than current practice.
The San have been in South Africa for at least 750,000 years. They are traditionally nomadic hunters, gatherers of wild plants and collectors of maritime resources. Traditional San are experts at recognizing indigenous wild vegetables (known in South Africa as veldkos). Key San veldkos ingredients include Waterblommetjies the chestnut flavoured bulb, Bloublommetjie-uintjie (Moraea fugax) and the wild fig (Carpobrotus edulis). Khoisan food and ingredients have been incorporated into boerekos recipes (e.g. Waterblommetjie bredie) which reflects a history of Afrikaner and San communities living in close proximity to each other and sharing culinary techniques and ingredients.
By contrast the Khoi were traditionally cattle herding people with a high dairy intake. Reports from 17th century Dutch settlers state that the Khoi baked pancake like flat breads (their flour was made of dried ground bulbs and tubers) which was baked on flat stones on top of coals. Fish were roasted on coals or hot ashes on an earthen-ware plate. Meat was either dried or slow cooked in clay pots within earth ovens (this method allowed for the meat to cook in its own juices and remain succulent). Dutch settlers reported seeing Khoi cooking food inside seaweed tubular stems.
While many such culinary practices are seldom practiced, there are still traces of our most ancient gastronomic cultures. The !Khwa ttu San Culture Group offers tours which focus on indigenous edible plants and traditional animal tracking techniques.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Kontrei Traveller Tel 021 8711715; www.kontrei .co.za
!Khwa ttu Tour - PO Box 348,7351 Yzerfontein, R27, West Coast Road, Langebaan, Western Cape. Tel 022 492 2998. Info@khwattu.org