Dining & Hosting in Tswana Culture
BEING AFRICAN- AFRICAN CULTURE EXPLAINED
Dining & Hosting: Botswana Culture (Setswana)
It has been noted that the Batswana have always lived in community groups of different sizes. Depending on the event or occasion, the Batswana people have a vibrant hosting and dining culture. To begin with, the Batswana, especially in the country’s rural areas, live in extended family structures, which calls for food preparation in larger quantities daily. On the other hand, Dining and Hosting for Batswana come in many different forms; depending on the event, different types of food are prepared and served to the guests. It, therefore, makes a lot of sense to try and classify the different occasions on which the Batswana host and dine:
- Molaletsa (Invitation to Help): as a community-based people, the Batswana have developed a tradition of helping each other in the fields and other labor-intensive activities over the years. During weeding in the fields or renewing thatches on homes, the family being helped on the day becomes the host and must prepare a big feast for all to eat. Usually, the host will prepare a meal of samp (maize) mixed with beans (Lehata) or sometimes beans mixed with sorghum (mosutlhane). Relish is usually pounded meat. The meat can be beef, goat, or sheep. However, it is important to note that meat is scarce on such occasions (molaletsa) because of the process involved in its preparation. Families who serve meat during molaletsa have several ‘grown-up’ children who can slaughter, skin, and cook the animal for the ‘guests.’ Otherwise, they will only cook maize and beans because although it takes a long time to cook, it is not as labor intensive as preparing meat (beef, lamb, goat meat)- The food preparation will not disturb the workers from doing the day’s job. The host also prepares traditional beer, generally consumed at the end of the ‘job’ being done (for obvious reasons).
- Bogadi/Lobola Negotiations: another important time of hosting for the Batswana is during the lobola negotiations and eventual paying of the same. In the initial negotiations, the bride’s parents play the role of host since the talks are held at their homestead. With the help of the aunts and neighbors, the bride’s mother will wake up in the very early hours of the morning to ‘raise’ the bread that will be taken with the tea by both the negotiating teams. The bread is usually prepared as fat cakes or traditional Tswana pancakes (diphaphatha). The tea is usually enjoyed after the conclusion of the day’s business, and young girls serve with the supervision of older women. However, it is important to note that those serving the guest should be at most three people. The three fewer number is primarily because the in-laws do not want to seem like they are already celebrating the wedding- it’s a negotiation that might fail or succeed. The groom’s party will usually be fed first, as a way of giving them respect and an indirect way of making them comfortable. Depending on the wealth status of the family, some will have tea at the beginning of the negotiations and the very end…even though it is generally acceptable to do towards the end of the discussions.
- Visitors: from time immemorial, visitors have always been treated like royalty. A visitor in this context is an expected visitor, even one that comes unexpectedly. Batswana hold their visitors in very high regard, and they have a saying; moeng goroga dijo di bonale, which means ‘let there be a visitor for there to be food.’ When visitors are expected, the parents will slaughter a chicken, goat, or even cow, depending on the number of expected visitors. It is common to see cutlery that is usually hidden on the table to prepare for visitors. Even at the time of serving, the guests are fed first- this is considered good etiquette and demonstrates to the visitors that the hosts care about them and their welfare.
All in all, the Batswana must be understood in the following ways when it comes to hosting and dinning:
- They do not have a culture of inviting each other for dinner. There must be something that is being done, as stated above.
- Because each family has to ‘prepare’ their dinner daily, there’s only a little time to ‘visit’ or invite friends for dinner.
- The type of work being done determines the type, texture, and structure of a meal… for labor-intensive jobs; they prepare the following dishes:
- Bogobe ja lerotse (Melon Porridge): to prepare this dish, a ripe melon will be peeled and cooked such that it becomes liquid only. The thick liquid or juice is used to prepare the sorghum meal. In short, this ‘juice’ is used in place of water…so you boil the melon juice and mix it with sorghum (pounded sorghum). This porridge is so tasty that one can have it without relish. It usually takes 30 to 45 minutes to prepare.
- Mosutlhwane: one of the tastiest Botswana dishes, is a mixture of sorghum and beans in the same pot simultaneously. Note that sorghum here does not refer to pounded but raw sorghum heads. With mosutlhwane, the sorghum only goes through the first pounding stage (go thobola) to remove the bran.
The cooking process: A cup or dish full of beans and one full of sorghum are soaked in water separately to clean and soften them before cooking. Then you start with the beans and boil them for fifteen to twenty minutes before adding sorghum. Let the mixture boil for about an hour before adding salt and cooking oil. At the end of it, dishes will be prepared for all, with the children given a bowl from which to share the feast.
- Lesasaoka: another dish based on sorghum, lesasaoka is one of the best foods in terms of boosting one’s digestive process. The sorghum is primarily high in fiber because, unlike in the preparation of mosutlhwane, the sorghum used to prepare lesasaoka is not pounded… it contains a lot of bran. To cook this, soak the sorghum and remove all the floating material. After this stage, the cooking is similar to what has been explained above. It is usually taken as a snack while working or can be mixed with milk ad eaten in the same fashion as ‘corn flakes.’
As for relish, the Batswana are cattle keepers, and a meal is incomplete without beef. The beef can be pounded (seswaa or loswao) in the vernacular) or as beef stew. The cow’s insides also make delicious relish with the liver and heart generally reserved for the elders, while the intestines are cooked with mogodu to prepare what Batswana call serobe. Serobe has a very high-fat content and must be consumed warmly. Other meat sources for the Batswana include goats, sheep, or even wild animals; however, for people in the Okavango, Ngami, and Chobe areas, their staple relish is fish since they live along perennial rivers.