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Dec 05

My South Africa Travels: Part 1

I have the fortunate opportunity to travel to South Africa closing out 2012 and am truly amazed by the beauty of this country and the pureness of the food.  Thus far, I have tried a variety of new things including capaccio springbok, which is basically raw, thinly sliced game meat and while on our safari tour in Kruger National Park, we snacked on some droewors (dried sausage) or what we (Americans) would call beef jerky and drank some Pinotage (similar to Pinot Noir) at sunset.

So how can I describe the interesting observations I have collected in South Africa? Perhaps I will start with how everyone walks EVERYWHERE here. There are certainly plenty of cars and taxis, but when we drove the 5 hour route to Kruger National Park, there were people, rain or shine, walking along the highway and the streets throughout our travel. Many of those had their thumb out too, hoping to bum a ride.

While I prefer to branch out, trying meats and protein sources that are not regularly seen in the grocery at home, I soon realize that chicken forms an integral part of the South African diet. In the 1960s it was standard practice to grow and butcher free range chicken to meet the demand, but with a growing population the chickens were quickly processed differently by being genetically modified and grown a third quicker and heavier. Go back to old standards, trust me, it’s better and worth the time investment in the long-run!!

Carrying on, some more observations and facts I have learned thus far (and I want to note, these are observations and facts that I have researched. In no way do I intend my comments to be prejudiced or to categorize):

  • The total production of raw milk in South Africa increased from just more than 2,200 million litres in 2004, to just more than 2,600 million litres in 2011.
  • Only 3% of egg laying hens are free range. The remaining lay eggs in small battery cages.
  • Identifying authentic free-range and organic produce in South Africa can be tricky for consumers, as there is no official legislation in place for free-range or organic farming in South Africa.
  • At present the South African law governing organic farming is still in draft form.
  • The first free-range eggs were introduced onto the shelves of Pick ‘n Pay andWoolworths in 1991, and in 2004 Woolworths banned all battery eggs from its shelves. Eggs that are not labelled “free-range” or “barn” are from caged hens. Free-range eggs from pastured chickens are quite different in terms of their egg yolk color and egg shell strength.
  • Contrary to what I thought before coming to SA, I have been drinking the tap water. South African water institutions are considered to provide some of the highest quality of drinking or potable water in the world.
  • Gluten free requests are hard to understand and not successful when I ask. When eating out, and after asking the waiter/waitress about the need to avoid gluten, they don’t understand what gluten is. I have been fine working around this by opting for seafood and vegetables but failed miserably after eating a salad with a mustard vinaigrette  Most mustard jars I have read, have wheat in them.
  • Malls are pretty popular here in SA, and they are straight up BIG. Huge. We have spent some time in the Mandela Square mall and it’s chalk full of shops, fancy steak houses, seafood restaurants, cafes,  a food court and 2 grocery stores.
  • The lunch hour in the malls are always swarming with people. Goodness, I think regardless of the hour, there are people everywhere. I found it really neat to see large lines at the grocery store where business men and women await to order their lunch from the deli. Bravo! An excellent healthy choice when eating out on the lunch hour.
  • Many menus have meals made with cous cous. As well, I have seen menus with interesting Low GI labels and “Healthy Options.” Specifically on a breakfast menu the “Healthy” meal choice was 2 eggs, pork sausage and grilled tomato. Do you think you could find this on a USA menu? Maybe a paleo one, but for the most part a “Healthy” meal choice I’d see in the States would likely be an egg-white omelette with lots of whole grain bread. South Africa, one point.
  • If you are walking about be careful of traffic (and safety overall). Thus far, the walkways and signals don’t empower the pedestrian to cross a street. This is a bit different than the Green walking man in Australia that I experienced; which also ticked at a pace of how fast we should be moving across the street. I have confidently crossed a walkway with the right signal to do so, and then cars feel at ease to power towards me. This has added a skip in my step! And not in the right way.
  • I did a little bit of grocery shopping to have some snacks on hand and I am grateful for the amazing selection of macadamia nuts and “trail mix.” However, trail mix is marketed as Safari mix. Don’t you love it? I do, and the dried fruit in the Safari mix is pure, and delicious. As for the nuts, they are dirt cheap. I got a snack bag for R33 which equates close to $4USD.

As I am part-way through our amazing trip in South Africa, I will collaborate more things I find interesting and follow-up in a Part 2. Until then, cheers to you and good health, Kel

References:

Compassion in World Farming, SA