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Traditional food gets a healthy spin in Eat Ting, an African recipe book

eat ting, eat ting book review

By Nomali Cele

When the topics of health and eating well are brought up, the first thing on the chopping block is the food we Afropolitans grew up with. Rustenburg-based dietician, Mpho Tshukudu and food anthropologist Anna Trapido have written Eat Ting, a huge African cookbook filled with recipes rooted in the food our grandmothers were preparing and eating all their lives, but with a healthy twist. Pap might not be the greatest for you, but ting remains a favourite.

We spoke to Tshukudu to find out more about the book and eating healthily while eating traditional food.

What is the idea behind Eat Ting?
Eat Ting’ is a play on words. Those who do not know ting read it as ‘Eatting’. When we correct them, it starts the conversation about ting, which is a fermented sorghum that is comfort food for many people, including me.

Patients alerted me to the fact that there was a gap in the market. Diet food was not appealing nor culturally relevant. I have found that complex dietary concepts are understandable to patients when you put them in a context the patients can relate to [such as traditional foods].

With 66 recipes (including traditional starches, breakfasts, smoothies, soups, hearty stews, offal, desserts, pesto, nut butters, flavoured waters and healthy cocktails), Eat Ting is a tribute to my mother and grandmother and their mothers before them and the ancient wisdom [that goes into traditional food]. I started writing a book for patients, but it increasingly became a journey of self-discovery.

Is Eat Ting only about traditional food or is there a larger conversation you want to have?
Eat Ting is a modern, internationally relevant, beautiful cookbook that celebrates South African heritage ingredients, recipes and cooking methods. It recognises that traditional food and food practices can play a role in health, weight loss and identity. Traditional South African food practices and ingredients are very relevant within a broader international food and health culture.

It’s different to other cookbooks because it recognises that there are unique challenges in being a modern, successful South African and that these challenges are making us sick.

How long did it take you and your co-author (Anna Trapido) to put the book together?
It took about eight months to research, interview, write and test recipes.

What do you want the reader to take away from this book?
To celebrate the rich nutritional and cultural wisdom of our grandmothers and to honour them. It was mainly written for black South Africans because there has never been a cookbook specifically for them. Other readers can use the information to celebrate their own culture, learn about African food and see similarities.

What is your favourite traditional ingredient?
Pearl millet — I discovered it three years ago and am still obsessed.

What is your favourite traditional meal?
Ting ya Mabele, lamb tshotlo and thepe with motsukubele.

What advice would you give someone who wants to eat healthier but believes healthy foods are expensive?
In the book, we encourage using locally grown and indigenous foods that are easy to find and budget-friendly. These include offal, sorghum, traditional morogo, nuts, seeds, fruits, beans and lentils.

In consultation with clients, they disclose that spend the most money on artificial sweeteners, fizzy drinks, commercial iced teas, energy drinks, pastries and eating out. These are not healthy options and they cost more than nutritious options previously mentioned.

Other strategies to help you eat healthily on a budget:

  • Eat legumes instead of meat every day
  • Buy and cook in bulk
  • Visit local farmers’ markets to buy seasonal fresh produce
  • Make your own pesto and nut butters
  • Make your own flavoured water and iced tea
  • Take a lunch box to work

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