25 September 2019

Food brings people together, it fosters a form of community – it is no wonder that food forms such a significant part of our heritage.

Many of us will recall how school excursions were coupled with delicious treats, ‘umphako’ or ‘padkos’. This would include fried chicken and steamed bread among others. Food is also pivotal in cultural gatherings or celebratory events such as birthdays and weddings.

Origins of food

The origins of food are as riveting and as old as the history of humankind. For instance, tomatoes come from Andes  and coffee from Ethiopia (Alimentarium). Narrowing the history locally, African hunters and gatherers ate mainly fruit before they ventured into domestic farming and cattle herding among others. These practices are still preserved by some to date.


‘’Elaboration of the cultural significance of food and eating focuses on social values, meanings, and beliefs rather than on dietary requirements and nutritional values’’ – Anne Murcott


It is simply not just food, it is a colourful way of expressing identity. Food is an attitude.

The history of this country is one of displacement; viz the migrant labour system. Migrant workers would leave their homes for work in the mines. To hold on to a sense of their identity, migrant labourers would cook some of their favourite dishes in hostels and dwellings they inhabited.

This also led to breakaway dishes such as ‘spaaikos’, which are quick-prep meals. Our dishes are as interesting, fascinating and diverse as our people and our various cultures. For instance the Cape Malay, a community that has played a major role in shaping the history and cultural landscape of Cape Town. Famed for, among others, their broad knowledge of spices and delicious treats, such as their spicy koeksisters.


An Ode to Heritage Month - Food: The Cornerstone of Culture


‘’Cooking traditional food is a form of preserving culture’’


Our unique cultural cuisine gives us nourishment, a sense of nostalgia for many, and for some – preservation of culture.

Famous South African dishes

  • Boerewors
  • Pap
  • Vetkoek
  • Chakalaka
  • Spaaikos
  • Mopani worms
  • Bunny Chow
  • Biltong
  • Tripe


An Ode to Heritage Month - Food: The Cornerstone of Culture

Leave a Reply