“I would really like you to taste my stew.” This from a heavy-set Botswanan woman who was sitting at a little table selling some homemade goods in front of the grocery store. “It is made from waterlilies.”
I had just bought four soft-ball size balls of fried dough from her to do a little tasting of a homemade local dish and share among all of us in the truck as we drove from the Okavango Delta north to the Caprivi strip near the Angolan Border.
I paid for these massive doughnuts with some money that was sent to us by a dear friend of my mother who had visited this area over twenty years ago. When I tried to give our Botswanan friend the 5 pula bill, she looked a little confused and asked “Where did you get this?” Turns out this currency has been taken out of circulation years ago and is not used anymore. But it did get passed around to everyone standing nearby who were quite amused to see it and generated a lively conversation.
And, apparently, the goodwill also bought us a taste of waterlily stew. The stew itself did not look particularly appetizing. The brown-grey stringy stuff in the pot looked like it might be a recipe for a dose of antibiotics and some quality time in the bathroom.
But the prospect of a little gut distress rarely stops me when the alternative is offending someone offering a gift. So I stuck my hand out and she carefully spooned a golfball sized glob in my hand. I took a healthy pinch – delicious.
Mom is watching at my side. She won’t touch sushi and likes her meat well-done because she’s so worried about food sickness. I know what she’s thinking when she sees me take it and eat. But I turn to her and offer her a taste and am surprised that she’s on it for a huge pinch immediately. We are both fans.
The stew mixed boiled waterlily tubers and was mixed with meat and very flavorful. And it was a family recipe our new Botswanan friend was proud to share with two visitors.
And while this was not what my mother’s friend envisioned when she kindly sent us her African money, that worthless 5 pula note bought infinitely more when it created a priceless memory.