Markets, Rickshaws and Bunny Chows July 03 2014
"Cross the river in a crowd and the crocodile won't eat you" - African proverb
So I have ended up back in South Africa unexpectedly this week. Although the circumstances aren't great, I have found myself with a lot of spare time here and have been trying to fill it by keeping myself busy (mostly eating!).
As a result, yesterday I decided to take a drive into Durban and was reminded again why I love this city, and country, so much. I ended up on the beachfront, and was drawn to the impromptu African markets that are now a traditional part of the landscape. Each market stall is run by individuals from all parts of Africa, and who sell items mostly handmade in their home country by various artists, including canvas paintings from Zimbabwe, wooden crafts from Zambia, vivid beadwork items made by Zulu ladies throughout KwaZulu-Natal; the list goes on and on.
These markets are usually hidden gems tucked away in side streets, form the epicentre of communities, or can even be found on the sides of motorways! Africa is lucky in the sense that she often doesn't need to import cheap, poor quality products; she is blessed with an abundance of resources that allow her descendants to create good quality items that one generally can't get anywhere else in the world!
I love browsing through these markets, and they can often be something that is taken for granted by those living in Africa. Since moving to the UK, whenever I return back home I make a point to include visits to these markets at least once on my itinerary. Wooden hand-carved coasters, placemats with African animal prints, and bright hand-painted canvasses have all made a trip back to the UK with me and now feature prominently in my home. Not only do they incite a bit of nostalgia inside me, but they remind me of the sense of unity that I long for. Last year I went to a club in London, and the ladies bathroom assistant told me that she was from Africa (for the life of me I cannot remember where). I gave her a big hug and told her about my South African origin and we exchanged small-talk (a few cocktails might have been the cause behind my overly-friendliness although I do like to think that I am generally quite affable). It was just really nice to chat to someone I could relate to so far away from home.
Anyway, after completing some research for Maisee, reluctantly ending my session of retail therapy, and capturing a quick pose from the Rickshaw driver above, I decided that a well-deserved lunch was in order. And what is the perfect dish to satisfy my hunger for local familiarity? Why a bunny chow of course! I won't go into too much detail as a picture is worth a 1000 words (see below), but simply put it is a local Durban Indian delicacy - a half or quarter loaf of bread hollowed out and filled to the top with a delicious and fragrant, often tomato-based curry (beef, chicken, lamb or beans are your main options), served with sambals and fruity chutney on the side. Absolutely divine!!
I will save local delicacies for another time (including a recipe for bunny chows), but on that note, I'd recommend a visit to a traditional market (be it crafts, spice, food or farmers' markets) no matter where you are. The sights, sounds, smells and people combine to give you an all-encompassing experience that you will never forget, and the bonus is you will be supporting smaller entrepreneurs and local communities, enhancing the sustainability of their livelihoods.
You can't get much better than that :)