Fake meat unlikely to be a hit in Zimbabwe

THE chips are down. Prices are sky-rocketing, and the Zimbabwean economy is sliding back into hyperinflation. Conversation, whether when chatting to your neighbour, trawling the supermarkets for bargains, or conversing on WhatsApp to diasporans who feel they made the right move 11 years ago, inevitably centres on the latest exchange rates between the bond, the USD, RTGS and the South African Rand.

Rump steak, chips and Cab Sauv at Garfunkel’s, Borrowdale.

Dreams of earning a living wage and enjoying a normal, comfortable life may have all but faded, but are there are ways to take your mind off things. Like reading a book – perhaps John Eppel’s hilarious Curse of the Ripe Tomato, or the Hairdresser of Harare, by Tendai Huchu. You could also take a long, invigorating walk, or meet friends for a coffee, but the obvious solution, finances permitting, is to go out for a meal.

If you eat out regularly, it’ll become clear to you that different restaurants calculate the cost of a meal at different rates, based on the USD. So choose carefully. At Garfunkel’s in Borrowdale, prices are quoted in USD, but fairly calculated at a rate close to the intermarket bank rate. While the RTGS figure in your bill may knock your socks off today, by next week it could seem paltry.

Although Garfunkels is best known for its pork products, such as pork chops, schnitzels, pork belly and rack of ribs, all grown and processed at their farm and factory in Mt Hampden, they also offer export-quality beef steaks, Zimbabwe’s favourite food. If you crave a monster bone-in 800g rib eye Tomahawk steak, visit Garfunkel’s on a Tuesday for the Tomahawk special at RTGS$136.

After a week of eating ‘healthy’ dishes featuring covo, kale, sugar beans and brown rice, I had almost forgotten the taste of beef from grass-fed Zimbabwean pure-bred cattle. It was time to visit a selection of Harare’s restaurants to track down the best quality beef on offer, and to identify a chef who could cook the perfect steak. Garfunkel’s at Sam Levy’s Village, last Saturday at lunch time, was my first port of call.

Well-dressed, efficient waiters seated us immediately, took orders for drinks, and brought us the menu. A glass of Nederburg Cabernet Sauvignon (RTGS$21) was velvety smooth on the palate, and would go well with steak. Perfectly cooked to medium rare, the 350g piece of rump steak (RTGS$91) was delicious. Fillet and T bone steaks were also available,but I chose the steak I thought would have been aged for at least 21 days, and would taste best. Called the steak-eater’s steak, rump steak comes from the backside and is full of flavour. It takes longer to cook than other steaks, as it can’t be eaten too rare.

Fake meat, for reasons of health and the perceived cruelty of eliminating animals to make food, is increasing in the US and Europe. Made from plants, it actually tastes like meat, and offers different flavours and textures to vegetarians who might become bored with a diet of lentils, vegetables and tofu. If, however, unhealthy additives are used in the making of fake meat, it could be safer to eat a real beef burger than to eat a burger made of beetroot, that tastes like meat.

Zimbabweans are never very far behind the rest of the world when it comes to innovations and new trends; it would hardly be surprising to discover that a bunch of chemists and cooks were hard at work in their laboratories and kitchens, finding ways to make mbambaira and bonongwe taste like meat.

There are, however, rational reasons not to eat meat, considering the inefficient use of land and water in raising livestock, and the effect on climate change of raising cattle. A cow releases 120kg of methane (a greenhouse gas), a year, contributing to global warming. Do we really want colder winters, hotter summers and more frequent droughts?

In spite of these statistics, Zimbabweans aren’t likely to opt for vegetarian burgers or soya bean protein any time soon. Beef stew is a favourite dish, and no important celebration would be complete without the slaughter of a fat steer and the accompanying rituals so important to Shona culture.

With the scrapping of the multi-currency policy a few days ago, it’s all systems go again, as we adjust and come to terms with the re-born Zimbabwean dollar. What hasn’t changed is my plan to check out the best places to eat steak in Harare. – Source: Financial Gazette