These days the visitors that arrive in Zanzibar are bent not on trade or piracy, but on relaxation, indulgence and a revival of the spirit. International travellers have become connoisseurs, able to circumnavigate the globe with ease in search of the finest, most decadent experiences the world has to offer. Zanzibar is now firmly established as one of the world’s most exotic destinations, and the visitors that arrive here have high expectations to be fulfilled. They are not disappointed. Zanzibar’s hotels and restaurants combine Eastern hospitality with Western flair, providing standards of design and cuisine the equal of any of the world’s better-known playgrounds.
Food on safari
So much for Zanzibar and its mouthwatering treats. Can you expect a similar standard of cuisine when on safari on the Tanzanian mainland?
‘An army marches on its stomach’. This saying could also hold true for a safari. Since the times of the earliest pioneers, food and cooking have been an integral part of the safari experience. Nineteenth century explorers, such as Livingstone or Burton, had sometimes to exist on termites and grubs as they forged their way into the unknown. One menu prepared for early safari pioneer Vivienne de Watteville read:
Starter: Consomme (Giraffe)
Second course: Tongue (of Giraffe)
Main course: Tail (Giraffe)
Which part of the aforementioned giraffe provided the dessert was, unfortunately, not recorded! Another traveller, Donaldson Smith, was happy to find fish on his safari table – until he discovered it had been cooked in Vaseline! US President Theodoore Roosevelt, it was reported, waited hungrily at the end of a hard day on safari for his meal of elephant trunk soup, oryx tongue and ostrich liver, followed by slices of elephant heart roasted on sticks over an open fire!
But ever since the continent became the playground of Europe’s rich and famous in the early twentieth century, food standards on safari have been becoming ever more lavish. The white hunters of the 1930s and 40s considered it shockingly lax to entertain their film-star and industrialist clients with anything less than ten courses at dinner, all conjured from supplies carried laboriously on the heads of porters, or gleaned from game shot along the way.
These days safari cuisine has become more influenced by the flavours of the continent itself. African food is bold and colourful, with rich, earthly textures and strong, spicy undertones. Arab merchants, European colonists and Malay slaves have all influenced Africa's native cooking, resulting in a cuisine diverse and yet simple to prepare. But whether fly-camping in the bush or staying in a lodge, the day still begins with the traditional ‘Full English’ – bacon, sausages, tomato and fried eggs, more often than not cooked in a heavy iron skillet over a wood fire before dawn by the camp cooks. Fresh tropical fruits from the lowlands and hardy vegetables from cool highlands are always available