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THE BITTERSWEET (AND SPICY) HISTORY OF SOUTH AFRICAN CUISINE

South Africa’s identity is complicated, contested and unresolved. While Archbishop Tutu’s “rainbow nation” remains a noble aspiration, the current forecast is increasingly stormy. So, while it’s tempting to read South African cuisine simply as some kind of melting pot of the influences brought by those who migrated to the country, many of the country’s most notable and tasty dishes reflect histories of violent conquest, enslavement, and oppression. But even as post-apartheid South Africa remains locked in an unfinished struggle to digest and resolve the consequences of its troubled history and to recast a fresh identity based on equality and justice, its cuisine reflects the common humanity of its citizenry: their search for succor and comfort, identity, communion, and hope for a better day.

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