#gamechangers // Mpho Tshukudu
When delicious, healthy, beautiful food and culture collide...
Sometime during the course of last year, I had the opportunity to listen to an interview that caught my attention during Azania Mosaka's show on Talk Radio 702 whilst driving home from university. Azania was interviewing Mpho Tshukudu, who was sharing her vision behind the book Eat Ting that had just hit the shelves of bookstores in South Africa. Mpho, a Registered Dietitian, wrote the book in collaboration with Anna Trapido, a food anthropologist, with the intention of helping readers fall in love with timeless African flavours and traditional ingredients whilst improving their overall health and wellbeing through learning about healthy eating principles. Eat Ting is not a diet book, but rather one that offers healthy eating solutions based on traditional South African recipes and eating principles.
Culture plays a huge role in our taste preferences as we grow up. The types of ingredients, recipes, and food-related behaviours that we grow up experiencing as normal stay with us in our adult years - some healthy, and others that are counterproductive to health and wellbeing. As a white, English South African who grew up in the leafy suburbs of Irene, I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about Africa's post-apartheid situation and the specific stressors and realities facing many urban black South Africans trying to maintain a healthy weight in the face of urbanisation, acculturation, and newfound abundance. The first six chapters of Eat Ting take a unique look at these problems, as well as ways in which they can be overcome through looking at traditional ways of growing, preparing, and enjoying traditional food.
As a dietetics student and nutrition nut, one of my favourite parts of the book deals with wisdom and guidance gathered from 'the grandmothers' - ancestors of modern black South Africans who grew, cooked and ate food in ways that we can all respect and learn from. Believe it or not, the grandmothers were raising free-range meat long before 'free-range' and 'organic' became a buzzword. Likewise, many traditional South African recipes used fermentation (before it was cool) to prepare grains and dairy products; a technique that has been shown to increase their nutrient profiles and digestibility significantly.
As a foodie I fell in love with ingredients I had never encountered or been brave enough to eat before reading Eat Ting, such as amadumbes, millet, thepe (amaranth leaves), and amasi (soured milk). The 60+ recipes included in the book are accompanied by mouth-watering photographs and step-by-step instructions to guide even the most hopeless of home-cooks, making it a must-have for any kitchen.
I was so excited when Mpho agreed to be featured here on Taste & See as the #gamechanger for March. So excited, in fact, that I jumped out of my seat in excitement when I read her response to my email. She has so much wisdom in her field of interest and a passion for nutrition and culture that all of us can learn from. As a bonus, she has been kind enough to share a delicious recipe from Eat Ting for all of us to try at home. Make sure to read this post right to the end for the recipe. Ok, before I say more let's get started with the Q&A and allow Mpho to share a bit about who she is, her journey with food and nutrition, and her tips for living a happy, healthy life.
Tell us a bit about who you are.
I am a registered dietitian with an interest in African Foods and Culture. For me, a healthy lifestyle comes very easy. I function better when I eat well, exercise effectively and get good quality sleep.
What triggered your personal journey with food, health and nutrition?
I loved science in school and have enjoyed cooking from a young age. My favourite topics were digestion and how the body uses foods to keep healthy, prevent and treat diseases. Then I found out you can get paid doing this fascinating job...the rest is history.
Has your journey inspired you to do anything you didn't ever expect to do?
While studying Functional Medicine and Nutrigenetics, I started asking questions about indigenous foods and food practices in Africa. It has been a beautiful journey of discovery and learning, from a lot of different people and especially older people who tell their undocumented stories with pride and beam with pride when I relate how some of those are similar to what we learn in science
What areas of nutrition and dietetics interest you the most?
I am interested in how food relates to culture, heritage and tradition. Asking these questions reveals a lot about history and shows that food trends like foraging, fermenting, veganism and eating organic are not new, but were practiced as daily norms. It is like going back to the future.
Have you furthered your education in any way since finishing university?
I have studied Nutrigenetics, Functional Medicine and First Line Therapy. They all look at how our genes interact with our lifestyle, such as food and exercise and how we can optimise our health. They look at the root cause of the disease than treating the symptoms, which conventional medicine does. It has taught me to pay attention to the patients’ story and look for patterns and identify possible triggers of symptoms and disease.
Tell us a bit about your book. What inspired you to write it, and what is it all about?
Eat Ting is a funny health, weight-loss and self-discovery book, with South African roots and a blossoming international audience. This modern cookbook is co-written with my food hero and food anthropologist Anna Trapido. The book features simple cooking and plating perfection using indigenous South African foods such as sorghum, millet, morogo, African horn cucumber, amadumbe, mulberry, figs and offal. Eat Ting deliciously reveals to food fashionistas that South Africa has what all the best international food magazine are touting such as foraging, organics, free range, food combining, fermenting and low carb living.
What are your top tips for staying healthy physically, emotionally, and mentally?
I practice self-care, daily. This is a fusion of sleep, exercise, eating healthy and being mindful of my thoughts and actions, listening to the body, especially when life and work are too busy.
What is your favourite go-to meal after a busy day?
I make smoothies for dinner. My main aim was to reduce my meat intake and increase vegetables and healthy fats. I find that I am able to use ingredients like seeds, moringa, baobab, coconut, turmeric, cinnamon and make amazing smoothies – sweet and savoury versions.
What is your favourite recreational activity, and what do you enjoy doing to wind down?
I love food and eating. So in my spare time I visit food markets and food producers. I sample a lot and take more to cook at home. I love trail walking in around Harties (my hometown), find that exercise such as yoga and pilates are my moving meditation.
Any tips and advice for others who have an interest in nutrition, health, and food?
We all have an interest in food as humans because we all eat and the food sustain us. There is so much interesting things around food, explore, ask questions and find what you love.
Baked figs with marscapone
From Eat.Ting by Anna Trapido & Mpho Tshukudu
8 ripe figs
1 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup almonds, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp desiccated coconut
2 Tbsp honey
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Amasi curds // Marscapone // Greek yoghurt, to serve
Heat grill to medium-high.
Cut a deep cross in the top of each fig and gently push open the incision so that it looks like a flower. Put the figs in a baking dish and place a small cube of butter in the centre of each fruit.
Arrange the almonds and coconut around the butter. Drizzle the honey over and then sprinkle with cinnamon.
Grill until the figs are soft and the honey and butter have made a sauce in the bottom of the dish. Take care not to burn the almonds and coconut.
Serve with warm dollops of amass curds, marscapone or yoghurt.