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Culture and Cuisine of Zambia

By Viator, November 2013

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Zambia is one of the most urbanized countries in sub-Sahara Africa and its culture is both rich and diverse. Seventy-two ethnic groups make up this land-locked nation and while the national language is still considered English, about 90 percent of the population speaks one of nine indigenous languages. Mostly Christian, traditional religions are still practiced, particularly in more rural areas. While each of the cultural groups used to live in isolation, colonialism and urbanization resulted in the blending of many tribes. Today, most of the provinces host annual festivals to celebrate the rich and colorful traditions of Zambia’s people, paying homage to the individual tribes and vast diversity that make up this nation.

Despite its hot and humid climate, traditional Zambian food is hearty and heavy. Nshima, a stiff corn porridge used as the base for most meals, sits in the stomach like lead and keeps locals satiated from breakfast until dinner. Regular rains mean fruits and vegetables are abundant. Ifisashi, green vegetables stewed in peanut sauce, is a thick, warm and inexpensive staple. Samp, a basic mix of beans and nshima, is often served for breakfast or dinner.

Insects like grasshoppers, caterpillars and cicadas are considered a delicacy here. High in protein, these crunchy bits are fried and eaten for snacks. Once a year, Zambians harvest termites, which are sautéed in oil and served like peanuts. Beers from southern Africa are the most popular (and easy to find) alcoholic beverage in Zambia. But adventurous drinkers should look for chibuku, also known as “shake-shake”, a local brew made from corn or sorghum that’s cloudy, thick and sour.

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