In the first of a new series of articles, I will be looking at what effect British colonial rule had on African cookery and the cooking of settlers in the African colonies. The British Empire, a series of colonies, protectorates, dominions and territories ruled by Britain, originally during the 16thand 17thCenturies, was the largest empire in history.
British colonial rule in Africa began in a trading post in Gambia, at Fort James in 1689, and outposts were soon established in the Gold Coast, Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone. By the late 1940’s 80% of Africans lived under the European rule of just 2% of the white population, around 6 500 000 colonial settlers. In this new series I will be looking at the lives of the women who accompanied their husbands to colonial Africa, and those of them who were born and grew up there as a result of their ancestors’ colonial past. Prior to colonisation, and intercontinental trade, the staple food of the African tribes that inhabited the continent depended on topography, soil structure, transhumance, agricultural development and climate. A commonly served African meal would be a rich, spicy meat stew served with sadza {a Rhodesian-Zimbabwean mealie meal type of porridge-mash}, or fufu {a West African combination of cooked yams, cassava or plantain}.
Trade opened the routes to international market thoroughfares, and the Arabs were sailing ships filled with fruit, rice, spice, oranges, lemons, limes and pigs to Kenya during the medieval era.
If we were to fast-forward to the mid 19th Century, and the arrival of many European settlers to Africa, and consider the effect of land seizures and coercive colonisation, we would see the demise of traditional African farming communities.
British writers that came to write colonial cookery books in Africa {the first of which was published in 1889, written by Mrs. When Victorian and Edwardian British ladies first left their homeland and set foot on African soil, they must have been bewildered and fearful of how they were going to manage in a continent where domestic arrangements, the finding, training and retention of suitable household staff  and the provision of supplies were utterly different from what they were used to at home. The secret of England's greatness - painted by Thomas Barker in 1863, depicting Queen Victoria handing a Bible to a Zulu.
In particular, I am very interested in researching how and what British women cooked at home in Africa, their relationship with the black servants who worked in their kitchens, how they learned to acculturate themselves to the local ingredients, tools, markets and methodologies and what recipes, ideas and techniques they took back to Britain once they left after independence. By 1922 the British ruled 458 million people in the world, which constituted 20% of the planet’s population, in 4 million square miles. The Dutch East India Company had founded the Cape colony as a provision station on the southernmost tip of Africa in 1652, in order to serve the Dutch ships that sailed back to Europe with their cargoes of tropical spices and slaves from their colonies in Sri Lanka, Bengal, Malaysia and Indonesia.


It is estimated that before the European colonisation of Africa there were around 10 000 different political states in Africa, many consisting of small, family units or nomadic hunter-gatherer tribes and kingdoms. It was not until the late 1950’s, when African nationalism rose to its peak that European empires were dismantled and independence gained for indigenous people.
I will be looking at the indigenous cuisine they found, the recipe books they brought with them and the sorts of facilities that were available for the buying, transporting, preparation, cooking and serving of food.
The staple crops for millennia were rice, sorghum {a type of grass-grain}, millet, lentils, peanuts, groundnuts, yams and barley. In the 15thCentury European traders brought beans, cassava, maize, tomatoes and sweet potatoes grown by the Indians in Northern America.
Central Africa remained free from colonial influences right until the end of the 19th Century. Settlers killed many game animals to make way for grazing livestock and they appropriated farms. There were chicken, pumpkin, green mealies, sweet potatoes, maize flour, kaffir corn, eggs, groundnuts and native spinach. In the next edition of The Foodie Bugle I am going to showcase examples of the sorts of books that helped settlers deal with their new found challenges, and how the food of empire was affected by the indigenous larder and customs. After 350 years of settlement, the diaspora of white settlers back into European society meant that in many kitchens in Britain there remains, to this day, a historical link to British colonial culture. After the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, at the beginning of what is known as the Imperial Century, between 1815 and 1914, Britain was unchallenged in conquering those lands it viewed as economically desirable, either for agricultural or strategic purposes or for the extraction of mineral wealth and slaves or the securing of markets.
These slaves brought their own recipes and cooking styles from their homelands, and this created the spicy, fragrant Cape Malay dishes, which have greatly influenced South African cuisine.
I will be drawing reference from the works of the household management and cookery writers that wrote books, from the late 19thCentury, to assist and inform those families leaving Britain for the colonies as well as personal accounts of those settlers that managed to carve a new life in this brave and unfamiliar world. Africans began to herd animals such as cattle and goats approximately 2000 years ago, and so were able to enrich their diets with meat and dairy produce.
Increasing urbanisation, housing, development and infrastructure growth led to the increased need for industrially produced food stuffs, such as flour, white rice and sugar, all foods processed by settler-owned mills and factories.


The British also appropriated the most valuable resource in the largest continent of all, and that was the River Nile in Africa. The British acquired the Cape colony in 1806 from the Afrikaners, who were systematically driven north, to what became known as the Orange Free State.
Amongst certain white communities in Africa, tea is still served at four o’clock with scones and jam, and even in thirty degree heat, Sunday roasts with gravy, Yorkshire pudding and roast potatoes are not uncommon in country clubs and at weddings.
The range and variety of indigenous ingredients were dramatically reduced as a result of colonisation and many blacks suffered food shortages and marginalisation from family farms. Ships landed at the Cape of Good Hope with settler families from Britain who came to consolidate British rule here and establish villages, towns and farms.
The hangover of colonial rule clings tightest in the heritage and legacy of food than in any other part of everyday life.
In east Africa the inland savannah region provided pasture for cattle, sheep and goats that were considered currency, and as a result only the milk would be drunk, as killing the animal for meat undermined the villagers' wealth. Most of the foods had to be eaten in salted water as the natives were without any kind of fat.
Milk was a very important commodity in all of Africa and because of the high daytime temperatures Africans would make a sourmilk yoghurt drink. Otherwise he did not do too badly, and he decided when he came home to use more of their foods as they were cheap and plentiful. Ugati and Matoke were starchy dishes eaten with the meat dishes that were served for special occasions. In the Horn of Africa, in Eritrea and Ethiopia, tsebhis meat stews were eaten with teff flour injera bread and hillbet, a legume paste made with beans. In West Africa baobab leaves were eaten and Jollof Rice, or Benachin, created a one pot dish of rice, tomatoes, onion and red peppers.



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