Southern Africa

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About
This vast area, including S. Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, and Swaziland, has some of the most beautiful and fertile country in the world, as well as two of its great deserts, the Kalahari and the Namib.
The great Portuguese navigator Bartolomeu Dias was the first European to sail round the southern tip of Africa, driven by a storm and unaware of what exactly was happening. In fact, by rounding what is now the Cape of Good Hope he had opened the sea route to India, which then came into use; but it was not until the middle of the 17th century that a victualling settlement at the Cape was established by the Dutch East India Company and began trading with the indigenous population. To make this outpost viable, a limited number of farmers from Europe were allowed to immigrate and establish themselves there. It was these people and their successors, mainly Dutch and German and later known as Boers (or Afrikaaners—the terms are almost synonymous), who were authorized to import slave labour from SE Asia; and it was the arrival of their slaves which laid the foundation for the Cape Malay cuisine which is such a prominent feature of S. Africa.