There is such a huge variety of dishes and various multicultural influences within South African cuisine that it is sometimes referred to as ‘rainbow cuisine’. The cuisine of South Africa was first started and inspired by the indigenous people of Africa, primarily those people who spoke the Sotho and Nguni language. There followed a stage of cookery of the colonial period as many different cultures came and inhabited the country. The new setters brought with them their own languages as well as their own recipes and culinary delights.
Before the colonial period in South Africa, the cuisine was largely dominated by foods such as fruits, bulbs, leaves, nuts and other wild plant products. A lot of food also came from the hunting of wild animals. It was those who spoke the Bantu language who arrived from Central Africa who introduced the concept of raising domestic cattle. This of course enabled fresh meat on demand and largely reduced the need to go hunting for food. When it came to a vegetable accompaniment for a meal, pumpkin was largely favoured. Rice and beans were also very popular foods to go with the meat on the dish. The meat was, and still is, the centre of any South African dish. Vegetarianism is a practice that is almost completely lost on the South African people, with some even seeing it as an insult to serve a meal to a guest without some meat.
Although the recipes of the indigenous people were in many different languages, thanks to outsider influence, they are largely today used by those who speak the Afrikaans language. And of course thanks to translation, they are also widely used in other parts of the world.
The decline of indigenous cookery came after the nineteenth century. Tight control over agricultural production saw people having to depend more on industrially produced processed food products. They also started to consume more imported products and this increased the dietary range of many people. Popular foods today in South Africa are things such as chicken, tomatoes, chilli, onions and a huge range of spices.