Switching a nation's eating habits

Have you ever seen Super Size Me? It is a hilarious and effective attempt to examine and change the eating habits of a nation. In Malawi, the government is not encouraging a switch from Big Macs to brussel sprouts (there is not a single McDonald's in Malawi - rejoice!), but nsima to rice and potatoes. Yesterday the Wall Street Journal ran an interesting article about how it is going:

In a recent episode of the radio soap opera "Zima Chitika," which translates as "So it Happens," a character asks his wife to cook dinner. Although their village home is stocked with sweet potatoes and vegetable gravy, she issues a testy rebuke. "We won't eat tonight. We have no nsima."

Then a wise village grandmother intercedes. "We can eat whatever is available, there is no need to have just maize!"


As part of this message, Malawi's democratic government is invoking a bit of food nationalism during its tours and on the radio. Specifically, it's reminding its citizenry about maize's alien -- that is, American -- roots. Originally a New World plant, maize was first introduced to Africa from the Americas by Portuguese colonizers in the 16th century as a reliable staple for slaving outposts. It took centuries for maize to penetrate the African heartland. The European explorer David Livingstone "discovered" Malawi only in the late 1850s. But having arrived, maize quickly displaced native crops.

Read the whole thing here.

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