When I’m introduced to a new indigenous ingredient, I experience a similar reaction to that of a prospector unearthing a new mineral deposit. My eyes alight. I examine and prod and my fingertips tingle. I giggle. I have an urge to squirrel away what I come across until, that is, my taste buds demand a part of the action.
These are flavors few people out of Africa have tasted. Every Zambian who works with me, either at the restaurant or on the farm, is aware of my enthusiasm to learn about indigenous ingredients I haven’t used before. Ephraim Nyambe, a young kitchen assistant who I employed at the cafe in his first job, was the one to bring my attention to masawa fruit. He arrived at the café with a palm-sized bag of fruit he’d bought from the market with his own money. “Here,” Ephraim said. “Try these. They are called masawa.” Raw, the grape-sized fruit hinted of apple; boiled down into a purée, masawa WAS apple.