Mpumi’s Feast of Love

Some time in the winter of 2021, my publisher Dusanka Stojakovic sent me a Daily Maverick article titled ‘The case for a nationwide funeral feast’ by chef and culinary/food anthropologist, Dr Anna Trapido. Some of you may recognise her name from her Saturday morning slot on Radio 702 where she brings weekly insights on food and culture in South Africa. She is also the author of Hunger for Freedom: The Story of Food in the Life of Nelson Mandela, a gastro-political biography and the co-author of Eat Ting: Lose Weight, Gain Health, Find Yourself (eat ting is a sorghum pun, get it?) with Mpho Tshukudu. Now, this is where we pause.

A gastro-political biography. I love anthropologists, as you know. I am an anthropologist, myself, and I love anthropology for many reasons including all of the wild and wonderful ways that anthropologists think, write and contribute to growing our understanding of each other as the human family. I am so excited that Dr Trapido exists and does the work that she does. My discovery of the field of food anthropology was through her work and I never got to explore it but it’s my favourite field outside of my own. Think of all the amazing and heart-wrenching food shows you love: not only do they showcase the food of a specific place but they also do that while showing the human beings who make the food; their way of life, their history, hardships, culture, innovations and the impact of shifting socio-economic and global tides on what and how they eat. That is a kind of food anthropology at work and I think it is immensely important. So you can imagine how honoured I am that Dr Trapido read and contributed a note to this book!

So, Mpumi’s Feast of Love, was inspired by Dr Trapido’s newspaper article at a time when I was navigating the confusion of the COVID-19 pandemic and the grief that came with losing loved ones in a strange new world where congregation was illegal. I know that this experience of devastation and immeasurable loss is universal and I love how Dr Trapido’s article highlights how coming together as a community to share food and nourish ourselves is a way to mourn, to commemorate and to celebrate life. My new book is a culmination of all of these things because I could only imagine how much children were struggling considering how much difficulty the people around me and I were having with processing all of the unfamiliarity that we were suddenly thrust into. It was essential, then, to have the contribution of psychologist, Shannon O’Brien as a guide for parents in helping their children to navigate emotional difficulties like grief.

Mpumi’s Feast of Love is a labour of love in every way. In this book, readers are brought into Mpumi’s home-life to meet her family, share special moments, overcome, eat heartily and remember joy! It is an ode to all of us who loved and lost during the worst of the pandemic and it is my offering to little readers and their parents/guardians to help to make some conversations a little less difficult. Books have always been friends to me and I hope that this book will bring smiles, comfort and some healing.

Mpumi’s Feast of Love will be available from May 2023 in all 11 official South African languages from all the usual places. Check back here for regular updates.

Thank you, Dusanka, Nicola, Masego, Rupert, Anna, Shannon and all ten translators! I am so proud of what we have done!


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