For most of her childhood, Mahalapye-born Ednah Rosen literally lived on air, much to her parents’ displeasure. Despite this, she displayed a keenness for food that didn’t go unnoticed… for her doting mum, anything just to get her daughter to eat! Little did Rosen’s parents know their once picky eater would become an outstanding gastronome.
Voice Woman caught up with the self-taught chef, who lived in Sweden for three decades, where she worked a 9 to 5 in the health sector as a unit general manager, did catering, food events and ran an Afro Soul food-inspired Cafe in her spare time. The culinary virtuoso has spent the last 10 years mastering the art of delivering fine food, elevating local dishes to haute cuisine status, which culminated in a cookbook titled ’Taste of Botswana,’ a tribute to the rich, untampered-with flavours of local cuisine inspired by her mother’s traditional cooking style.
Let’s get to know Chef Rosen a bit more… Who is Ednah Rosen?
I was born and raised in Mahalapye. As young girl, I was very curious about food and to my mother’s frustration, that made me very particular about what I ate, which lead to eating too little. I was a small and skinny girl, who never ate breakfast. My mother realising my interest in food, was very encouraging in my experiments of cooking my own food. Which I did with both my mother and father. When I got older, I realised the encouragement was more about getting me to eat rather than me becoming a chef.”
The passion for food followed me in many different paths of my life and 10 years ago, I decided to work full-time with food and cookbook writing. My mission today is to preserve, protect and promote our cultural heritage through food. The joy is to be able to contribute to our society, a hundred years from now our society and food culture will be different. It makes me happy that our future generations will be able to get a copy of Taste of Botswana and get a glimpse of how Botswana used to look like and what we ate.
The purpose of Taste of Botswana is also to brand Botswana’s culinary scene and instil pride among Batswana by showcasing our cultural heritage to the world. Ednah Rosen’s passion is cooking.
Do share your journey to becoming a culinarian…
My love for cooking was inspired at an early age by my parents, who used only the finest organic and freshest of local, seasonal ingredients and everything was prepared in our small kitchen. I did get to appreciate different flavours, textures and scents. Our traditional food is very healthy, but with the developments of our country, our food habits also changed. Today, we see the results of eating less healthy food and diseases that were not common back in the old days are now here. That has lead to many Batswana going back to our traditional food.
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There is an interest in having the skills and knowledge necessary to buy, grow, and cook food with implications for improving health. Taste of Botswana is also an inspiration to go back to our roots and use our indigenous ingredients in a traditional ways as well as in a modern way.
And talk us through the inspiration behind Taste of Botswana cookbook.
I have lived in Sweden and travelled to many countries outside the African continent and wherever I went I was always asked about Africa. I would say that I was from Botswana and many times people didn’t know there was such a country.
There is a huge curiosity about who we are, what we eat and how we live. In the beginning I took being a Motswana for granted and I wouldn’t have so much to tell because I didn’t think telling people about morakeng was that exciting. But with time, I realised what a blessed country we have, where we can have 3 homes, morakeng, masimo and a home in town. The people who heard about this lifestyle were amazed and that’s how my interest for telling our story through food and culture began. I always told my story to anyone who was curious about my Botswana with love and passion. With time I had become an informal ambassador for my cultural heritage.
This made me realise the importance of telling our stories because if we don’t tell our own stories, no one else will or other people will tell what they think is our story, based on their perspectives, not ours. Taste of Botswana tells our story, it’s a narrative that celebrates our rich natural and cultural heritage.
What can one expect to experience on this “cultural journey through food”?
Taste of Botswana is telling our story through cuisine and culture. The cookbook is a mix and match of traditional and new recipes. It ranges from authentic traditional recipes paying homage to our rich Setswana heritage, to hearty vegan dishes that taste of home and comfort
The foreword is by renowned author Alexander McCall Smith of Mma Ramotswa fame. Why did you choose him?
Mutual respect is developed through appreciating a culture instead of patronising it. Learning about someone’s culture enables one to exchange appreciation and share things about themselves and their own culture. By doing this, offensive stereotypes and patterns of prolonged oppression can come to an end. According to me, I believe this is what Mr Alexander McCall Smith did for Botswana and Africa with The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency Series ( MmaRamotswe Books). There is also a lot of cooking and conversations about food in the Novel Series, which made sense to choose him to write the foreword.
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The first book was published 25 years ago and the books were a huge success and millions of people worldwide got to know about Botswana and that has ever since, evoked curiosity about our ways of living. Taste of Botswana is continuation of educating others about us.
You shared that you were recently invited by Rhulani Safari Lodge in Madikwe to inspire their chefs where you shared a mouthwatering picture of one of your masterpieces, mosutlhane salad. What other original dishes did you teach them?
Taste of Botswana is an engaging coffee table book. The owner of Rhulani bought a copy of the book at Botswana Craft and she likes the book so she invited me to Rhulani to inspire their chefs. I was in Rhulani for three days and offered their Chefs a new inspiration for exquisite menu creations with a local touch. “According to Lodge Manager Shade-Leigh, the visit to Rhulani was a complete success: “Some traditional dishes which we have just learnt will form part of or guest menu options, such as ‘Seswaa’ (Pulled Beef), ‘Phaleche fingers’ (traditional maize meal – baked with parmesan and herbs), and my personal favourite from Northern Africa, ‘Chermoula’ which is almost like Chimichurri but better!”
Ednah amazed us all, even with the foods they already know how to cook she has showed them better ways to prepare the dishes”, says Rhulani’s Manager Shade-Leigh. “The minute she arrived she went into the kitchen and started cooking. She has really been such a blessing for the kitchen!”
You owned a restaurant in Maun?
The restaurant is not operating due to my passion to pursue the inspiring part of gastronomy
What’s your favourite Setswana dish?
Traditionally our Setswana food is vegetarian. I don’t eat red meat, so traditional food is my favourite. I love the creative use of maize, beans and grains. So my favourite is a medley of different beans and korong, this is filling, healthy and delicious.
I got to enjoy a hearty trio of seswaas – wildebeest, beef & chicken with Tswii. AMAZING! Where else can one get to enjoy your delectable delights in Gabz?
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I will be traveling to different parts of Botswana with Taste of Botswana. Look out for advertisements on social media to not miss out!
Lastly, how much is the cookbook and where is it available?
Different places have different markups. But the book is found at Sanitas, Botswana Craft, Botswana Book Center in Gaborone. In Maun its Mophane Trading by the Airport and at Sele le Sele at Motsane. In Kasane its found at ( will get back with the name of the shop)