Swiss Zopf lessons in my Zambian kitchen

     My mother taught me to bake bread when I was nine. Neither of us dreamed that simple act would one day touch Africa! I met Eliness at a Natural Medicine workshop I was facilitating. A week later she visited me with a friend while I was baking whole wheat bread and I offered them a slice fresh out of the oven, with butter. Mmmm! This is good! “Would you like to learn how to bake bread?” Of course!

Eliness looks like a professional already! Alibess makes sure she's kneading that Zopf dough just right.

Eliness looks like a professional already! Alibess makes sure she's kneading that Zopf dough just right.

     Eliness comes this morning with her friend Alibess, armed with a notebook to jot down recipes. Each ties one of my chitenges around their waists (Zambian cloths that do duty as aprons, among a hundred other things) and starts measuring, mixing and kneading. “It’s easy, isn’t it!” I say. They are surprised that it is so. I’m always surprised that people think making bread is difficult.
     We don’t just make plain bread. I show them how to make ‘Zopf’, the special braid that is sold everywhere in Switzerland for the Sunday morning table. It’s no more difficult to make than bread really. The trick is in the braiding technique. After the second braid, the girls have it figured out.
     “Can I put sugar in the dough and make a sweet braid?” Eliness asks. “The taxi driver boys would love this.” Her mind is already churning out ideas of how to turn this new skill into money. Good woman! We discuss the different things you can add to the dough, how to adapt it to many different uses. Then we make pizza dough – realize we don’t have any tomatoes and turn it into quiche which they like even better. “This would be very good to make for a tea party!” Eliness exclaims.
     I am aware that I am not just teaching a couple women new recipes. I am giving them survival skills, as community development worker Sandra Bagenda would tell me. Few people in their neighbourhood know how to bake bread. Many would like to buy it. It can turn into a nice side business.
     Eliness is HIV positive and on ARVs since 2005. Her courage in accepting and dealing with the disease has made her a role model for many in the community. She has an active leadership role with a group of HIV positive people. Anything she learns she will be sure to pass on.
     A few weeks ago I gave her some Artemisia plants. She transplanted them and they are growing really well. She’s already researched the internet to learn more about this plant that will boost her fragile immune system and help her body battle the deadly virus. She’s a fighter. And I’m so happy I could do something little today to help her.

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