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Abuse of matebeto

TORN APART with BOYD PHIRI
We live in an era where anything goes – think about it: some single and married men no longer feel ashamed of jumping from one matebeto (honourary feast day) to another.
Granted that many single ladies are desperate to have life partners and throw a fete to savour their luck, there is a growing number of scrupulous bachelors and to some extent married men, who are abusing such events throwing tradition and family values to the wind.
Though I am not a traditionalists, the small knowledge I have on amatebeto is that it is largely a Bemba tradition where a man who is about to marry is feted with different types of foods.
Several non-Bembas also practise this feting custom and in a country where food is usually scarce, the merry making event has led to some young men ‘sharpening’ their taste buds to attend as many matebetos as possible.
These heartless men don’t give a hoot on what women go through in preparing matebeto but just care for their insatiable appetites by gobbling as much food as they could.
The custom of matebeto involves the preparation of numerous different culinary dishes as a show to the future groom of what he can expect his wife to cook for him when he finally marries her.
These dishes mostly traditional ones (though exotic dishes are now being served) are prepared by the female members of the bride’s family, under the supervision of the father or uncle of the bride, and then brought over to the groom’s family for mass sampling.
Though the event has been simplified, it involved a lot of planning to prepare various dishes to showcase what a particular family eats. In short, matebeto is a traditional buffet.
Culturally-groomed women called Inshindishi – escorts, who are employed by the bride’s family to come and aid in the teaching of the bride and who will be the go-betweens to the families.
These women provide the traditional drum music, song and dance that accompany each item brought by the groom’s family. There is so much pomp at these colourful events.
Coming back to uncultured single men who are abusing these events, I would say it is the eating part that many are finding interesting since amatebeto is among few events where the core business is eating. Weddings and other merry making events involve other aspects most of them having nothing to do with feasting.
It is this part that has led to many young men throwing good manners and morals to the wind by feasting themselves silly at matebetos.
I know a serial matebeto attendee in Lusaka who has ‘eaten’ three matebetos in a period of five months. The women now know him and have alerted other womenfolk to be on the lookout for this man who is justifying gluttony in the name of tradition.
He is not alone as the number of this unsavoury characters is growing. The cheats usually take friends with them many who happen to be drunks (since beer is also served at matebetos).
I remember attending a matebeto with my Bemba mbuya – tribal cousin – last year (not a serial matebeto attendee). We arrived at the matebeto family home on a Saturday and the dishes were tantalisingly displayed with a man in an old jacket with thick spectacles explaining the contents.
Some of the more intensive dishes, those involving dried ingredients that take longer to cook, had been started the night before and numerous relatives had spent the night preparing them in a traditional way.
The display of foods would have put hotel caterers to shame. The women had cooked many different traditional foods that included inswa (fried flying ants), ilanda (lentils) ifishimu (caterpillars), impupu (pumpkin seeds), Kalembula (sweet potato leaves) and inkoko ya kusashila (chicken in groundnut sauce).
Though I am not a serial matebeto attendee, I can assure you that the taste of the food was something out of this world and would make the food we eat in western restaurants taste like chicken mash.
Most of the tasty foods, I was told, had been prepared on mbaula’s, the local charcoal burning grill equivalent to the western charcoal BBQ. The men’s party, in whose company I was, were treated to a memorable treat.
No matter how tasty the food at matebeto is, I wouldn’t imagine a sane person jumping from one event to another cheating several unsuspecting women for selfish reasons.
These people should be exposed and shamed before they wolf down people’s food without marrying their daughters.
bjboydphiri@yahoo.com.

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