I know what you’re thinking. Who is this guy? I thought Man vs. Food was on? Why is he standing in the middle of a playground eating chicken wings? When will Andrew Zimmern show up and make an orgasm face after eating sea urchin?
I’m Teddy Bridgewater. I write. I travel. I play quarterback for the Vikings. I eat wings. And I’m hungry FOR MORE.
Now, I love south-central Minneapolis as much as the next guy. But after sampling 4,369 restaurants and their wing offerings, I think it’s time I expand my horizons. There’s a whole world to explore, and cultures to absorb. It’s time to dive right in and find out what else is out there.
Harare, Zimbabwe. Not exactly on most people’s vacation destinations. This landlocked country in southern Africa has been home to one of the most relentless dictators on the planet: President Robert Mugabe, an anti-colonial hero-turned-president for life, a position he has held since 1980 and doesn’t appear willing to relinquish anytime soon. Surrounding him is a crumbling economy with legendary inflation, leading to black markets and a nation that seems ready at any point to descend into chaos — if you can argue it hasn’t already in some respects.
But anyways, enough about that shit. I’m meeting my friend John Chikwava for lunch, and he has found just the place to sate my appetite.
CHIKWAVA: This is Amanzi. I’ve been coming to this place since I was a child. Their food is basic but they use only the best ingredients and are true to Zimbabwean culture. It’s just good, simple, local comfort food. I recommend the roasted goat meat and sadza. You take the goat meat and dip it in the sadza, which is a cormeal-based…
BRIDGEWATER: I’ll have the 10-piece honey barbecue wings and cocaine.
CHIKWAVA: They do not serve wings here.
BRIDGEWATER: Then why did you bring me here?
CHIKWAVA: I can recommend the oxtail or perhaps some deep fried kapenta.
BRIDGEWATER: Thanks but I’ll have the wings.
CHIKWAVA: They don’t…
WAITER: Greetings, and welcome to Amanzi. How may I be of service to you?
BRIDGEWATER: I’ll have a 10-piece honey barbecue wings and maybe one of those packets of ranch sauce. And could you stir some cocaine in the ranch sauce.
WAITER: Certainly sir. Would you like some carrot sticks on the side and an ice-cold Corona?
BRIDGEWAITER: Yes, thank you.
John and I talked deep into the night about how the food of Zimbabwe and its culture are totally intertwined. He told me about how the communal aspect of food served here represents how important family is to the Zimbabwean culture, like that isn’t the case in every fucking country on the planet. Also, apparently food and culture are really intertwined. Have I mentioned that? In any event, after about an hour I was hungry again so I ordered delivery from Wing Zone but didn’t tip them because they were slow, as John just stared at me with a weird look on his face for some reason.
In any event, Harare is too much of a big-city feel for me. I’m in Zimbabwe, damn it, so I’m going to go meet some tribal warriors. Fortunately, John knows a group of Shona tribesmen out in the countryside about two hours drive from the city. And boy, this place is remote. No running water. No electricity. And not much contact with the modern world.
CHIKWAVA: This is the chief, he is very happy to see you. You are the first Westerner to pay him a visit in many years. He is quite honored.
BRIDGEWATER: As am I, it is truly a privilege.
CHIKWAVA: In your honor, he has gathered the entire tribe and thrown a feast featuring a cow they slaughtered just a couple of hours ago. The feast is almost ready. Please, have a seat with everyone. Be sure to take from the dish only when it is passed to you.
BRIDGEWATER: This is really great. But could I get some wings?
*Chikwava translates, chief stares angrily, then speaks*
CHIKWAVA: He says he and the tribe have prepared all of yesterday and today for your arrival …
*chief is speaking*
CHIKWAVA: …they have worked many hours to make you feel at home and honored …
*chief is speaking*
CHIKWAVA: …and here you come and disrespect the whole tribe by rejecting this feast and requesting American food? He is appalled …
*chief is speaking*
CHIKWAVA: …but fine, do you want honey barbecue or kickin’ chipotle.
BRIDGEWATER: Kickin’ chipotle, thanks. It’s like you read my mind, chief. By the way, can any of you play running back?