Reader impression: Tell me what you eat and I’ll tell you who you are by Muako Maepa

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Title: Tell me what you eat and I’ll tell you who you are
Author: Muako Maepa
Publisher: Annake Müller Publishing
ISBN: 978-0-620-85160-2

This reader impression was written and sent to LitNet on the writer's own initiative.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read that Muako Maepa, author of the cookbook titled Tell me what you eat and I’ll tell you who you are, is a 15-year-old school boy from Michaelhouse, a senior all-boys school located in the Midlands. I was pleasantly surprised, and I felt privileged to get to know this remarkable boy through his beautiful cookbook, which was first published in cooperation with Annake Müller Publishing in 2020.

Victor Dlamini has this to say in the foreword:

Muako Maepa is no ordinary teenager. I’ve known him since he was a child and I’ve watched as his zest for life has blossomed, and his love for making and eating food has become a singular passion. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s seen him around his mother’s kitchen. Even as a six-year-old, Muako was already watching his always-cooking mom keenly as she prepared yet another delectable dish. Kids do what they see their parents doing. But even with all that, the dishes presented in Tell me what you eat tell of Muako’s own journey of discovery into the magic of food. The book also reminds us that, armed with curiosity, the young take our ordinary world and turn it into veritable magic.

Muako dedicates his 192-page soft cover cookbook to his father. “Papa, I love you with all my heart. This is for you….” His mother, Mhani, writes him a touching note in the front of the book. “Muako, I am immensely proud of you for the enormous courage and bravery you have shown here. … If there is a meeting place of creativity and food that talks to the young generation, this is it. Congratulations, you are an author. You are my hero and I love you.”

What I love about this cookbook is not only the fact that a teenage boy has brought such a marvellous gift to the world, but that I, as a reader, am treated to delightful glimpses of Muako’s life (at school and at home with his mom in Gauteng) through beautiful photography and well-written text. Muako chose to attend Michaelhouse because the school spoke to him:

It’s the best decision I’ve ever made. I love it here, especially playing sports and music. I have formed meaningful relationships with boys from all over the world. … Food plays an important role in the culture of the boarding school, and my relationship with “the boys” has shown me just how important the dining hall can be. It is not only a symbol of food – you need to eat to have the necessary energy – but also of friendship. At the end of the day, it is those guys who make school exciting, and hence I always look forward to seeing them again. (4, 7)

Muako wrote a cookbook because he loves food. Eating delicious food makes him even happier. He wanted to share his food with other kids his age. His message to readers is to dare to be different, to stand out from the crowd and to be the person you are meant to be. “Find something you love. Discover who you are” (25). His aim with the cookbook is to “inspire other kids of my age and tell them there is another way to become independent. You don’t have to be brilliant at school to earn money. You can earn money from things you love and enjoy. Everyone has the opportunity to do the things they want; they must find the right motivation” (25).

Tell me what you eat and I’ll tell you who you are consists of several interesting chapters wherein the reader gets to know a bit more about the young author. The three chapters that deal with food, cooking and recipes are titled “Home brew food”, “Fast food” and “Chocolaty food”. From a typical teenager, one of Muako’s tips in the book is to “put on your favourite music, wear your apron and follow the recipe” (29).

In “Home brew food”, he shares recipes for basic dishes that are delicious, like meat balls with sweet chilli sauce (39), chicken curry served on roti with coleslaw (43), slow-roasted lamb on couscous (75) and slow-cooked oxtail potjie (79).

In “Fast food”, what gives his dishes the edge “is their simplicity and taste, combined with spontaneity” (86). Some of the featured recipes are his special gourmet burger and chips (107), homemade pizza with extra ham (113) and finger-licking chicken (119).

In “Chocolaty food”, he admits that the all-chocolate theme for dessert is inspired by his unbelievable love for chocolate. Being a chocoholic myself, I immediately turned to his recipes for s’mores (147), chocolate waffles with ice cream (171) and rich chocolate mousse served in ice cream cones (175).

I am very much impressed with this beautiful and user-friendly cookbook. I truly hope there will be more cookbooks from Muako Maepa’s pen.

Contact Annake Müller at annakem@mweb.co.za/082 780 4899 or Cairistine Canary at cairistine@gmail.com/084 883 4080 to order your copy of Tell me what you eat and I’ll tell you who you are.

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