How People Started to Eat Mush and to Cultivate

Here is a story:

In the past people did not know how to eat mush. They only ate relish from animals that they had killed while hunting. There were two men, who, upon returning to their village with their dog’s making the noise: lukulukuluku, went to the meeting house. When they got to the meeting house, they cooked their meat, and after cooking they ate it.

One day, a certain girl went to gather some firewood. She saw smoke that was coming from the place where the men had cooked their meat. She said to herself: I will go there and drink some water because I am very thirsty. When she got there, she found the meeting house and discovered that there was no one there. She thought to herself: I think I will go in and look around to see if I can find some water. So she entered. When she went into the house, she found only a great amount of cooked meat. She said to herself: That’s bad! I have to try to eat meat without any mush! She ate some of it and then once again she said to herself: I am very hungry. Where is the mush? As these people did not eat mush, she could not find any. So she said: Tomorrow I will come back with some flour and prepare the mush as a test to see if they would eat it or not. She went back to her village with some firewood.

The next day she went back to the village and found that everyone had gone hunting. So she went into the house and found the cooked meat lying around. She said to herself: I will make mush today since I have brought flour with me. She began to make the mush, making a great amount of it and only eating a little bit. She then covered it all and left a little meat behind for the people to eat. Then she went home.

When the people returned with their dogs, making the noise: wawawa, they said to each other: Let’s go in. They went into the meeting house and found the mush. They asked: What is it? The other man said: Let’s try it and find out. When they ate only some of the mush, they came to the consensus that it was not very good. Let’s dip it in the sauce! They all rolled their mush into little balls and dipped it in the sauce and all agreed: This is good! They then said: This is a good way to become full since eating only meat doesn’t really make us full. So let us try dipping it in the sauce. And this was what they did: they ate about five balls of the mush and they were full and stopped eating.

Before the girl came on the third day, the villagers said: Does this mush appear without any human intervention? They said: Maybe we should hide and find out who brings it. They did not go hunting, but they just sat in the bushes and waited. She came in thinking: They are not there, but they were only hiding. She cooked new mush, ate some of the new one and threw the old mush out. When she said to herself: I’m going to go now, they jumped out in front of the doorway, held her and said: Where do you think you are going? You always bring us such good things! We are not letting you go today! She replied: Yes, I am going home today. They said: You are going nowhere! After some fighting, they locked her in the house. Finally, she was tired and agreed. One of the younger men said to the older man: You take her and I will go and find another. The older man married the girl.

One day, the two men went to a village and gained the trust of another girl. They then took her to their meeting house and showed her the cooked meat, and she prepared the meat and they all ate together. They built a second meeting-house, so it was two men and two women. Living in the bush, they said: As we are living in the bush, what could we do? Where are we going to get the flour so we can eat? So they went to one of the girls and asked her: Where do you get the flour? She replied: From my mother. So they said: Let us go and ask your mother what the people do to get these kinds of mush.

They went to the village. The first one said: It is me, and I am coming as I am the man who has married the girl whom you have lost. And here we are. And the other said: I have married a girl whom you have lost. They sat down to eat, and as they were accustomed to the girls’ cooking, they had no problem with eating mush. They began asking questions: What do we have to do in order to have mush like the ones the girls make? They replied: In order to get mush, you have to cultivate and cut down trees for a garden. Then you take the millet and grind it until you have flour. So you have come and cut down the trees for a garden. If you lop them, you will get some finger millet for the mush. Immediately, the men began to cut down trees, gather them in the garden, burn them to fertilise their garden with ashes and sow the seeds of finger millet there. This is how the people started to eat mush.

And that is the end of our story.

The moral of the story: (1) this was the beginning of people who God created living together in order to fill the world; (2) man and woman must share equally the chores of the household and help each other. Two people (a married couple) aiming at the same destination should help each other and come to an understanding.

The Mambwe proverbs say: (2) a two-man job cannot be done by only one (Cinci wakwe yaili, kusi kuya cinci uli wenga); One single arm does not finish the work (Ikasa lyonga, lisimala milimo); The one who says: “pass over there,” is not your companion on the road(Pita kuko, asi muzo wa nzila);Step step (‘tinti tinti’), a paddle and a pot go together (Tinti tinti, umuzwa ni ngaliko vitintikine). English equivalent: “Many hands make light work”; “Two are stronger than one”; “Two hands/heads/wits are better than one”; “Union/Unity is strength”; “United we stand, divided we fall”.

Subjects: couple – helping each other – God – creating family – marriage – sharing duties


Told by Rozalia Kaombe from Vimbuli village (recorded).