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Musabude panze, ditch streaky bacon and breathe deeply in 2021.

BARBARIANS were at the gates of Zimbabwe for most of last year, in spite of a 21 day lockdown starting from 30 March 2020, to control the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

The virus first emerged in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province. Experts said there was no need to panic, and preparations for Chinese New Year continued, with the National People’s Conference and others organising a celebratory mass banquet, with close to 14,000 delicious dishes, for forty thousand families. But the day before New Year’s Eve, hospitals were no longer able to manage, and authorities ordered the city of Wuhan to be locked down, putting nine million people under indefinite quarantine.

Most Chinese cities have now returned to normal, with schools and offices re-opening, and factories back in business. Travel restrictions have been lifted, and China appears to be the first major economy to have recovered from the pandemic. Zimbabwe could be a year behind events in China, in which case being cooped up in a second lockdown for the rest of January, may seem preferable to trying to make a living in a country that hasn’t yet rolled out a vaccine for COVID-19, or scaled up its programme for testing and contact tracing.

Zimbabwean born British boxer, Derek Chisora

Words of encouragement in the dark days of the virus, come from @DerekChisora, Zimbabwean-born British professional boxer on lockdown in London. ‘Musabude panze’, he said in a video-recorded message to journalists, ‘eat healthy, steam always, drink warm and clean water, and stay safe, my fellow Zimbabweans.’

A healthy boxer’s diet that Chisora might favour, includes a number of foods that are also useful in boosting the immune system’s response to COVID-19 . Whole grains, found in brown rice, oats, and whole wheat pasta, yoghurt, fruit and colourful vegetables, are all beneficial. Add to these lean meat and fish, and a variety of good fats, found in avocados, eggs, nuts and seeds.

Ditch the images that spring to mind of triple-cooked chips, gelatinous pork trotters, pizzas oozing with mozzarella cheese and salami, streaky bacon fried with sausages and sugary doughnuts. Instead of falling back time and time again on these comfort foods, put together a nutrient-packed Buddha bowl and embrace a diet that can satisfy every craving.

Place two or three spoons of cooked brown rice in a bowl, and top with spicy chickpeas, some cubed roasted sweet potato, and sliced avocado pear. Add a spoonful of leafy green covo, simmered with onion and tomato, and finish off with a peanut butter dressing tempered with soy sauce, crushed garlic, brown sugar, lemon juice, coconut milk and a finely chopped red chilli from the herb garden outside your kitchen door. Varying your diet with plant-based nutrition, while helping avoid that over-stuffed feeling from eating too much processed food, can significantly reduce the feelings of anxiety, depression and fatigue that we’re experiencing right now.

As the virus rampages through the country, many of us have lost colleagues, friends and family members to COVID-19. Sorrow, stress and anxiety may make your life feel out of control, but if you want to live to fight another day, make changes to your lifestyle to help you survive the pandemic. Besides ‘eating healthy’, adopt some form of exercise, such as yoga or tai chi. Even a brisk walk to the corner and back will help your heart rate.

The virus attacks your respiratory system, so keeping your lungs healthy is important. Learn to inhale and exhale (not as recommended by Wyclef Jean in his hit song Something About Mary) to reduce feelings of stress, a method being used by healthcare workers fighting the pandemic. Inhale slowly and deeply for four seconds, hold your breath for four seconds, and exhale for four seconds. Imagine a box shape in your mind as you breathe slowly in and out. This exercise is said to calm and relax the body.

This year, Chinese New Year falls on Friday, February 12, and Chinese people will be on holiday for seven days. 2020, the year of The Rat, will become a tragic memory, as 2021 ushers in the year of The Ox. While people born in the year of The Ox are said to be strong, reliable, fair and conscientious, I’ve not yet read any predictions for the state of the world in 2021, the year of this steadfast, hardworking animal, so valued for its role in agriculture.  A Matter of Taste with Charlotte Malakoff

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