In light of the global pandemic, many of us (if not all) have been forced to stay in a lot more. Whilst takeaways might be an option, staying indoors has meant that we have more time on our hands to try out the many recipes we had put on hold. After all, that banana bread was not going to bake itself.
Culinary content has taken over the internet like never before, with home chefs taking up the challenge to keep up with the latest technological trends and produce the easiest to make mouthwatering dishes. Fine dining has never looked so good.
Zambia has not been left behind. One pair of home cooks has stood out with the way they are revolutionising not only how we look at food, but family and dinner table conversation as well – the Woods. Lulu Haangala-Wood is no stranger to the Zambian media space, teaming up with her husband William Wood to create The Wood Kitchen is definitely something we haven’t seen before.
The couple explains that cooking is an activity that they have always enjoyed doing together. They reveal that they discovered their mutual love for food when they first started dating and haven’t looked back since. It’s never been a secret that Lulu enjoyed cooking and following the overwhelming response from social media whenever she would post on her stories, the couple decided to create a platform dedicated to food.
“The internet chose us. Because people liked the interaction from the stories I used to post. People said they wanted to see more of that content so it was a natural progression,” Lulu explains.
Together, they have carved out a special place for themselves in this emerging space by harnessing the knowledge gained from traditional media and William’s background in the hospitality industry.
“It’s been a learning curve. We’ve harnessed the knowledge we’ve both gained and brought it online. It’s been about trying to understand what’s working. For example, our Facebook audience likes great videos and lives. However, for Instagram whilst the lives don’t do badly the reels have really done great getting 100 percent engagement rates. So, it’s been a process of unlearning and relearning,” Lulu reveals.
Whilst many home cooks and chefs are content to simply share how to create their desired delicacies, the Woods often involve their children, Asante and Caleb and other family members as guests in their weekly live streams or lives. Showing us that food should truly be a family affair.
“We’re home cooks. We love cooking with family and really the only one who needs managing is Caleb. Asante and Caleb have always been involved in the cooking process. We’ve always encouraged them to join in, whether it’s cleaning up, chopping something or stirring what’s on the stove. For example, we had a braai one time and Asante asked who was coming over. We had to explain to her that it was something we could do even as a family with no guests,” William explains.
He reveals that cooking with family has also helped them be present for each other as a couple. “It helps create time for you as a couple. It’s an experience that you can share with your partner. A lot of people say cooking is ladylike but as single guys we used get together to have braais and enjoy that. That doesn’t have to change when you get married. Part of this experience is also about showing men that they don’t have to leave the kitchen especially if they enjoy cooking.
Good food always brings good vibes. It’s also about breaking some of these gender barriers. There are a lot of people that are unhappy because they’ve had to give up doing some of these things that they love after marriage.”
It’s conversations like these that keep audiences coming back to The Wood Kitchen’s YouTube channel and Instagram page. It keeps their social media buzzing because they provide high quality content about family and healthy eating.
As Lulu puts it, it’s all about having meaningful and purposeful conversations. Bringing the dinner table conversations to the public to address important issues. “Sure, we have fun on our live streams but we like to keep it honest and bring a human element to it. Some discussions are very purposeful because sometimes there are pressing matters that need to be addressed and that is where our cooking meets social commentary.
We realised the responsibility of the influence that we have as a family and don’t take that for granted. It’s important that our audience understands that certain conversations need to be had. These are conversations that people have as a family. It’s about being intentional about social issues in relating to them, it’s not just about entertainment it’s about being realistic,” Lulu details.
The Wood Kitchen has a lot to offer by way of conversation. From tips on how to navigate life in the new normal, to calling out the negative impacts of living in a patriarchal society, their platforms provide food for the soul and the mind too.
Their personalities and characters create a beautiful blend to watch and interact with. Coupled with their amazing culinary skills, it’s no wonder that this family has become an even bigger household name.
Cooking with homegrown vegetables, the Woods are huge advocates for the use of local ingredients and continually support local farmers as much as possible. Their wish is to see more international brands partnering with local foodies to create culinary content that will continue to put Zambia on the map.
“Sure, we have fun on our live streams but we like to keep it honest and bring a human element to it. Some discussions are very purposeful because sometimes there are pressing matters that need to be addressed and that is where our cooking meets social commentary.”