The Settler's Cookbook

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown reads her memoir of her childhood in Uganda and move to Britain in the 1970s.



Yasmin makes an emotional journey from Uganda to Britain, just after Idi Amin has seized control of her country.

On the flight over, as she fends off fellow Ugandans' endless offers of food, she begins to reflect on her time in Africa through the meals and recipes that have marked her life.

On her arrival in London, though, she is given a stark reminder of her status in her new country when she faces interrogation over a suitcase full of mangoes.


Yasmin recalls her family history, from her parents' meeting to her unconventional childhood in exotic Kampala, where pythons made unexpected intrusions at lavish family picnics.

She looks at the history of the Asians in Uganda, many of whom arrived as slaves but went on to become successful entrepreneurs, and in doing so assumed a rather uneasy position between the Europeans and the Africans that would later prove to be their downfall.


Yasmin recalls her happy schooldays, despite turbulence at home.

Now that the Asians seem to have secured their position in Uganda, life is good, and food in particular is plentiful and sumptuous.

Happiness is measured by the thickness of the ghee on their curries.

But as independence for the Africans looms, and Harold Macmillan predicts that a 'wind of change' will blow through the continent, the atmosphere begins to darken for the Ugandan Asians.


Yasmin recounts her tumultuous teenage years, in the wake of independence in Uganda.

After being disowned by her father for playing Juliet alongside a black Romeo in her high school play, Yasmin finds herself at a political bootcamp where she comes face to face with the country's future leader, the ruthless Idi Amin.

Trying to ignore the darkening political situation, Yasmin enrols at Makerere University, but when the night raids by Amin's henchmen begin and students start to disappear, Yasmin realises that life for the Ugandan Asians is becoming more precarious than ever.

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Yasmin arrives in London in 1972 and finds a country rife with industrial unrest and casual racism.

Terrified by stories of Amin's reprisals back home and shocked by the sights of fellow Ugandans arriving penniless and bewildered at British ariports, Yasmin hopes to find refuge in the ivory towers of Oxford University.

Instead she encounters further prejudice, albeit of a less overt nature.

Finally, when her fragile marriage buckles under the hedonistic pressures of the hippy revolution, Yasmin retreats to her cookery books and the recipes that were handed down by her beloved mother.