The history and culture of Chamarel cannot be explored without mention of its culinary culture. Although the same culture is present throughout Mauritius, it has been gradually lost throughout the years. Chamarel remains a bastion of this culture in part thanks to the presence of chassées (game reserves), forest game and its agricultural landscape but most importantly its people and history. Chamarel is known today as a “terroir” where tourists and Mauritians alike come from far and near to enjoy delicious meals in small Table d’Hôte and upscale restaurants.
Although foraging has been a part of the culture of inhabitants in the hills of Chamarel for most of its history, the most recent period of severe hardship dates to World War II. During this time, villagers had to rely on their own farming and foraging for their subsistence. Since staples such as rice were not available, locals began planting maize, which were crushed using small hand-operated mills. Rosaline Boswell in Le Malaise Creole: Ethnic Identity in Mauritius recounts the story of Roland born in 1934, who had to forage for roots and grass for the family pigs and chickens. In addition, fishing, hunting – and poaching in private game reserves – became a way for many to survive. Fish and crayfish found in rivers as well as wild boar, deer, tandracs or tanrec, bats and even monkeys at times along with maize became staples for survival.