Now that I’ve eaten umphokoqo (crumbly mealie meal with amasi-sour milk) many times and cooked it with friends twice, I thought it was time for me to prepare it by myself. I consulted almost every woman I know in East London, bought the bag of mealie meal and the big bottle of amasi, and was ready to tackle the beloved dish. As there are no exact measurements for water or mealie meal, I eyeballed it based on what I’d seen before and what I’d been told. Within seconds of pouring the mealie meal in the boiling water, I realized I had no idea of how much I should have actually poured in! It simultaneously firmed up like concrete while also bubbling and threatening to spill over the sides.
As I share the main kitchen with my landlord’s family, I could hear them approaching and I was both totally embarrassed by my cooking attempts and worried that I was in the process of destroying their stove and pot. I also knew that boiling mealie meal is equivalent to molten lava, so dumping it discretely in the plastic garbage bag was out of the question. So I ran with the pot back into my flat, took a reusable cloth grocery bag, and dumped the steaming mess in! I wasn’t thinking completely logically and hate to waste food, but the 1 kilogram bag cost the equivalent of 90 Canadian cents so I was willing to sacrifice some of it to save my pride and their kitchen.
Just yesterday I got my third guided cooking lesson from a friend where he made it me do it all by myself while he supervised. It turned out perfectly and I think it’s safe to say that my next solo foray into the world of umphokoqo will be much more successful!
At my most recent Matolengwe family sleepover, Sis Ghana’s daughter prepared umleqwa or what Sis Ghana described as “an African chicken that got its head cut off by someone running after it”. When I told another friend about trying umleqwa, he also described it as “a chicken you have to run after”. Much more descriptive than “freerange”!
I’ve been to many Xhosa braais and events where I’ve paid close attention to the food served, but I’d never been to an Afrikaans braai and quite frankly, my interaction with white South Africans is limited to my landlord, Marianna and her family. On Saturday night, Marianna invited me to her birthday braai with her family and some friends from Oudtshoorn-home of my ostrich riding fiasco. (Sidenote: a strain of bird flu infected the ostrich population and farmers Oudtshoorn have had to cull a couple hundred thousand birds with huge economic impact.) But back to the braai…
The menu included:
booerwors: traditional braai sausage
sosaties: marinated meat kebabs
krummel pap and chakalaka: dry and crumbly maize meal with a sweet and spicy tomato and onion relish
melktert: a milk-based custard tart with cinnamon
potbrood: savoury bread (traditionally baked over coals in cast-iron pots)
springbok shooters: a layer of crème de menthe liqueur under Amarula liqueur