The Thing About Food Is….

It’s riddled with such Political Complexity. Reload.

The thing about food is everyone is thinking or talking about it. I was eating Amagwinya and Achar at work this morning and that opened up a whole conversation about who can and cannot afford to eat five of them early in the morning with Achar to boot.  And later I was at the canteen and one beautifully shaped woman (far from fat ) was buying Mganum’s Death By Chocolate ice-cream, while we were kept waiting for a years for some quick  service, she kept saying loudly to herself ” it’s going to my hips and my  breasts but I don’t care. Death by chocolate!” I wasn’t judging her and I understood her pain. Earlier I also just wanted to  enjoy amgwinya wam’ in peace. However there are a  number of factors one has to consider when purchasing a little something to eat:  Image. Weight. Fashion. Health and Money. (did I tell you that the price of food has increased lately? You guys have no idea! amskopas – the multicoloured pop-corn eaten by mostly black South Africans – costs  R1,50 guys think about it that’s why I ended up buying amgwinya!) .  These are the things we had to consider  for our choice of lunch in her case and breakfast in mine. Women have it hard hey! When I was buying amagwinya in the wee hours of the morning;  there was a guy buying 9 of them , they cost one rand, and  he was not talking about anything going to his hips, why should he, he’s thin anyway. So Imagine if I bought nine!! Eish iHerbex, Ihlasela’mafutha for everyone! So this food business is HUGE and will always be “relevant”. I for one am still working on my relationship with food. I am now breaking up (again) with Chicken, Beef and dairy etc…trying to get some balance. I now feel very hurt at how we treat the animals we eat. And genuinely feel sorry for battery chickens et al. How can we have peace when we inflict so much pain on other beings?  I am really trying very hard not to eat them, really and it’s hard to be non-meat eater in South Africa ( I mean our shared heritage consists of braai-ing – this word should exist in the English Dictionary —  meat, every chance we get!) I found myself having to apologize once out of sheer hunger and ate some chops.  There is a lot of pain in how we treat animals and I  would not like to ingest that into my body. I  have given up on two bad habits I so enjoyed ( cigarrettes and wine) and drink much less coffee and more water (warm).  But hey all of this is a work in progress  – I am still  figuring it all out, you will  hearead about it when I do “get’ it one day. I really don’t want to laugh out loud, it’s so  naive and maybe a little crazy – laughing at a your own thoughts. Anyway let’s see what I thought about food or the lack thereof back in 2010. I weigh 56KG now. Just saying.

Food, food ,food and more food. (sic)

There used to be a time when I only had one thing on my mind, and I guess I don’t have to spell it out for you all. But now something else has taken over, and its food. I guess subconsciously it’s another way of thinking about the same thing in a different way. So I have been thinking about food and my relationship with and to food. Friends have and continue to say a lot about this and I have been largely on the defensive with responses like no really I don’t have an eating disorder. Really I don’t. Not even body dysmorphia, or maybe just a little.

But getting to the point. I have been experimenting with food for as long as I can remember, and like many of my romantic affiliations over the years, have had many break ups with food too. Because at some point I thought what the hell, I don’t need you food, I can live without you, I am an independent woman after all. Oh but I love crispy chicken, and chewing on the bones until they look like dried out tree barks. Eggs, scrambled quickly at midnight, with lots of Chilli. Basic. Really not the stuff Michelin chefs dream of but that makes me happy.

I have an insatiable appetite for chicken that has reached dramatic proportions not appropriate to even write down let alone think about. I have made friends over bucket loads of drumsticks, thighs and breasts, tumbling in the back seat of my car like manna from heaven. And oh I forgot about my most favourite part of the chicken, and there’s no better way to put it – the ass. Juicy and crispy at the same time, tight and kinda melts in your mouth.

Friends – bark at me when I say I used to be vegetarian, mostly vegan. Sometimes I don’t believe it either, but there was a time in my life when all I ate where leaves and carrots and different forms, juiced, cooked, raw. And I was chubby. My friends bark at that too. And also sometimes I don’t believe it.

Yes food is about how I look. Food is what I think I will look like if do or don’t eat . But it’s also about how I feel. It’s also about how I think. It defines my image. My skin, My smell, My Walk, My sleep. How I dress. Even where I shop.

I can’t remember much of what they used to feed us growing up, but now that I have been thinking about food, a few memories have come to mind. I will start with my earliest memory of food (at least what I think is my earliest memory). As with many families, for breakfast my mother used to serve us soft porridge. Mealie Meal, cooked with water and salt until it becomes smooth, thick, soupy texture. We used to have that with sugar and milk and bobs you’re uncle. But on this particular day, my mother decided to experiment, and added more ingredients to our Motepa = as we called it then. She added margarine, peanut butter and milk and sugar. It was like eating a weird sandwich like porridge, and I hated it, couldn’t eat it. And I was very upset because I was hungry. The smell of melting hot peanut butter suffocated me. To this day I can’t eat things with peanut sauce anything.

On weekends we would be sent, to gog’s sban sban house, who will have been up since five or whatever hour in the morning, deep-frying “amagwinya” – flour milk and butter dough. One had to get there early. Cause there would be long queues of children holding all manner of containers waiting for the first fresh batch of amagwinya – Yoh! And the wrath that would befall you if went back home with an empty bowl/or dish or plastic(ki) was unimaginable. After koko mang- mang, had sold us our ration (by ten am she will have run out of ingredients, and patience), we would then proceed to the Spaza shop to purchase the rest of breakfast. Archa, Mangola, and Snoek fish. Oh just the thought of it is enough to make my mouth water. Back home the grannies mothers, aunts, first, second uncles to your great-grandfather on your father’s mother‘s cousin’s side would be ready with mugs (plastic mugs in my case) of tea or coffee ready for breakfast. Happy days – grins as wide as my granny’s waist would be seen all round, tunes and hums wafting up with no melody would suddenly well up from deep inside, heads rolled, twitched from side to side, eyes were closed softly and hard, while the ingredients were grinded to explosive flavours – if I could dance I would – but that for obvious reasons would ruin a perfectly perfect moment. Bliss.

I think there’s are more, like mogodu, chicken innards, fried till almost bacon crisp, the kind of spinach dish no one makes anymore: steamed, then fried with onions, garlic, tomato, salt and pepper to taste. Forgive me but I must say – I HATE CREAM SPINACH – ESPECIALLY WITH PEANUT BUTTER!!!. For some reason the sordid cream spinach recipe transcends, class, race, sex, and culture, language. And all of it tasteless. A waste of spinach. Spinach Murder. Drowned. A sad, sloppy, slimy death.

So years later, after almost cooking and baking herself to death, my mother decided to experiment with healthy eating. (I think she needed a break to be honest) So she started reading this healthy eating book, and experimenting, and eventually changed our lives as we knew them. We started by juicing carrots; carrot juice was a mandatory, daily dietary intake like – itiye neskiwa – (bread and tea), is for many households. My we ate those Carrots, the kitchen was orange, the sink was orange, cups, cutlery, pots and pans, even my dreams were carrot juice orange. I think we all had a kind orange tinge about us, which now that I think about it, must explain why when I first bought curtains for my living room they were all orange – peachy orange like carrots. I hope you understand now Christiane.

They were other juices that we‘d make, but carrot was the main attraction. Then gradually, we eliminated things from our diets, mealie meal, meat, rice, pasta, bread, tap water, eggs, tea, sweets, cakes pretty much everything. That’s how I became vegetarian, for three years. But you see; my mother never used this word vegetarian. It was all very much how the family of GOD should live. So I never went around say I don’t eat meat I’m vegetarian, It was more like, I don’t eat meat, its unhealthy. Vegetarianism was never part of our lexicon. Anyway, one day my father came back from work, with an all too familiar red, black and white container, and as we sat down to eat our meal, he quietly and calmly laid out his golden brown, crispy pieces of chicken, sunk his teeth into the soft flesh like it was natural. We sat in awe watching him eat – an unbelievably glorious moment which obliterated our carefully prepared and laid out meal of coleslaw (more carrots) broccoli, spinach and potatoes. And that was the beginning of the end.

So now I’m experimenting with raw food. And have been thinking about what I’m going to eat, almost every minute. And it’s frustrating. My palate in clean from all the fruits and veggies I’ve been consuming. I now weigh 57 kg from 59 just over a week ago. I feel lighter, am regular, and wake up early in spite of myself. I am now thinking about why I’m doing what I’m doing. Health reasons – (not really, I’ve kept my bad habits, wine, coffee and cigarettes) Ideology? – No I honestly don’t feel sorry for chickens that get slaughtered, battery or otherwise. I try not to think about what cows, goats and pigs go through. Economy? It’s really not that cheap to be raw vegan, 75 grams of gorgy berries (what they now call “superfoods” ) cost s about 80 bucks a pop- raw nuts, and seeds and stuff, are hard to get and the more raw it is , the more expensive it is.

So then why? I’m not quite clear on that yet, but this experimentation, has had me thinking a lot of about the politics of food, and how we’re controlled. I was watching an anti-communist Hollywood movie the other day. There, food also played a central role in the downfall of the main character in some way. Then I was watching the news, and I saw a Haitian Mother feeding her child what looked like spaghetti bolognaise and I felt hungry, almost wished I was that child eating that spaghetti , in a tent made out of sheets. Weird. Because I can have that if I want to, more even, I have a choice about what I eat and don’t eat. But then again I started thinking of how little choice I actually do have. How “THEY” actually decide on the menu: what we eat, when we eat it and how much of it we can have at any given moment. The “THEY” decide in different ways – money – mostly. So then, how will my raw vegan diet change anything – since I have no “obvious” compelling personal or political reasons to do this other than the vain kind – I don’t know? But at least now I can say with more clarity and conviction that it’s not, money or sex or oil as we are so often made to believe that makes the world go round. It’s FOOD. And as Thomas Sankara once said and I’m para-phrasing here, whoever controls you’re bread basket, controls your mind. Who is controlling yours?

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