It is in Soweto that I would hesitantly accompany my grandmother (A.k.a Mama) each Friday to Tshepisong – a small neighbourhood bursting with street vendors and local farmers, to purchase a flock of live chickens which we’d load into the backseat of her Totota Tazz, and later offload into her sizeable backyard.
Days later, I’d watch with anxious curiosity as Mama’s neighbour whom we referred to as *Nkgono Rose entered our gate along with her assemblage of 4 women to assist Mama in turning her backyard chickens into food for our plates. It is in Soweto where I’d raise my voice in condemnation as Nkgono Rose and her crew would butcher, pluck and clean the chickens unflinchingly, using nothing but a kitchen knife and their bare hands.
It wouldn’t be long before the inviting aromas of the freshly slaughtered chicken coupled with the familiar scent of native spices cooking away on Mama’s copper-coloured pot turned my condemnation into salivation. The elderly crew would giggle as they watched me devour every last part of the chickens anatomy - from its’ juicy drumstick, all the way to its’ giblets, livers and the ever-revered “Maotwana” (the feet of the chicken).
So which Soweto am I?
I am a child of the Orland East that is home to Mama’s calls for me to be indoors before sunset in time to enjoy a plate of warm *Phutu coupled with *Inkomazi before bed.
I am the child of the Orlando East that would sit alongside Mama on a Sunday afternoon as she delighted in her weekly ritual of reading the Sunday Times whilst my stomach summersaulted in anticipation of feasting on the *Mala-Mogodu that boiled away on the stove.
I am the product of countless decadent dishes prepared by the nurturing hands of my grandmother. I am the Orlando East that holds childhood memories of consuming copious amounts of *Di-Kip-Kip from Sis ’Phindi across the road and *Kota’s from Bra-Biza’s container situated two streets away from us.
Why should you visit my Soweto? Because you haven’t experienced South Africa in its’ entirety until you’ve immersed yourself in the cuisine of its’ people.
*Nkgono: A term we use to refer to an elderly person. Typically a grandmother.
*Mautwana: Chicken Feet
*Phutu: A crumbly version of pap made from maize meal
*Inkomazi: A thick creamy fermented milk
*Mala Mogodu: Tripe
*Di Kip Kip: Flavoured popcorn with a deliberate stale texture
*Kota: A quarter loaf of bread seasoned filled with French fries and various other meat fillings of your choice.