Born in Cape Town and rather fortunate to have lived and worked in Grettstadt, Stockholm, Washington DC, Rome and Beijing over the last 20-odd years, I have often been asked about the place of my birth. Immediately after offering the corresponding reply, questions about culture, politics, race, Mandela and cuisine follow in rapid succession.
Since eating runs deep in my family, I often start with the culinary.
One question is repeated by everyone with rather bemusing German, Swedish, American, Italian and Chinese consensus:
So what is the favourite South African dish?
“It depends”, I’d inform, “on exactly who you are talking to.”
“Well, do you mean blacks, whites, coloureds, Indians?”
Well, which one are you?
“I am spectacularly described as coloured.”
So what do coloureds eat?
“It depends”, I’d add, “on whether you mean coloureds from the rest of South Africa or the Western Cape.”
Well, where are you from?
“I’m from the Western Cape.”
Oh…ok (American English for, ‘This is weird’) So, what is the favourite dish of coloureds living in the Western Cape?
“It depends”, I’d explain, “on whether you mean poor, middle class or whether you are talking about the lot from the platteland (rural).”
“Ma dai” (Italian for, ‘you’ve got to be kidding me’), so which are you?
“Well, I’m from the platteland.”
Ok, so what do Western Capian (actual words used) coloureds from the platteland eat as a favourite dish?
“It depends”, I’d expand, “on whether that plattelander recently moved to the city or whether she was born in the city to parents from the platteland.”
“Aiyo”, which is rough Chinese for ‘Oh my!’? So, were you born in the city, or…?
“I was born in the city, yes, to parents of whom 50% came from the platteland.”
“Ok, so what is the favourite dish of Western Capian city-dwelling coloureds who were born from platteland parents … uhm…50% of platteland parents?”
“It depends”, I’d argue, “on where exactly in the city they live. Some live in the heart of the city and others in the suburbs. Before you ask, I am from the suburbs.”
“Ok, so what’s the favourite all-time cuisine of Western Capian city-dwelling suburban coloureds who were born from platteland parents … uhm…50%?”
“It depends”, I’d warn, “on whether you mean those living on the east- or whether you mean those living on the west side of the railway line. East-side coloureds are your professional types.”
“Men, kom igen!” (Swedish for ‘oh, come on!’) On which side of the line did you live?
I’m not from the east-side of the railway line.
“Ok, so what’s the favourite all-time cuisine of Western Capian city-dwelling suburban coloureds who were born from a 50% platteland parent-combo and resides on the west-side of the railway line?”
“It depends”, I’d console, “on the day of the week.”
“Unglaublich!”, which is German for ‘unbelievable’.