On the streets, in the townships and rural areas, hunger stalks. Nontuthuko Ngubane serves up hope and harsh reality… and keeps the home fires burning.
Food, having food, buying food, cooking the food – it’s become part of every household conversation.
It’s also the case in my home.
Before lockdown we watched as some people bought in bulk, fearing they would not have enough food to last.
There was no need, said the government. We would have enough food and could go out to buy more.
But the bulk buying did remind us of the inequality in this country.
There were those who could afford to buy in bulk and those who were simply hoping and praying to have food on their plate.
In my own community, among my own family and neighbours, it soon became clear that food and food security remains an urgent issue.
Time to shine
Also, some people’s cooking skills need a touch-up, while others should seriously consider a career in the food industry.
With restaurants closed, some people got creative in their cooking. Every night, everyday menu planning was a top priority.
I mean, apart from work, for many of us cooking was all there was to do.
I work from home and one day I went out to buy data. I was waiting in line to enter the shop when a man walked out with a trolley full of bread.
I was still watching in amazement when his wife followed with another trolley, then later another man, with another trolley.
I could see they were together.
I thought, Well he’s finished all the bread.
Some people in the queue were waiting to buy bread. I thought, What a selfish man.
Off his trolley
Walking back to my car, I noticed that the car guard helping me was carrying a loaf of bread.
It had been given to him by the man I had seen earlier with the bread-laden trolley.
The car guard said the man had been doing this every morning for a couple of days now.
He bought bread and gave it to street kids, car guards and whoever needed it.
The car guard told me fewer people were coming to shop and some didn’t tip, so he and his family relied on the bread.
He said people who didn’t tip would often give him leftovers from their meals at restaurants, but during lockdown this was not possible.
The bread man had done a noble thing and it was unfortunate I didn’t get his contact details so I could interview him.
I got into my car and gave the car guard my last R2 coin, to add to what he scraped together, so he could buy milk to have with his bread.
This is the reality on the street.
While those who could afford it were locked in their homes, preparing creative meals, others suffered. Each day was a struggle for survival.
Government food packs were slow in coming and some deserving people did not get them.
One of my relatives, who lives beyond Pietermaritzburg, had to travel, breaking lockdown rules to get to our home, looking for food.
Normally she survived on odd jobs, but with lockdown that stopped and food packs were not reaching her.
She knocked at our gate and of course we helped.
After a few weeks she contacted us to let us know she had finally received a food pack.
This was the reality for many people, in the townships, rural and even urban areas.
People were starving while stuck in their homes.
Sweet stuff from my pimp
Some people started business ventures to survive.
That was the case with my sugarcane pimp, as I called my new friend, Mr Mthembu.
I would see him walking around my area, selling sugar cane. So I started buying – it’s only R2. Sometimes I would buy for my whole family.
He noticed my love for sugar cane and even on days when I was not home he would ask my family to buy for me.
Mr Mthembu told me it was his way of earning a crust during lockdown.
Before lockdown he would travel to town to look for work, but when this became impossible he started selling cane.
That night when I made my roasted whole chicken, with garlic bread and soup I thought about Mr Mthembu and what he had eaten.
So, besides buying his sugar cane, I asked if he could wash my car – car washes are closed;I needed the service.
He did such an amazing job that he was soon washing the cars of others in my family.
Then he started doing some jobs in our yard.
Our neighbours saw him and offered him jobs too.
Yes, it’s all well and good to create these amazing menus while we are stuck in our homes, but we need to remember what a blessing it is to have a meal each day.
I love my African cuisine; I love some meat, all kinds of meat; I love fish.
I take pride in making my food.
Honestly, food is what keeps our family happy and able to deal with everything that’s been going on.
Well, let’s keep those stoves burning and cook-out food going.
Until I write again. Take care, wash your hands and keep your distance.
Click on the image below to read more stories in our series of Coronavirus Chronicles