Saturday, July 30, 2011

Food and supermarkets make for memories of South Africa!

The Funky Table                                Eve Hemming

I’m in the supermarket aisle to grab a few of those basic necessities of life. Music emanates from somewhere near the ceiling that’s reminiscent of ‘home’ which makes my eyes sting…

A combo of music and supermarkets just gets me going and tends to bring those inner floodgates close to the surface. I bite my lip and feel a hardness in my breath.

Food is part of the institution of the soul. The body’s fuel. The hearth of the family. Supermarketing is associated with fine family fare and celebratory or sometimes maudlin gatherings. And the table becomes the epicentre of all these happenings… Ours was called ‘The Funky Table’ - I’d purchased it in 1993 in a second hand furniture shop in what was then called Commercial Road. I could swear it had been a prison table – long, narrow, a morbid dead grey, with a few rough antediluvian nails dangerously protruding and a foot rest worn down by many shoes rubbing against it. Basically it was bloody buggered. I proudly got it delivered to our home, much to everyone’s disgust. ‘Lunatic mum’ my kids probably thought.
We acquired custom made benches to use at the table, comfortably seating 14. The next 15 years we shared meals and functions at Funky, with a rich, diverse selection of family and friends around our now cheerful green Funky Table in a spacious sunflower yellow rag-painted Funky Room. We celebrated significant birthdays, a wedding luncheon, my Mum’s funeral tea, a couple of hens’ parties and baby showers, my 50th birthday dinner and various grand-kiddie’s parties, plus their messy painting, playdough and baking activities. Some sort of esoteric chats were also held at the green table and creative fabric painting and decoupage workshops, plus ‘swot-ins' when several of us in the family were studying.
The funky table moved with us from home to home, always the heart of the family. In our last home in South Africa it resided on the veranda, as it was too long to fit inside. It became worn, weathered, sanded down and repainted. It was adorned with hand painted fabrics, candles and glass jars bulging with hydrangeas. And many Christmas’s were spent at the Funky Table, when it would be decorated with Christmas crackers, tinsel, silvered pine cones and St Joseph lilies. Add hefty food platters and old funky would creak and groan. 
I often wondered where Funky had been before. I tried to visualise a gang of inmates seated around it in prison
clothes, scoffing down fat slices of bread dunked into steaming broth with large gnarled hands. I suppose I was biased believing that Funky felt more contented being a jovial green, standing on our veranda, where my grand children played hide and seek under the table, sliding along its foot rest.
It was serendipitously a family conversation at Funky which triggered my decision to apply to work in New Zealand. We also had a last symbolic family candlelight supper at Funky; a big moon watching this unfolding. 

We’ve been residing here for the past two 
and a half years. Funky was bequeathed to our older son and 
daughter in law when we left SA. And when we return for holidays, we generally celebrate with a 'lekker Braai' around Funky, next to their pool.
Here in Auckland, we miss what Funky emblemised for us.  But, hey, we still have family and friends around  in our home, but Funky’s absence leaves a conspicuous gap, along with old mates and home nosh. Here Maoris traditionally have a Hangi  (food, which is called Kai, cooked in an earth oven). And I still plan to master the art!

We entertain our Oriental, Asian, British, Aussie, Dutch and Kiwi colleagues and neighbours, combined with some ‘Saffer’ family and friends. Food includes tasty local boerewors and biltong, my home cooked Bobotie, and of course Mrs Ball’s Peach chutney, combined with sushi, Chinese, Indian, Malaysian, Korean, Indonesian, European and ‘Kiwiana’ foods. Adapting has made life exciting and interesting…

But my eyes still sting when I’m trolley- pushing to purchase items for a function, knowing there’s no Funky Table to share meals at  with mates and family back in ‘good old Maritzburgh’. Especially when Johnny Clegg’s ‘Scatterlings of Africa’ wafts down the supermarket aisles. Well JA no fine, (or as the Kiwis say, ‘Sweet As’)… then I’m allowed to have a teeny snivel >>>

Published in The Witness  2010
Johnny Clegg's Scatterlings of Africa - lyrics

Copper sun sinking low
Scatterlings and fugitives
Hooded eyes and weary brows
Seek refuge in the night

They are the scatterlings of Africa
Each uprooted one
On the road to Phelamanga
Where the world began
I love the scatterlings of Africa
Each and every one
In their hearts a burning hunger
Beneath the copper sun

Ancient bones from Olduvai
Echoes of the very first cry
"Who made me here and why
Beneath the copper sun?"
African idea
African idea
Make the future clear
Make the future clear


And we are the scatterlings of Africa
Both you and I
We are on the road to Phelamanga
Beneath a copper sky
And we are the scatterlings of Africa  
On a journey to the stars
Far below, we leave forever
Dreams of what we were 

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