Monday, November 8, 2010

Chicken Livers?!

Image credit: Above: Chicken livers. Source:
Below: Freshpak, the least expensive and best rooibos tea (and the kind Janie bought).

One night we went out to see Auntie P. in Parkside, as we often do, and she made for us her specialty: chicken livers. It was one of those nights when I was very happy to be vegetarian. Actually, I have a lot of those nights. She heated a bit of vegetable curry for me while she cooked the livers. They’re not such an uncommon ingredient here in South Africa, and come in a plastic container like cottage cheese. AP poured a few cups of vegetable oil into a frying pan then added the reddish meat, letting it soak up the oil and slowly fry as she chopped up the pieces with a spatula. I didn’t watch too closely; I’ve never liked meat preparation. It makes the actual identity of the meat much too clear. A few minutes later, after constant stirring and simmering, she scooped the oily brown meat into bowls – a solid bowlful for each person – and set them on the table, along with a loaf of bread. Everyone got to work, scooping the juicy mince onto bread and eating it in big mouthfuls. I followed suit, eating my curry in the same way, though its soupier texture made it more difficult, and I occasionally resorted to a spoon. It took a good five or six slices of bread for each person to finish off their whole bowl, and of course it was not an option to leave any food behind. I was happy to have vegetables in my meal, instead of pure bread and protein. As we ate we talked about other ‘unique’ South African meat dishes: walkie talkies, made of chicken feet and heads, and smiley – a sheep’s head. Apparently when you cook it, the lips spread into a grotesque smile. Again, I like my vegetarianism. Some people say I’m missing out on important pieces of South African culture, but I say there are some aspects of culture that really aren’t necessary to experience firsthand.

Later in the night, Janey, Macrae, Auntie P. and I had a long discussion about 7 de Laan, which has seen a lot of intense drama the last few days. It’s pretty useful being caught up on South Africa’s most popular soap opera. And, of course, we have a special connection to the cast, after meeting them at VP. It’s nice to sit there in the uncomfortable stools at the tall counter in AP’s small kitchen, just chatting and laughing and arguing about who’s stalking who and whether so-and-so is too old for Annelie.

We had a brief intermission as I went with Janey to the corner shop to get more Rooibos tea. This shop is on the next corner over from their house, and has all the basic necessities. A dog and a small crowd of kids were standing in the doorway, the dog being shooed absentmindedly by a distracted-looking woman, though it clearly wasn’t going to move. It’s a small shop, maybe 20x20, with all the merchandise stacked on shelves behind a metal cage and a woman sitting at the counter within the cage, behind a gap just big enough to pass parcels through. A couple very small kids were buying individual cigarettes, for parents I’m sure, and a few other women were standing in the open area and chatting. Janey went up to the counter and asked for rooibos, which the woman pulled down from a shelf and handed to her in exchange for a 10 rand note.

After tea, which is a must for any visit (with anyone), we all cuddled together on the well-worn, comfortably sagging couches and watched a bit of SA’s Got Talent in the TV room. The TV is a new addition – Auntie P talked about how, a year ago, they all got on without any TV and would just sit and talk together, but now they can’t survive without it. We all sighed over an incredibly talented 14-year-old boy flawlessly singing Alicia Keys, and stared open-mouthed at the young woman singing a song she had written entitled “The Pain,” complete with some lyrics in the language she invented herself. That poor girl, so sincere but so misguided.

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