Passing on the Potjiekos

Written by Jaco Prinsloo // @EndsOff

Illustrated by Rebecca Frost // @rebeccafrostillustration //

‘It’s not possible, you don’t have enough time,’ said my maternal grandfather on the other end of the line, sounding decidedly doubtful.

It was a miserably blowy and cold morning in early July, I was on a frenetic supermarket-run for ingredients, and was saving precious time by phoning him from the meat counter while haranguing the butcher to hurry with the portioned lamb shanks. I’d never made one on my own before, and desperately needed Granddad to dice 60 years of ‘potjiekos’ experience into a few digestible sound bites. My coals were already reaching the optimal temperature that I’d seen him gauge with the back of his hand those many times, but the old man wasn’t budging, and thickening his sauce with scepticism.

‘You need at least four hours of cooking time alone, and you’ve not even begun chopping your vegetables, or seasoning your pot. It’s pointless, you shouldn’t even attempt it. Also, have you looked outside?’ There was no time to argue, or calculate if he was attempting to protect me from the embarrassment of disastrous failure, or simply being coy with his method. Already an hour had lapsed since the head of our varsity residence belatedly realised we didn’t yet have an entry for the campus-wide potjiekos competition, and twenty minutes since I, the first year student with no choice in the matter, had been assigned the task. The judges (three popularfemale 4​ year students who were appointed that morning) were set to begin the initial round of tasting in two and a half hours, the rain was getting heavier, and time was wasting. I ignored my grandfather’s stoic cynicism, and forged ahead with a technical question. ‘What goes in first, the carrots or the potatoes, and how do you make your sauce?’