Amagwinya: Edible Gold



This entry’s theme for the Blogging Abroad Boot Camp Challenge: Money, money, money (aka rand, rand, rand, or what PCVs and their communities need for subsistence in 2016…also cue the Abba)!

The currency of South Africa is the rand (ZAR), short for Witwatersrand, an Afrikaans term meaning “White Waters Ridge.” The Witwatersrand is where Johannesburg and most of South Africa’s former gold deposits. Actually the isiZulu name for Johannesburg is eGoli, “the place of gold” where young men left home to try their luck.

Eish. Money is a touchy subject right now because South Africa is hitting a recession.  Right now the 1 South African Rand (ZAR) is worth about $0.06 USD or on the flip side, 1 USD equals over 16 ZAR. The school year started a few weeks ago with news stories reiterating how spending is down on supplies and will sales are not expected to rise soon. As the economic powerhouse of Southern Africa, the monetary changes are impacting other African countries. I have a friend serving as a PCV in Northern Mozambique, and last month during a skype call (where hilariously both of us lost connection 5 times because of our countries’ respective utility Olympics), she made sure to ask me, “What is going on with the Rand?” She was noticing price inflation on basic items like bread.

The people of my community know how to adapt to financial hardships. In both sites, there are high unemployment rates and most of the population are dependent on government grants. Just like the United States, these grants are not meant for subsistence and to generate extra income people come up with creative side businesses. The most memorable business I have encountered was my Aunt X.’s informal food service.

A bit of background: For the first 5 months of my service, I lived in a beautiful and remote valley in the Drakensburg Mountains. While I was there during South Africa’s winter, the area was getting the brunt of South Africa’s drought and food access was difficult. There were tuck shops in most of the 18 communities, but these provided basic non-perishable goods (produce was seldom available). The closest and overpriced grocery store was at the base of the valley (a 12 ZAR trip) in an unsafe intersection. Shopping town 1.0 was an hour away and the sporadic taxi service to South Africa’s grocery store chains was 21 ZAR for a one way trip. When food is a challenge to obtain, you can see how Aunt X. easily made a profit off of her amagwinya.

Amagwinya (the term from Gauteng townships for fat cakes which comes from the Afrikaans Vetkoeks) are fried dough balls, like unsweetened doughnuts with less dense of a texture. They are far from nutritious but these days any homemade carbohydrate serves as my comfort food. Aunt X. made these big and fluffy amagwinya the size of my hands that she would sell for 3 ZAR. I have sampled my share of the delicacy in Southern Africa and nothing comes close to Aunt X.’s quality. Her amagwinya alone made a profit but Aunt X. added more options. She also offered sides of polony slices (pink tinted processed meat, but an invaluable source of cheap protein) for 2 ZAR and mango achaar (an Indian influenced condiment that infuses pickled mango with chile pieces…in other words delicious) for another 1 ZAR. Amagwinya alone are an energy dense meal in the mountains and adding the achaar with polony touches two other nutrition areas.


The entire spread of Aunt X.’s business

The community loved Aunt X.’s amagwinya. She is also a caregiver for organization 1.0, and every staff meeting Aunt X. would haul her Pick n Pay cooler filled with fresh amagwinya. I learned to race to the front room with my rand in hand, once I heard the end of the meeting amaZulu hynms. When I was slow, 25 caregivers would purchase Aunt X.’s entire stock within 2 minutes! On pension days when a market formed at the community hall, Aunt X. would provide another batch and sell out within an hour.

While I never learned what made Aunt X.’s amagwinya special, I know the main ingredients are oil, water, flour, sugar, and baking soda. In term of access, the one common problem Aunt X. could run into is if the water was cut off for a few days, as the rest of the ingredients are relatively inexpensive. With the compound structure of households, amaZulu are fans of purchasing in the bulk to feed all the family members (plus friends that visit unannounced and still get food). Most amaZulu women already have large bowls and pots required for the cooking. She would just have to obtain tiny plastics (plastic bags) for each item. Below is a breakdown of ingredient prices (and all ingredients would be used for basic cooking beyond amagwinya creation).



Price Range in ZAR

USD as of January 27, 2016

10 kilogram bag of flour 50-60 ZAR $3.05-$3.66
5 liters of oil 70-80 ZAR $4.27-$4.88
500 grams baking powder 20-30 ZAR $1.27-$1.82
5 kilogram bag of sugar 50-60 ZAR $3.05-$3.66



I did not get my act together to get a photo of the 10 K bag of flour but this is an empty bottle for 5 L of sunflower oil. Picture this filled to the top with yellow liquid. This is how amaZulu buy in bulk,


So if you do the math, at minimum if all 30 amagwinya were sold at 3 ZAR, that is 90 ZAR. If she did that 5 times a month, that would be 400 ZAR. For a year 400 ZAR per month would be a total of 4,800 ZAR. As of today (January 27, 2016) that would be over $24.00 ZAR a month or roughly $292.85 in USD annually.

In the best case scenario if every amagwinya sold with all the fixings (polony and achaar) for 6 ZAR, 30 amagwinya would make 180 ZAR. Under the same optimistic circumstances, that would be 900 ZAR a month and the projected annual total would be 10,800 ZAR. In USD that is currently an estimated $55.00 a month or $658.25 per year.

Compare this to the theater concessions business my friend and I ran for a summer (our staples were brownies and chocolate chip madeleines…the later was my pretentious idea). Between splitting our profits and purchasing ingredients, I earned about $200.00 USD for 3months of work. It was right before I moved to college and the money went to dorm supplies. Aunt X. generates more cash to replace her ingredients and fuels demand with a culturally accepted food. I can see how her business would generate enough money for basic groceries, taxi fares, or if she saved a small portion of her profits each month, her sons’ school uniforms.

When I return to graduate school, I may enter the amagwinya with the fixings market stateside for year. $292.00 is substantial textbook money!

Besides, they look gold on the inside just like the currency’s namesake! Amagwinya basically emulate money!


Metric System Mayhem

Finally, South Africa ignores America’s rebellious tendencies and uses the metric system. Really America, we lost the measurement war and instead of bickering over why America is “behind” in math, maybe we should focus more energy on rising global citizens who can decipher the metric system. Sorry end of my rant, but it is really frustrating to be unable to read nutrition labels, estimate distance, or in a health context be unable to read a basic indicator like BMI (which was a pain during my time in Botswana). The metric culture extends to baking and I have a nifty scrapper/converter I got at Dis-Chem to help me decipher the math. Nevertheless mistakes happen and I have a story to close with.

This Thanksgiving, I crashed the Education Cohort’s gathering in the Battlefields (I will explain KZN’s ambiguous geographic classifications another time) about 2 hours from the site. One of the older volunteers has established connections with the local hotel and coordinated a wonderful feast. Anyways it was a lovely first outing away from Amajuba and this party crasher’s contributions was finding the cranberry sauce in the Scotland Pick N Pay’s menagerie of canned fruits and helping with the pumpkin pie.

The host PCV did not have a wealth of baking experience and was relieved when I wanted a baking fix. Since this was in a nice hotel, we had a state of the art kitchen including a food processor to puree produce. Using BBC recipes as our guide, the plan was to make 3 pies (1 pumpkin and 2 butternut as we could only find one fresh pumpkin) for the PCV party of almost 20 and the regular hotel guests. Anyways things were going well, I made my first pie crust (with real butter since that was what the hotel used) which was far from aesthetically pleasing but it held the filling so task accomplished!  Meanwhile the host pureed the pumpkin and once we found a good spice balance we got ready to add the milk.

The host adds the required amount and the mixture with a vibrant saffron hue gradually mutes to a pastel peach. Now the Engineer loves pumpkin pie and he finds any excuse to bake one (I am willing to bet we are the only family in Albuquerque who observes Martin Luther King Day with pumpkin pie). I had enough pumpkin pie…expertise if you will, to realize something is off. I gently encourage the host to recheck the recipe and she finds out we were supposed to use a 1/3 of the milk we poured. Curse you metric system.

Oops. With about 20 Americans craving an authentic pumpkin pie, the stakes were high.

Thankfully the head chef (a no-nonsense amaZulu woman) who has seen her share of kitchen blunders figures out a solution. She comes up with an idea to keep a 1/3 of the current mixture and prepare the butternut puree as the filling. It takes another hour to season the butternut but we find the right consistency and put the pies in the oven. As completed my kitchen duty by supporting the food processor as it created whipped cream, I was worried that the butternut would throw the taste off.

In the end, my anxiety was misplaced (typical) and the other PCVs appreciated the taste of home with the whipped cream. You could definitely taste the butternut but it did not distracted wholesome sensation from pumpkin pie. Honestly in British Spheres of influence, pumpkin describes any type of squash (not just Jack o’ Lantern material) so including butternut put a South African flare to the meal.

Most important, it made for a delightful breakfast the next morning (my favorite way to enjoy pumpkin pie).


Life Administration: How I Bake


Cooking has been an adventure through my time in South Africa as both of my living arrangements had electricity access problems (I need to head into Duke City for the latest repair this week). Since digging a hole in the middle of an amaZulu homestead and filling it with hot coals for a natural oven would not go over well, I had to be creative with my dietary choices. Even with these challenges, I have been able to maintain one of my main therapies in my life: baking. Back in the states, I would reward myself for completing a week of classes with a baking experiment. Throwing ingredients together in a bowl is a physically cathartic distraction so I stop perseverating on anxiety triggers. Plus sharing baked goods requires minimal social cues and provides great opportunities for cultural exchange in my current role.

Since being in South Africa I have made banana bread, tortillas, natural red velvet cake complete with cream cheese icing (with beetroot…that was for my supervisor’s birthday and I attempted a challenge for the occasion), funfetti cake, and sweet potato casserole just to provide an idea. The additional effort just makes the final products taste better (or maybe that is my sugar addition but still) and potential disasters edible. I once tried to make a literal coffee cake (not the breakfast entity but a cake flavored as coffee) for the social worker’s birthday celebration. I added the coffee to a flour mixture when it was too hot and it became more of a sticky coffee pudding. I hauled the item to Shopping Town 1.0 explaining my intentions. Surprisingly the Social Worker loved it, actually tried to recreate the mistake, and the indent established me as the primary baking consultant for our former cluster.

In terms of equipment, South Africa has most kitchen appliances and tools available, in the shopping towns. I inherited knives, pots, and measuring cups from the former roommate and buy additional tools as needed. At site 1.0 we had a gas stove (gas tank connected to hot plate) which worked great until it broke right before I left and permeated the smell of gas through the house every time it was used. The nice thing about gas stoves is that they do not require electricity and are less of a strain when the host family is on a metered electricity system.

Refrigerators are also widely available and in my experience most families have at least one. For site 1.0, I followed the precedent set by former roommate and used the host family’s refrigerator for minimal storage as it was always crammed to the brim. In Amajuba, I am borrowing the organization’s fridge/freezer (the deal we made was I would buy the wardrobe which is less expensive and they would let me borrow the fridge. Besides the fridge I have an electric kettle and hot plate. These kitchen appliances and also food processor (which former roommate found at a second hand store in Pretoria), stoven (combination of stove and oven), and hot plates take a significant amount of energy that can stress an already taxed power supply. With the exception of the refrigerator (which is always running) I try to use them sparingly.

I may not have a stoven, but host family 1.0 did and my Amajuba family has an oven. What I do is schedule “oven time” in advance, so the host families are aware that I will be using the equipment. To save time, I mix the ingredients up in advance so they are ready for the oven and kitchen space is available for my host sisters. In turn they get to eat the final product and have access to my refrigerator (I am currently hosting all the frozen chicken for the New Year’s Eve Extravaganza).

South Africa’s abundance of commercial grocery stores means that most ingredients are accessible. They even have mixes available for basic muffins, scones, and cakes if that is your style. I love cooking from scratch and the dry ingredients cost less in the long run. Sealed plastic containers are great for storing powdery ingredients (flours and sugars) and makes replacing stock less messy. If you are in an area with limited refrigeration options, long life milk is available in all the major grocery stores or since site 1.0 was an hour away from the shopping town (where perishable goods would be exposed to heat in the taxis), I used powered milk instead which is a sufficient substitute for basic recipes. The other ubiquitous baking element, eggs are often available in local tuck shops and a great way to support the community economy (without worrying about shell hazards in transport…trust me it is not fun to deal with yolk on the taxi).

The other aspect of obtaining ingredients is they can have a different appearance in South Africa. Speaking of eggs, all South Africans (including the stores) keep eggs at room temperature which does not automatically spoil them…they can last months in that state (raw and rotten eggs are damaging regardless of how they are stored, so just be careful). Or the time I searched for ricotta cheese all over Duke City and after 2 weeks found it not in a yogurt container but in plastic bags. Another example is sweet potatoes, and my North Carolinan parents are infamous for the sweet potato casserole that graces our Thanksgiving style. I made one for the host family this Christmas but the filling was not the familiar titan hue, but a creamy ecru. With snowy connotations of the holiday and the abundance of amafu/clouds over Amajuba, the white South African potatoes were more appropriate for Christmas.


Christmas 2015, holding the white sweet potato casserole during a rainstorm (hence the bad light…yet another element of baking in rural South Africa)!

 Also, I bake on the Volunteer In-Country Allowance (VICA) and adapt recipes for the budget. Yebo, butter is available but it is 40 rand and a bar of margarine for the same amount is 8 rand. I do not have an animosity towards margarine and so far it does not affect the taste. Spices are also expensive and I only buy what I need and use often (for baking that is cinnamon and vanilla).

Finally there is the cultural shock in measurements, but that is shared in the next post. Baking is an excellent way to bond with host families and explore the Rainbow Nation’s cuisines. Even though it is more challenging to obtain the final project, the extra effort makes the baked goods taste better!

All the best,


Time for Tea…Tea Break!

Blogging in Southern Africa: I composed this post over the course of 3 days. The electricity is having a self-conscious and indecisive breakdown at my current location (not low-shedding as that occurred yesterday morning) but the power has faded at least 20 times in the last 48 hours. That is not a hyperbole, and it takes electricity-dependent internet to upload posts, find sources to back up information, add pictures, and then publish on WordPress. If there are grammatical errors, ngiyaxolisisa kodwa ngizamile…Sorry but I tried (and the last word was probably wrong in isiZulu…you win and loose some).

One of the lasting remnants of English rule in South Africa is the tea break. Tea breaks are, according to the Department of Labor, 15 minute breaks that occur 2 twice a day. As the unambiguous name indicates, tea (and coffee) are served. They are a part of most South African conferences, and a chance to breathe. I do not understand why Americans avoid breaks and pride pushing our limits. Spain has siestas, and the English Sphere of Influence has tea breaks, and the American workforce gets…a lunch break. When I was in an American work environment the only food was served during meetings (and the only hot beverage offered is coffee which I cannot consume). My “breaks” were initiated by chugging enough water for biologically induced “bathroom time.”

Currently I am at a conference (In-Service training for Peace Corps), and enjoying tea breaks. The trainings we are participating are insightful, but talking about HIV/AIDS is still draining. Tea Breaks enable a brief reprieve and chance to interact with others. Networking is not an elaborate concept here in the South African NGO and PCV circle. Rather it is a by-product of interacting with fellow conference attendees.

Tea breaks consist of a hot beverage and a nice snack. The highlight of South African tea breaks is the availability of rooibos. Rooibos (ROY-bos or “red bush” in Afrikaans), is a unique tea blend grown in the Western Cape’s Cederburg region. As a uniquely African tea that is caffeine free with an earthy taste, it is my favourite tea. South Africa also embraces their tea pride with the availability of red lattes and red cappuccinos. However with 30 minutes usually there is only milk and sugar packets. I learned that including milk cools the tea down but when there is no time crunch, I prefer straight rooibos. The only downside is that it stains my teeth, and I sense a painful dentist cleaning in 2017 to address my South African habit.

A cup of plain Rooibos with Baker's Lemon Creams. I have sampled many lemon flavoured biscuits(cookies in SA) and in my research found that these are the best store bought lemony sweets.

A cup of plain Rooibos with Baker’s Lemon Creams. I have sampled many lemon flavoured biscuits(cookies in SA) and in my research found that these are the best store bought lemony sweets.

As for the snacks, there are a variety of options. For many people (PC gatherings) cheese sandwiches buttered with margarine are the staple for a morning tea. There are meat and vegetable sandwiches. Cucumber or tomato cheese sandwiches are delightful with rooibos.

Cucumber and Cheese Sandwiches

Cucumber and Cheese Sandwiches

The other flavour tea breaks feature is sweet. Queen cakes are lightly sweetened cupcakes. Sometimes they have a small dollop of icing but my host family makes them plain. Bran muffins are also a possibility.

A simple Queen Cake

A simple Queen Cake

Finally I am not sure what the exact name is for this treat but the closest is a cream tea (or if we really want to be pretentious Devonshire Tea). The treat consists it is a plain scone (the South African cousin of the American biscuit) embellished with a jam center and cream border. I have only experienced strawberry jam but am certain that other varieties are used. While it may seem unusual to have jam and cream on top of the scone as opposed to a sandwich format, this is the norm (according to one of SA’s main grocery brands.) Side note: a scone with jam and shredded cheddar cheese in any position is a surprisingly sweet and savory snack…one of my simple South African pleasures.

Cream Tea at the training in Maritzburg last month

Cream Tea at the training in Maritzburg last month

Tea breaks occur in other countries but in South Africa they are is a great excuse to eat, connect with others, and indirectly catch another glimpse of life in the Rainbow Nation. Maybe America should adopt tea breaks into the workplace.

Low-Energy/Easy Spinach Salad…amaZulu Style

Side Note: During PST our language group created a news show for an assignment that involved a skit with commands. My section of Pheka ne Peace Corps (Cooking with Peace Corps) where I was a PCV version of the Anal Retentive Chef (what…I had to use commands related to cleaning). In real life, unless the food will actually be consumed by other people (I do not want to be that public health student who gave everyone food poisoning even though I know the rules) my standards are extremely low.

IMG_1714 My host sister (and roommate) is an incredible cook. This week I am starting to obtain cooking lessons from her. Baking is one of my joys in life, but stove cooking is not my strength. The one piece of heavy duty cooking equipment I have is a dilapidated (one of the legs fell off) gas stove, so it is a perfect opportunity to learn food production via pots.

Wednesday I did my usual after work routine, and interacting with host family in the kitchen. I was planning to go back to my room and relax for the rest of the evening as I was really tired, when Mama asked me, “Zama do you know how to cook spinach?” I responded that yes I am capable of cooking spinach but not in South Africa. She then mentioned if I knew how to cook spinach salad. At that present moment the wood stove was roaring and everyone was wearing a jersey/sweater. I was almost confident they did not mean raw spinach with goat cheese, strawberries, and balsamic venerate, one of my favorite summer lunches (enjoy one for me). So I said that it probably means something else in America. Mama leaves and generously returns later with ingredients for this dinner. She and my host sister proceed to tell me how to cook spinach salad. After thanking them I got up to leave while letting them know that I may not get to this until Thursday evening (not lying when I was tired and in this case temporarily not feeling well). My host sister laughed and declared, “Zama it is easy! It takes 15 minutes and then you can go to sleep.”

I went back to my side of the house and since my family was so kind to give me their leftover produce, it was worth a try. They were right! It was easy/kulula and maybe brought my energy levels back up.

Whether you are dealing with long workdays, over-stimulation, or a stomach that did not agree with the afternoon snack choice, this simple 15 minute “salad” keeps you warm and provides an iron boost during the Drakensburg Winter. It is definitely becoming one of my staples.


Little bit of oil (I have olive oil at present)/amafutha
6 leaves of fresh spinach/ispinashi
1 tomato/utamatisi
1 onion/u-anyanisi

Chop/Gawula the onion into dice-status. Gently fry them in the olive oil in some stove-pot (I used a sauce pan). Gawula the tomato and add the pieces to the onions once the onions reach a golden brown color. Add the tomato and cook/pheka under medium heat. Once the mixture is soft, add the spinach. Cover the pot with a lid so the spinach shrinks under the heat. Serve when you are ready.

Serves one person for dinner/next day’s lunch

Note: you can add potatoes/amazambane to make it more filling. Also chopping the spinach would help it fit better in (my case) dinky sauce pans.

Snackin’ Away in SA

On my contact page, I mention that I honestly love South African Snacks more than American food. The definition of South Africa as the Rainbow Nation extends to the food. South Africans’ just understand my tastes. I love wafers, caramel, and sweet/savory combinations…and sugar. Since I have been in urban settings for most of June I thought this would be a good opportunity to share some of my favorite South African treats. I love to talk about food/ukudla so this will not be my last post related to South African/ amaZulu food!

The nickname “Rainbow Nation” also applies to the cuisine. South Africa (well the African continent in General) is much closer to all the other continents…minus the Americas we are very much our own island. There are strong Asian cuisine influences and my host sister preferred curry over cake for her birthday. My favorite crisp (or chip) flavours are fruit chutney (which tastes like a sweeter form of Carolina barbeque) and sweet Thai chili (which is sweet and sour sauce…except substituting sour for spicy which leaves a mild kick). Sometimes when I am really craving meat (not often but it happens) I will opt for Biltong (jerky but South Africa style) flavored crisps. South Africans love meat and biltong is only one of many meat inspired favours. In addition the South African flavours, American flavors (spelling intended) like salt and vinegar or sour cream and onion are available.


These rice cake packs are from a drugstore chain called Clicks. Thankfully the closest Clicks is in Pretty City, else my living allowance would be eaten…just like my savings at the U of AZ’s CVS.

These rice cake packs are from a drugstore chain called Clicks. Thankfully the closest Clicks is in Pretty City, else my living allowance would be eaten…just like my savings at the U of AZ’s CVS.

Now on to the sweets. We will start with the gummy sweets.

Maynards is my favourite brand for gummy sweets. I am not a huge gummy fan but sometimes when I am agitated I like to have something more substantial then gum to chew. Whenever I feel homesick I buy the Watermelon Sours. It is a temporary albeit artificial taste of the Sandias.


Then there are Wine Gums which probably win “most inaccurate name behind a candy.” Wine Gums are originally English and based on brief internet search there are two origins. First is that the son of the Maynard wanted to make a sweet that was as “fine as wine.” The other appeals to public health as a substitute for alcohol addiction…even though there is no alcohol in them. Granted you can make literal wine gums, but I will let other PCVs participate in that experiment. I feel like a semi sophisticated adult eating that five shapes: kidney, crown, diamond, circle and rectangle. Depending on the brand they are labled with six names: port, sherry, champagne, burgundy, gin and claret. My favourite are the blackcurrant flavoured (we need blackcurrants in the US ASAP).


Recently I found that Oros which makes a popular type of Orange Squash (orange drink concentrate) made their own gummys. They were actually not that bad.


Bridging the gap between gummys and the bars are Nougat and Smarties. I mentioned Smarties before as the natural M&Ms behind our failed icebreaker. Well here is what they look like.


The nougat has dried cherries and nuts inside. It is delightful.


Now for everyone’s favorite part: Candy Bars. Candy bars are usually not my favourite because I do not like chocolate. I eat it because of the sugar not because of the cocoa elements, and do not usually enjoy the sweet to its fullest . With that said, chocolate (and soap operas) are always better outside of the US for me. I enjoy caramel and fruit more but there are a few chocolate bars(drenched in sugar and other flavours) for perspective.

South Africa offers a variety of candy bars from the American Kit Kat with slight flavour variations


…To their own creations.

If someone asked me to pick up a candy bar for them and I did not know what they liked, I would buy a Lunch Bar. Lunch Bars have a bit of everything from crunch, chocolate, to nuts.


And if people want a change, the Lunch Bar Dream comes in White Chocolate.


Next is the Inside Story. Our Volunteer Support Committee (VSC) introduced our cohort to Inside Storys. I actually was called out for my spontaneous face while fully enjoying the hazelnut truffle.


Cadbury Snackers are like a granola bar only with muesli (which I like better, it is a bigger oat). Back in my exchange student days, they used to come in Caramilk (more later) and be my favourite.


Speaking of Cadbury, a unique delicacy to South Africa is the Oreo stuffed Cadbury Chocolate Bar (the same one I ate in honor of MEZCOPH’s graduation). When I was guiding a PCV who was med-evaced from Madagascar through Checkers (a grocery story chain) she had to get the oreo bar because that was the only one that they did not have in Madagascar.

Close up of Oreo-filled goodness!

Close up of Oreo-filled goodness!


Finally my favorite PS Bars, which I usually mistakenly call PS I love you bars after the sappy Irish novel. They have kind words on each wrapper (one of them is “All the best” and how I got my parting e-words) and come in milk chocolate or Caramilk…caramel coating on wafers. I am sure it is unhealthy,against all my public health lessons, but it is so good! I prefer the smaller bars when I can find them.


Eish now I am hungry. I better go and eat my fruit before my teeth start to decay as I look at all these delights!
All the best,

A Teetotaler’s South African Go-To-Drinks

isiZulu: Ukuphuza
isiNgisi: to drink

Unlike many Americans in my age bracket, I do not consume alcohol regularly. No I am not religious, but body does not process caffeinated drinks well (it induces anxiety) so I have delayed my alcohol debut. Despite trying wine four times in South Africa, I just cannot get over the sour taste…it reminds me of communion (curse you Catholic background). Once I accidently spit wine out on the table (it was classic conditioning but the Social Worker will not let me forget it…it was her wine).



It looks like I will be teetotaling for a while in South Africa. Honestly, it is not that big of a deal here. In the United States I would try to hide my pretentious water bottle at bards but South Africa graciously has nonalcoholic options next to beers. Most South African restaurants have awesome milkshakes. I save up to get a delightful Roobios milkshake at my shopping town’s local cafe. When I am not in the mood for liquefied ice cream (like now during winter) there are Grapistiser and Appletisers. Both are simply sparkling fruit juices but the cans or glass bottles are right next to the Windehoek and Savannah Dry Cider in most bars. Maybe bars in the US could take a hint and offer the sparkling Welch’s next to the Coors (Colorado educated right here). It would make my bar visits less awkward!

Aquelles from Left to right: Lemon/Lime, Naartje. Marula, and Litchi

Aquelles from Left to right: Lemon/Lime, Naartje. Marula, and Litchi

The other main drink I consume in moderation are Aquelles. Aquelle is a bottled water company out of Msinga which offers a variety of flavored sparkling waters with local fruits such as litchi and naartjes. Litchi are atomic looking fruit that I cannot buy into as a fruit but in Aquelles they have a nice refreshing taste. Same with honey dew melon, I cannot enjoy it if it is mushy but the flavour is. Naarjtes are Afrikaaner tangerines. There is lemon lime which tastes just like Sprite in a pinch for upset stomachs. Finally there is my sweet favorite, the golden marula.

Marula Tree in the Bush

Marula Tree in the Bush, you can see the green fruit at the bottom. They turn yellow when ripe.

Marula trees are nostalgic for me (as I practiced Volleyball with the men’s volleyball team as an exchange student under them). The trees have a fruit that provides South Africa’s signature liquor, amarula cream. I have not had the actual drink but Clicks sold these delightful dark chocolate truffles with amarula cream. I am not enthusiastic about chocolate, but in South Africa there was an option to enjoy amarula cream without massive amounts of alcohol.