Stealing granny’s Condensed milk

09th May 2017
The Fireplace


By Matshediso Fologang -

The weekend was spent with a mixed group of people from Ga-Malete, Ga-Ngwato, Ga-Ngwaketse, Mokwena and Ga- Sekhukhune. (Bapedi and Batswana). Amongst the many topics that we shared, the much-dwelt on was growing up in a typical Setswana and/or Sepedi family. We found that we all had a common upbringing. Of more interest was the things we did growing up.

We all experienced the realities of migrant labour system that affected the whole Southern African region. Each family had at least one person who had been part of migrant labour system that took able-bodied men to the gold rich Witwatersrand area of South Africa while rural hinterlands of Southern Africa faced a collapse of the economy resulting with a failing subsistence agricultural production.

Those old people remaining in the hinterlands were forced into the money economy. In each village came all sorts of traders. The little that was produced in here was used to trade with the foreign merchants in a barter system. The returning migrants brought goods and niceties from the Rand area not found at home.

At our Saturday evening talk around the fire we shared the childhood stories of our “stealing” these. The most common items that we all confessed to have ever been caught by the mother or grandmother or elder sister stealing were- Condensed milk, Klim powdered Milk and Sugar. I just wonder how many amongst our children have done this. Stealing?

We all remembered being sent to into the hut for something else and finding it irresistible to take a fast gulp from the tin of opened condensed milk and immediately wiping off the lips that had kissed the tin. A lot of times your mother would call you, forcing you to come out of the hut without thoroughly wiping off the remnants from your lips.

There was an equal common attraction to the powdered milk or sugar. Sadly every time you took a gulp you would hear an elderly person calling out your name, forcing a culprit to immediately swallow whatever you  had stolen. The child would get choked resulting in a dry cough and throwing up what was in the mouth. An immediate parental inspection would follow.    

Each of us around the fire in Kanye remembered the hiding we all got for the “stealing”. We agreed that the temptation to continuously lift the tin or pick a spoon to scoop the powdered milk or sugar was not easy to resist.

We shared a pot of hot tea prepared liked our parents wanted. This Saturday’s brewed tea made us happy and we agreed the teas served at modern restaurants in Gaborone and Polokwane were substandard compared to the Kanye tea. Who has never stolen milk or sugar from the mother or grandmother’s hut? If you never did then you missed on a good life.

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