Following my success with the curry pot in getting Croatia to the World Cup final (I hope the chaps in the team who might have murky backgrounds, will give their hearts to Jesus and tithe their winnings to the St George’s Cathedral Roof Fund) my cup of joy is full and running over.
I have been honoured with an invitation to be one of three judges at a Koesister cook-off at The Church of Resurrection, Bonteheuwel. My fellow judges are the authors of the award-winning cookbook, Kook saam Kaaps, Koelsoem Kamalie and Flori Schrikker.
The koesister is a culinary taste of heaven, a class-bridging confectionery rich with the spices of our eastern origin and sweet like love. It is best eaten warm like the forgiving hearts of our people who have prepared it since the days of Cape slavery.
The Afrikaner descendants of slaves, those who were white enough to pass for white, adapted our sensually soft and dark brown delicacy into the koeksister - two braided strips of dough, fried to a hard, honey-coloured crispiness. Dunked in syrup or honey it is sticky and sweet.
Orania, the Afrikaner enclave in the Northern Cape, is home to a 2-metre high sculptor of the koeksister. This pale, phallic-like structure is a monument to Afrikaner grit and determination embodied by Susanna Smit who said she would rather walk kaalvoet across the Drakensberg than submit to British domination.
The Cape Koeksister is revered in a more communally, inclusive way. It is part of the rite of the township on Sunday mornings. Children can be seen from early in the morning, some in pyjamas, carrying a va’doek covered, koesister-filled bak to homes where it would eaten with relish and a cuppa.
To be savoured after the morning service in the church hall and the diabetics, when cautioned about the health threat of too much sugar, would reply, “Moetie warrie nie, ek sal my bitter-olie vat.” Others would commit to imbibing a concoction of wille als or koejawel water.
Father Shaun Cozett woke up one morning, a vexing question crowding his mind. It wasn’t about the heteropatriarchal state of faith institutions: “I wonder who makes the best koeksister in Bonteheuwel. I figured we need a way to test whose koeksister is the best.”
The thought came to him in the week of the Sunday of the farewell service for Father Terrence Rhoda.
The latter had been his training-Rector for three years and Rector of The Parish of Bonteheuwel for seven. It was Father Terrence who had brought to Shaun’s attention the centrality of the koeksister.
The senior priest had noted for some time that his parishioners, on their arrival at church would place their koeksister order and hand over their money to the ushers.
During the synaxis - that is the section of the service when the opening hymn is sung, the Gloria is chanted and the Collect for Purity is prayed by devotees seeking forgiveness of their sins - the ushers would present the order to Tiefa who lives opposite the church on Father David Prophet Street.
During Communion, the ushers would collect the orders from Tiefa: “The parishioners would collect their koeksisters, warm and ready to go, as they exit the church,” said Father Shaun during an in-depth interview.”
The Elsies River-born master of ceremonies, Father Craig Abrahams, brings regional diversity as he will travel from Malmesbury to be present at this afternoon’s event.
At the time of the interview, the entrants numbered 29 men and women, Christian and Muslim. Aunty Koelie and Aunty Flori have devised a scorecard with three categories: presentation, texture and taste.
One needs an alert tongue to discern the desired blend of aniseed, naartjie peel - so essential - cardamom powder, and ginger.
Part of my preparation is to stay off sweet stuff, go for long walks in Sea Point sipping jig-se-moer infused with boegoe leaves and wille als.
And I trust that the outcome of the Cook-off will please Father Shaun and grant him a holy and restful sleep.
* The Very Rev Michael Weeder is the Dean of St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.