It was the first thing on my list of ‘Stuff to Take to South Africa’. My vegetable peeler, a wedding gift that works miracles on a butternut squash. I had no idea what life in Sosh would look like, but I knew I would cook. Perhaps just for us, but hopefully for others too, nourishing friendships. In the last minute rush the peeler was left in the kitchen drawer, but it was in my first parcel received here.
One year down the line and my peeler has tackled many a pumpkin and potato. My fears of people not enjoying my food are disappearing with each cleaned plate, and each tupperware filled with leftovers. But I never expected that ‘peeling’ would also be a way to love and support our neighbours. When there is a death in the neighbourhood, the local women gather the night before the funeral ‘to peel’. As vast quantities of carrots and squash are peeled, and cabbages, onions and beetroot are sliced, we show solidarity with the bereaved.
The first time I went to peel, the rain dropped through the joints in the marquee. I didn’t know to take my own peeler, so I was left peeling squash (and occasionally my finger) with a dull knife and no chopping board. I panicked about what to chat about with all these ladies, who eventually suggested I do a slightly less dangerous task. Then we all drank tea and ate simple cakes. Last night I went to peel again, taking my own peeler, much admired for its ‘strength’. I know now that it doesn’t matter what I chat about. It just matters that I’m there, peeler in hand, showing the family that we haven’t forgotten, that we are together.
Peeling, chopping, nourishing, grieving, being. Together.
This is the first post in our ‘tools of the trade’ series – stories of the objects weaved into our life in Sosh.