It’s probably all the nostalgia I experienced over the past weekend that moved me to remember (or try to) what I ate most days 20 years ago…
I can remember my work mates and I going most Fridays to the New Library Hotel in the Johannesburg CBD. (I drove through the city centre a fortnight ago and was sad to see the hotel is a gutted shell, but glad to see scaffolding and evidence of restoration underway). We’d eat the meal of the day for the princely sum of R6, bunk work for the afternoon and stagger out of the dingy bar in time to catch our lift-clubs home.
Some lunchtimes, we’d duck into the obligatory corner café, where premade hamburgers were squashed into a heated glass display-case; and a scoop of vinegary, flaccid and undercooked chips cost 75 cents. It was the most delicious smell and nothing today comes close.
Yes, before the convenience of the wholesome and expensive Woolworths Tika Chicken Salad, we had nothing but bad food. And it was sublime.
I remember Fontana in Hillbrow at midnight, after the clubs closed; eating schwarma on a plate at Mi Vami. Daybreak muffins at Bimbo’s and the legendary roadhouse just off Empire Road; the name of which escapes me for the moment.
But best, best of all, I remember Jules Street in Malvern. Even then it felt dangerous; travelling east past past one used-car dealership after another to get to the roadhouse there, which would be packed with an assortment of people of whom I had never seen the likes before.
And then that wax-paper-wrapped parcel would be placed on the tray suspended on the car window; a slab of a sandwich, white bread filled with (probably processed) cheese and tomato. Too hot to eat, so you had to nibble around the edges and take care that the grease didn’t drip on your clothes.
I tried to replicate it for my lunch today; but there is no grease on my toaster, my cheese is from Fairview Estate and my tomatoes are organic…