Coke Is It!


Blowing Out the Candles on my Eleventh Birthday at our New House Tenderi, Hillandale, Que Que

Coke Is It!

I sympathize with the sons and daughters of the clergy, trying to live up to the pious expectations of parents and the scrutiny of the congregation.  Although quite different, I had my own set of expectations and limitations that plagued me.

Coke Is It!

Dad’s medical practice in a small community afforded him the luxury of observing the whole person closely in the context of behavior patterns.  Lifestyle diseases were not understood then.  He was way before his time in recognizing these causes and effects.  He published widely in the Central African Medical Journal founded by his mentor Dr. Michael Gelfand who was always accepting, the South African Medical Journal and the British Medical Journal.   But most importantly he shared these conclusions with his patients behind the surgery door.

Many of these centered on just a few themes.  He was against smoking, which he had taken up during WWII but quit cold turkey in the early 50’s.  If he could do it you could too.  It ruined your lungs faster than the mine dust destroyed them with silicosis.  He’d done his share of drinking in the army too, but railed against excess.   It wrecked your marriage and ruined your liver if you didn’t kill yourself first in a car accident.  He supported the black list.  But most of all he was concerned with diet.  He was against fat, sugar, salt and spices.   Many of his patients took all this heartfelt advice they were paying for with a pinch of salt.

Our meals were pretty bland.  He was against Midland’s Bakery’s fluffy white bread which you could hollow out while still warm, slather inside with butter and tuck in.   As for Mr. Tepperson’s plump iced sugar buns and chocolate éclairs they were banned.  He was against Philipson’s ribbons of bacon with a thick margin of fat, edged with a generous rind that rippled when sizzled in the frying pan.  Eggs were not to swim in its drippings.  It was all so hard on the heart.  He was against Philipson’s delicious home made boerewors (South African sausage).  Who knew what was forced inside those skins and besides they were far too spicy which taxed the liver.

We did not have fizzy drinks in our house like Coke and Fanta. They were full of sugar, the precursor to diabetes.  We had plenty of milk.  Mom made a vile orange drink from Mazoe concentrate, using half the recommended amount of sugar, boiled in a huge cauldron over the stove.

None of the day scholars wanted to swap school lunches with me. Their sandwiches were made of dainty white bread with their crusts cut off nested in shredded lettuce.  Mine were thick brown bread with a crunchy crust and inside there was no butter, just a smear of Marmite and sliced egg.  We did not even own a bottle of mayonnaise. The boarders made no bid for my leftovers.


There were exceptions of course.  Mom made quite a few on the quiet. You could count on birthdays and Christmas for acceptable exceptions.  Shortly after we moved into our new house, Tenderi, I had a birthday.  The house was making its debut too.

Mom was busy as usual with important things like the production of a Nonsense Gala at the municipal baths and endless Girl Guiding activities.  She was juggling them with Dad’s political functions and entertaining.

Still, she produced a lovely big sandwich cake for my birthday party.  It was spread with strawberry jam in the middle and covered on top and sides with butter icing.   There were ginger snaps and crunchies and even some dainty sandwiches with the crusts cut off nestled in shredded lettuce.

“Where are the Cokes?” I said, minutes before my friends were due to arrive.

“Cokes?  she said.  Cokes!  I totally forgot!”

“Forgot!  How could you possibly forget?”

“Well we’re too far from town to run in now,” she said matter-of-factly. “We’ll just have to serve my Mazoe orange.”

“I’d die rather than serve that!  You know its poison.  Even the boarders won’t take it.” I wailed.

“I’ll tell you what,” she said evenly.  “Run and get the bowl of colored sugar crystals we serve with coffee after dinner to Dad’s political bods.”

I obeyed.  This was an emergency of the first order but railed on, “I hope you realize that you have ruined my entire life.  My friends will never come all this way out here again after this.”

Quickly she separated an egg and painted the rims of the glasses with egg white, dipped them into the bowl of sugar and stood them up.

They were beautiful. “Put them on the table,” she said.  “They’ll be dry by the time we sit down.”

They were.  Her Mazoe orange never tasted so good before or after.


  • Betty Goolsby

    Reply Reply February 5, 2011

    No mayonaise, bacon, sodas, etc. I so know what you went through! I had parents who were very much the same about certain things that were bad for you! I, too, felt that no one wanted my lunch and that I had been kept from the good things in life….so much though, that when I finally got to buy my lunch in middle school, I spent it all on donuts and chocolate milk (I went crazy making up for all that I had been cheated out of) So glad your mom came through for parties and special occasions. By the way, I love the china and your mom’s beautiful table….the cake is gorgeous….what is all around the edge? Sugared decorations…and is there a lattice design around the side? Obviously, she was way ahead of her time, putting a sugared rim around the glasses to make it festive.
    I do applaud your dad for his being way ahead of his time in knowing and teaching how to avoid terrible health issues through diet and abstinence….your parents lived long healthy lives, with good diet and all that swimming even to the very end! Weren’t they in the Senior Olympics?

    • Diana

      Reply Reply February 5, 2011

      Betty, Its easy to overreact to all the repression. I sympathize. I enjoyed all the fun food at my friends houses. Mom did never-the- less set a fine table as you say. English bone china, even Spode (which I still have), could even be purchased at Slomans Hardware, and she went on shopping sprees to Johannesburg (Jhb) once or twice a year. She was especially fond of linen and I still have many of her table cloths (which we never use these days.) Yes, the cake was wrapped in a paper ribbon with ruffles top and bottom which did give it flair! (This was often done with Christmas fruit cakes especially). She did bring special things from Jhb. like candles that re-lit themselves after being blown out that we had never seen before. They travelled widely (Dad took a 6 month sabbatical every 5 years and they went to Europe, N.America and the Far East. He went to the major medical centers to catch up on the latest surgical techniques before dawn to midday and in the afternoons and evenings they toured around) that’s where she probably saw the first frosted cocktail. When we were young they got a governess for us, later we went to boarding school.

      Yes, Dad did practice what he preached. He died at 84 with a heart attack following a swimming event at the All Canada Senior Games in Alberta in ’99. He always said he wanted to go out with an ace in tennis but went out with a silver in breaststroke instead. Mom said it was okay He would have made a terrible patient. She passed at 87 also active to the last in 2005. They were married for 57 years.

  • Fran Lamusse

    Reply Reply February 6, 2011

    Being younger than you I was not in your group.
    But I did enjoy the waffles she brought to have with the cocoa at campfire!

    I am enjoying catching up with reading all your excerpts and will post more comments. You revive memories of lots of good times.

    • Diana

      Reply Reply February 6, 2011

      Fran, Those waffles! Mom brought that waffle iron back from Sweden and it was a novelty. They were fried in deep, deep, fat in a huge caldron. She taught our “cookboy”, John to make vast quantities of them for Guide camps etc. They were lovely drizzled with Lyles Golden Syrup I agree they went down well with steaming hot cocoa around the campfire. They were not on Dad’s list of approved foods needless to say. Campfire had a special magic about it with all the songs, skits and Taps a the end.
      Glad you are enjoying a jog to the memories.

  • John Nee

    Reply Reply April 4, 2011

    No such waffle luxuries for us! We had no make ‘twists’ or ‘dampers’ out of self made, much kneaded dough, sweetened with a bit of sugar. We rolled the dough into long snakes and twisted them around sticks from which we’d removed the bark. Toasted over a fire, they were supposed to provide a sweet ending, together with cocoa, to the evening meal . The stick probably tasted better than the burnt offerings we came up with!

    • Diana

      Reply Reply April 4, 2011

      I had forgotten about dampers. It’s terrific when my readers jog my memory. Dampers were a requirement for our hickers and cooking badges, which we did on day outings to Hillandale in the 50’s both before and after we built our house there and as you say they were pretty awful, depending on the type of fire you had produced. The smokey tea we boiled in a billy was always welcome regardless.

      I’m so glad you had a good scouting experience, and the memories are flowing.


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