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.