20 years ago today, I baked a big batch of bran muffins and headed for the election station where I was working – the first ever democratic South African elections were underway. To be honest, I cannot remember what I was actually being paid to do, but I do recall chatting to people in the long queues, making sure they had some form of identity document and sharing the muffins with my fellow workers.
The most vivid memories are of suburban ladies who had brought their domestic workers and gardeners along with them to vote, standing patiently in the queue and then, the moment that the first black person actually came in and cast a vote. It was an old lady and she had to be helped to make a cross. I get goose bumps just remembering it now and recall being in tears at the time. We were in no doubt that this was a very special day. In this digital era of photographing EVERYTHING, I can’t believe we didn’t take a single picture – or maybe cameras weren’t allowed in polling stations? With right-wing bombs going off all over the place at the time, I guess security must have been strict. I did steal a couple of IEC banners once it was all over – so this is recent picture of a 20 year old (amazingly good quality) banner!
The bran muffin recipe was given to me by Paul’s mom and I used to bake them often – especially when we had kids around for the holidays and tea time seemed to follow just as soon as we had cleared up after lunch! I loved the fact that the mixture could keep in the fridge for a few days, just scooping out into muffin tins when you needed a fresh batch. As you can see it is a well-thumbed page in my recipe book and comes highly recommended.
While I didn’t bake bran muffins to celebrate the 20th anniversary of this day, I did invite my pals Gill and Antonia for lunch.
I decked the table out with my stolen banners and napkins in the colours of our gorgeous flag. I served up lovely local produce, including this season’s sugar beans grown near Richmond. I thought this really appropriate as Richmond was one of the most violence torn and scary spots in KZN before 1994 and how wonderful it is that nowadays small, rural farmers are able to produce good food in peace and offer it for sale.
There were brinjals roasted with African spices and served with yoghurt, garlic and mint. Despite originating in South America, sweet potatoes (ubathata) are a staple in many South African households so seemed right for the occasion too. I tossed them in fried sage leaves and toasted sunflower seeds. A bowl of bright, crisp lettuce just picked from the garden added the very necessary green element.
Sparkling wine was needed for this celebration and I was enchanted when the guy at my local wine shop recommended Steenberg Savignon Blanc. The label is all wrong for champagne – bright orange and busy – but with a big proud RSA in the middle, I couldn’t resist! It was really delicious too, a nice new discovery.
After a week of utterly glorious weather, it got all cloudy and cold today, so disappointingly, lunch moved indoors. Gill and Antonia and I reminisced about those heady days of standing on street corners with banners demanding the kids be released from jail, of marching to free Mandela, being able to spot a security cop in a concert crowd, of terrifying violence and so many refugees, meeting so many international journalists and human rights activists who were here to watch the drama unfold. We all found it astonishing how quickly the time had flown and how there were young people born since 1994 who would be voting for the first time this year. My friend Nkululeko was born in April 1994 – his name means “Freedom”. He has written an account on his blog which is quite delightful – enjoy it here: http://nkulusworld.wordpress.com/2014/04/24/your-vote-your-voice/
Cheers Sunny SA!