Eating Authors: Nick Wood

1 Comment » Written on June 20th, 2018 by
Categories: Plugs
Nick Wood

[[a glitch in the software kept this from automagically posting when it was supposed to. Sorry about that. Just pretend everything you see below actually came out on Monday. -LMS]]

This past Tuesday was my last day at the DayJob where I have parked myself for the past seventeen years. The next day, I flew to China. In theory, I’m still there and this is posting automagically because I set it up before I got on the plane (according to a related theory, I’m flying home tomorrow). So, yes, lots and lots of change happening here, some of it scary, some of it exhilarating. Bottom line, I am committing myself to the proposition that I am now a full-time writer. I’ll keep you posted as to how that all works out.

Meantime, you came here to read about yet another author’s most memorable meal. And you’re in luck, because this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest is Nick Wood and his meal begins with murder!

Dun dun dun! Insert commercial break here.

Before we get to that, you should know that Nick has done a fair amount of travel himself, in a wide range of cultures and societies. He was born in Zambia, and lived there and in South Africa for more than three decades. He also worked extensively in New Zealand. Currently, he and his family reside in England where, when he’s not writing, Nick works as a Research Tutor on a Doctoral Training Course in Clinical Psych.

Nowadays, that writing tends more to short fiction, including stories set on the moon which reach both into the future and into the past.

LMS: Welcome, Nick. Talk to me about your most memorable meal.

NW: On a hot summer morning, I watched my most memorable meal be murdered in front of me.
Four men stood around, holding the cow’s upper thighs, one also holding the head, while a fifth man cut the mottled brown cow’s throat. They held her body up as her legs buckled, trying to keep her head steady enough to bleed mostly into the bucket placed beneath her neck, but some blood sprayed onto the grass in the paddock, where I stood nearby.

As the flies moved in, I moved out.

This was all happening on a farm near umGungundlovu (or Pietermaritzburg) in the kwaZulu Natal Midlands, South Africa, during the State of Emergency under apartheid in the late eighties. The farmhouse was rented home to (mostly white) local University students, who, like me, were doing postgrad studies and were opposed to the political status quo.

Azanian Bridges

Next to the farmstead was a local village headed up by an induna (traditional leader) and they were collecting the cow as part payment for work they had been doing on the farmer’s land. (We were not sure about the details of labour and their residential arrangements, but in the Western Cape/Cape Town where I had come from, local ‘coloured’ farm labourers had been paid via the ‘dop’ system. Essentially a bottle of wine to keep them happy and servile – and, needless to say, domestic violence and foetal alcohol syndrome were rife in those communities at the time.)

We had approached the induna about a party we were having that night, to tell him that if any of the villagers wanted to join us, they would be welcome. He had just laughed at us, as if we were crazy. The party itself was a subdued affair for the first couple of hours, the eighties Afro-fusion music good, but the food and company generally not keeping up with it.

And then there was a commotion down by the arch leading up onto the property – a dozen or so men and two women had arrived, some men carrying drums and guitars, the women carrying meat and mealie pap in Tupperware containers. I joined Chris, our own house ‘induna’, while he persuaded some of our current guests that the group of villagers had indeed been invited, and were to be made welcome.

The Stone Chameleon

Eventually, several of our white guests drove off in a huff and the villagers came into the house, offering us well cooked beef and pap – which is a Zulu maize meal, a variation with texture and look akin to, but not quite like, mashed potato.

I had to ask, though.

Yes, it was the cow we had seen being killed earlier – but she had been well cooked.

“Yum yum,” said one of the women, offering me a piece in foil, with a twinkle in her eye.

I took the warm piece of meat, hesitating for a moment.

But you know what – it was indeed ‘yum yum.’

The tape machine got switched off, as four of the villagers took up band positions with their instruments on the patio and started to play mbaqanga music.

People danced and ate – and danced and talked.

A cow has never tasted so good since then.

Thanks, Nick. I’ve sworn off beef for more than a year now, but I suspect if I were present at a cow’s demise, I’d feel obligated to have a taste if it were offered to me.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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