Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Powdered fun and feral children
There is special something about powdered milk, no? Spooning it straight out the tin into your upturned mouth like a baby bird. Cramming so much in that you inhale it and choke and splutter. Or mixing it into a paste with a teensy bit of coffee and eating it like that. I haven't done that for a while (oh, twenty years?) but today have rediscovered the joy of it.
Obviously there are different kinds of powdered milk. Nido is the best. Creamy and delicious and expensive(r). We had a monkey named Nido. He was not creamy and delicious. He was a menace. Klim is another kind. It is finer and squeaks in your mouth. This is the kind we'd usually have as kids. Of course we had no fresh milk. The shops were 6 hours away on a horrid road and you could literally - literally - buy nothing locally. This has changed a little now and there are a few brightly coloured shops along the main road in Mfuwe. Captain Biggie, Get Busy Enterprise, Kalawani Shopping Centre, Uncle Rich Store etc. They all sell soap and cooking oil and candles and washing powder and biscuits that taste of washing powder. There is even a market now that sells cabbages and egg plants and onions and green peppers and tomatoes. Beans and kapenta (teeny dried fish). And every now and then a watermelon. What a treat. But in those days there was nothing. We'd do a monthly shop from Chipata. Drive up on the bone skittling road and hop from shop to shop - mostly owned by Zambian Indian families - and buy everything in bulk. Everything packed in cardboard boxes that smelt of...yes, washing powder. And by the end of the trip, the back of the open pick up would be carefully loaded and tied on with leggen (strips of cut up inner tube) and sometimes covered in a tarpaulin. And when we got home everything, including ourselves, would have a fine layer of red dust on it.
Growing up in the bush I suppose we got to be pretty inventive when it came to sweets. When we had sugar (not only was this the middle of the bush but it was also the mass shortage Kaunda days) we would pour a precious amount into a pan and burn it to make hot brittle sweets that we'd suck until our tongues went raw. We'd fight with the baboons over the tamarind and muchenja fruits, and dig marula seeds out of dried elephant dung and crack them open on a rock to eat the tiny sweet nut inside.
But powdered milk was just the best. I would spend all day with a posse of friends from the village up the road, playing in the dust, digging for crickets, fishing with homemade line (made from mealie meal sack) and pieces of flip flop. And every now and then when no-one was looking we'd raid the powdered milk supply and cram in as much as we could before Iwomba caught us and chased us away with a curse and a shaking fist. We'd run off dirty and choking and laughing with flecks of white powdered milk on our dusty chins and bare chests.
Goodness, all I wanted to tell you really was that I was eating powdered milk today. But it seems that doing that - like a long forgotten smell from childhood - has cracked open the door on the past and brought in a rush of memories!
So that's what I'm doing right now. I am eating powdered milk out the tin and pretending I'm six again.
Milk powder is my ultimate comfort food. What's yours?