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?

34 comments:

Mud in the City said...

Craving by any chance?

Childhood comfort food: has to be banana and brown sugar sandwiches. Mmmmmm. Haven't had those for other 20 years either!

Dumdad said...

I don't think I've ever had powdered milk.

Yes, Mud in the City, I'd forgotten about those wonderful banana sandwiches. Mmmmm, I can taste them now in my mind's eye, so to speak.

Angela said...

With me, bread with margarine and mustard was a treat (in after-war Germany). But once someone (maybe our relatives in Argentina?)sent us a huge sack of cornflakes. I had not known them before and did not see them again for a decade, but those were WONDERFUL.
Sorry we did not send you more sweets, daerie, but the postage was always so expensive! I`m glad Iwomba had powdered milk!

Miranda said...

Mud - ooh that sounds yum! We used to have a variation of that at boarding school - peanut butter, banana and syrup sandwiches. Delish!

DD - Ooh try it, try it!

Geli - This was all before we used to get those fabulous and exotic care parcels from Muti and Vati. Crammed full of sweets (minus the ones that the customs officials would pilfer!) What a treat those were. I usually sat down an ate all mine in one sitting though!!!

Jill of All Trades said...

Unfortunately I don't have just one. Just food is a comfort food for me and that could be my problem. LOL.

tam said...

laughing so hard. I never got yr powdered milk thing. Then again, i used to drink meat vinegar! Enjoy it dear. Much as you want.

Miranda said...

Jill of all trades - heh heh. Someone said I needed extra protein for my growing baby and they lent me a book that had a list in the back of high protein foods. You won't believe how delighted I was when I saw powdered milk on there!

Tam - yes, you and your vinegar. Remember the little tea parties we used to have with salad dressing, or was it just pure vinegar? - instead of tea. Yuk!

Lizzy Frizzfrock said...

Yet another fascinating story by Miranda that is so far outside my understanding that it seems ... fantastic, not real.
I read your story of Iwomba; how very touching it is.
Such memories and talent for the telling them coming from someone as young as you is truly a gift. I cherish your writings and believe you should put them into a book of short stories ... Reflections of Miranda Growing Up in the Bush.

Mia Watts said...

Hobes and Babaganouche. Would lick my fingers clean of the paste and bread powder. Tempeh crip fried with chilis and crunchy garlic. Powdered milk, yes, mixed with malted milk and peanut butter, sometimes honey. Would suck on those until my tongue felt raw.

fush and chips said...

This sounds gross, but it rocks. As kids in the Transkei we'd peel an orange, cut it into cubes, then liberally pour milk powder over it.

Try it, you'll love it.

Miranda said...

LF - Ah thanks, if I ever write that book I'll let you know!

Mia - what IS Babaganouche? I've always wondered...

Fush - that does sound gross but I'll CERTAINLY try t!

fush and chips said...

Do, do. You'll never look back

Mia Watts said...

Roasted eggpant, de-seeded and soaked in cold water to remove the burn. Blenderized with lemon, salt, pepper, olive oil, tehini, and GARLIC. Served with Hobes (Arabic bread like Naan, flatbread).

tam said...

Did i write meat vinegar? Now that is truly gross. I meant NEAT vinegar. sis man.

Angela said...

You had me wondering about meat vinegar! Although neat vinegar does not sound much better.

Reya Mellicker said...

I'm doubly embarrassed - first to admit that I've never had powdered milk, secondly that my comfort food is risotto.

yikes!

Lori ann said...

Risotto is also one of my comforts food, it's heavenly.
We ate powdered milk when we traveled around Mexico, we used to call it camping milk.
I loved your descriptions Miranda, you gave us everything but the smells...
so glad to hear your eating!
love, lori

Miranda said...

Fush - oh I shall. I'll let you know!

Mia - that sounds MOST delicious. How did I not know of this when eggplant was the only thing we could get? I shall try it. Yum.

Tam - hahahaha! I hadn't noticed that. Now meat vinegar would be pretty gross

Geli - true, neat vinegar is not much better, Tammy used to drink it all the time! Yuk

Reya - oh risotto needs no excuse, explanation or embarrassment. Yum yum yum

Lori - camping milk! heh heh, I guess it is! Thanks...

Shiny said...

Boarding school treat - Marie biscuits with marmite on them. For some reason they tasted like Tempo chocolate bars (maybe we were just starved?) Eating lots of powdered milk can only be a good thing for your little growing baby! I was about to google meat vinegar... x

tam said...

oh you've reminded me of marie biscuits with condensed milk!

Tessa said...

Yes! And I love the way Nido tastes in tea when you're on safari.

We used to make sherbet from Enos and iceing sugar at school. (I also put Enos in the Matron's chamber pot once, but never did find out if it fizzed up when she had to make use of said pot!)

Biltong is my favourite comfort food. Hmmm.

Rob Inukshuk said...

Great post Miranda. Love the store display. I'm so taken back to my childhood days in Zim where the only sweets to be had were Freddo Frog Chocolates, and some bubble gum that turned stringy after merely moments in the mouth. Yuk.

So, Maries with condensed milk or icing sugar were a good substitute and sometimes we would raid the pantry and sprinkle "decimated" (decicated) coconut on them.

Of course biltong and droe wors were a staple snack and still are, even here in Toronto.

Ernest de Cugnac said...

I loved both powered milk and condensed milk, and stole my share of both. The best powdered milk was Klim (milk spelled backwards, how original).

When I first went to university I spent some of my allowance on my very own tin of it, and ate enough to change the colour of my, er, stools. But it *cured* me.

Ziongirl said...

I have had powdered milk and it's not bad..... but as a child I grew up on a large farm and we always had plenty of fresh milk. Favorite comfort food for me would have to be pizza, any flavor....any style.

Janelle said...

chocolate chocolate chocolate, pure unadulterated chocolate, yes please. more than just a comfort. a complete neccessity for living, in my books. xxx j

Antler said...

Condensed milk........yum!

as a solo ingredient - and now it comes in tubes, perfect!

In the old days of tins...heaven = a small hole and suck suck suck...

I can go with powdered milk too - if I have to!

Miranda said...

Tam - oh yes Marie biscuits and condensed milk. A picnic staple.

Tessa - gracious, now there's a good idea!! Biltong rocks

Rob - oh yes, I remember that chewing gum!

Ernest - hahahahaha! Boy, I'm going to try that - eating so much until.....hahahaha!

Ziongirl - oh yes, pizza's good!

Janelle - well, obviously

Antler - hey, long time! Condensed milk sucked out of a tin is still one of my favourite pastimes. And of course you can't leave any or the ants get in...

Miranda said...

Shiny - marie biscuits and marmite? Really? I'll have to give it a go along with Tim's oranges...

SafariB said...

Milo - dried Milo!!!

Biltong is too dangerous around me. I once ate so much my wisdom teeth got infected & I could barely open my mouth wide enough for a teaspoon... and STILL I wanted more biltong! Addddict!!

Dry Nido, condensed milk, corncurls, poisonous Oxalis leaves, mashed potato on bread, Oh and what about that dried orange juice stuff that came in little packets.. but once we found a huge maggot in the half eaten packet - eugh!

BlouKous said...

You have such an amazing gift with writing. Your stories jump off the page - so well written. If you ever wrote a book I would hopefully get my hands on a first edition.

As to comfort food. Pasta (any, spaghetti, shells, maccaroni, ANYthing) with loads of cheddar cheese and all gold tomato sauce stirred into one big gooeee heap. Comfort never tasted so good.

Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) said...

Powdered milk - no, don't think I could do that. Childhood comfort food, a 5c packet of Simba chips and on the rare sugar craving days, Cadbury's Chocolate Log - oh yes and Pecks' anchovette paste on toast with my granny. Enough, before I get nostalgic.

Love the images you paint with words!

Chimera said...

Brilliant post and just look at the wretched food memories vomited happily up by all! Wow! I an with tessa and SafariB on the biltong addiction. Also ate it until my jaw siezed up. And the dry MILO! I can get it at my local supermarket now in UK. Strange when it was so VERY special back then.
A classic post you brilliant thing you!
T xxx

Chimera said...

Brilliant post and just look at the wretched food memories vomited happily up by all! Wow! I an with tessa and SafariB on the biltong addiction. Also ate it until my jaw siezed up. And the dry MILO! I can get it at my local supermarket now in UK. Strange when it was so VERY special back then.
A classic post you brilliant thing you!
T xxx

me, myself, I said...

Here from God knows where in blogland - love what I see and read...
Funny reading that you love milk powder as a comfort food - after all these years, every time I see/smell milk powder, it reminds me of my precious childhood in W Africa...I guess if I was into comfort eating that's what I'd choose..:)