Food, eh. What a ridiculous concept. We pay a fortune for it, shovel great steaming heaps into our gaping maws and then, a few hours later, it comes out the other end in a terrible state. This is how our bodies reward us. They demand the finest cuisine, then convert it into the most appalling of by-products. Ungrateful is an understatement.
I went to a supermarket the other day because my selfish stomach was complaining that it hadn’t been fed in, like, four hours. It was the supermarket that only rich people shop in. You know the one. My brain seems to feel better when it’s surrounded by the moneyed classes. I took it to Shoprite once and it wasn’t happy at all.
I tend not to loiter in the vegetable department because my body doesn’t consider that to be real food. Sure, it’ll go through the motions and do its revolting conversion trick, but it can’t be fooled into thinking veggies are anything more than a curtain-raiser for the main event. I can stuff it with a kilo of beans, carrots, potatoes, pumpkins and elephant yams and afterwards, my alimentary canal will begin vibrating in anticipation of some real food. The alimentary canal is like the Panama Canal, with ships coming out the end of one and, well, you get the idea.
Right, that’s the biology lesson over. Let’s get back to food. And the outrageous amount of money we’re expected to fork out for it. Skipping the veggies, I went browsing in the fridge section. I say browsing, but it was more like shuffling from one end to the other, shaking my head and sighing audibly. The rich eyed my trolley, laden with a packet of bananas, and gave me a wide berth.
I never grew up swimming in cash. Unless my parents really were wealthy and hid it from me. Given my propensity for sponging from a young age, that would’ve been the sensible thing to do. When dishing up supper, my mother would always help herself last and it would be the smallest portion of all. She’d say she wasn’t hungry. It was only many years later that I put it together. Fish fingers and fishcakes made a regular appearance. Tasted like fish. Could’ve been cat food, I suppose, but then what was the cat eating? Maybe we were all eating cat food. That would explain my childhood penchant for climbing trees, sleeping in the sun and hissing at people who tried to touch me.
Anyway. So there I was, at the fishcake fridge after not having had a wage increase in years. R260 for two. I laughed harshly, scaring a woman with the face and physique of a thoroughbred. “That’s R130 per fishcake!” I shouted. They weren’t, as you might imagine, fishcakes the size of Frisbees. Just your normal, bog-standard fishcake. Smaller than a hockey puck. What were they made from? Coelacanth?
Yes, there were slightly cheaper fishcakes in the less salubrious area of the fridge. Presumably aimed at the millionaire rather than the billionaire market. I took a packet of the ones made from lower-class fish – the ones who went to the aquatic equivalent of a government school – because I knew if I didn’t, there was the very real risk of arriving at the tills with only bananas in my trolley. The judgemental looks would kill me.
This chainstore claims to have donated, in the last year, a billion rand’s worth of food that passed its sell-by date. Maybe they wouldn’t have to if their prices were less obscene. And, to be fair, if Eskom didn’t keep shutting the power off. The company has a rule that anything outside the cold chain for longer than eight minutes is unfit for sale. But, presumably, still fit for the homeless.
Before you start feeling sorry for this company, let me tell you that they have just posted a 7% increase in turnover, to R85.7 billion, and a 30% increase in before-tax profit. Revenue from their food section alone rose to almost R42.5 billion, most of which came from their fishcakes.
Food inflation, generally, is twice the inflation rate for other goods and services. So don’t be fooled by retailers’ hard-luck stories. They’re coining it. And yet, a recent report says nobody has complained to the Consumer Commission about the soaring price of food.
“They complain among themselves or on social media,” said a man in a white coat. Of course they do. Complaining to any agency connected to the government is futile. Should we complain that we can’t afford salmon, the fisheries minister would respond: “Let them eat hake!” That’s the signal to start the revolution.
Meanwhile, a food security crisis is looming. At my family home in Durban, my father has installed bolts on the kitchen cupboards to keep the monkeys out. That kind of security is fine if you actually have food in your cupboards. My father has more of a monkey crisis.
It’s only going to get worse. I don’t know about you, but I’m going to start growing my own chickens and fishcakes.