Everyone knows someone who locks food away as if it’s some title deed to a mining claim. The kitchen will be empty and you’ll see food items coming from the direction of the bedroom area. Me, personally, I then reject said food. No matter how hungry I am. As a matter of principle, I will refuse to eat it.
This blog post isn’t about people who do not have pantries. I’m talking about someone intentionally locking up food, knowing full well that there are people in the house. I’m talking about self-appointed wardens who keep food imprisoned. I genuinely wanted to ignore it but I have seen this in too many homes. It took so long to write this blog post because even up to today, I still don’t have the answers that I’m looking for. Is it stinginess? Is it learned behaviour? Or could it be trauma?
Lack is the real trauma that we should be talking about. Some African politicians suffer from this trauma. You grow up with nothing and when you get the chance, you take everything that you can because that lack you experienced is still there inside of you. It’s this insatiable void that doesn’t get satisfied even as you plunder all the nation’s resources. And that inner child inside of you that knows what it’s like to go to bed hungry, never wants you to feel like that again. It’s the same concept when people who actually have surplus food lock it away in a trunk or in cupboards. They are doomsday preppers. They stay prepared just in case we wake up tomorrow and the apocalypse is here. I joke, but you get the gist.
Growing up in a house where you have to stretch resources can be a contributing factor. Think about it like this, when you eat a plate of sadza, you have to manage the meat and the veggies to ensure that you won’t be left with just sadza in your plate. White sadza on its own is bland. The same way you manage your plate, is the same way you need to manage your groceries. This is fine. Where is gets toxic is when you start ukubalela abantu ukudla (keeping count of how much people eat). My dad used to say, “it’s fine if the food runs out as long as people are eating it and not throwing it away.” But in this economy, it sounds kinda privileged to say something like that. The stress of knowing you don’t have enough resources can make anyone snap. A parent can genuinely be upset that you finished the Mazoe in the first week of the month because honestly, they can only buy it again next month when the wages come in. This is such a difficult concept to try and explain to kids. And the kids end up carrying forward the concept without properly understanding why or how it came about. So even if they’ve made it in life, they will still take stock of how much people are eating.
No one can tell you how many grains of rice you’ve had better than African aunties who manage food at funerals or the ones who save the top soup for the select few at weddings. You’d think they are managing resources to make sure everyone gets fed but these are the same people who steal the food for their own homes. I know this because the last funeral I went to, an aunt exaggerated quantities so that she could have, “food for the Sabbath.”
My dad used to hate it when we went to him to ask for something that he would have bought. He used to say food in the house is for everyone. He didn’t believe in food items having a name and a surname, such as “Thembi’s Cheese” or “Dad’s Coke.” He used to tell us about how the Zulu people would take in strangers from far and wide and give them world-class hospitality. Obviously, this was back then when stones could be pinched. If kindness can be learned, can stinginess be learned too? Could people hide food because they grew up in a household that also did the same thing. Do they even understand why they grew up in a house that did that?
In some homes, refusing to give someone food is a form of punishment. It’s cruel and sadistic but that’s the intended effect. Children who grew up in homes like this carry this forward to their own children because they believe that’s how it’s got to be. You denying yourself food (dieting or fasting) is discipline, great, but withholding food from others, especially children, is witchcraft. Don’t know how else to put it. Let’s be clear, I’m talking about people who have the food and still let kids go hungry.
I saw this wild story about a woman who was mad that her maid ate two eggs. Firstly, if you have to count your eggs, you have no business getting a helper. Having a helper is clearly a luxury you can’t afford (blog coming soon on this). I grew up in a house where our helpers ate what we ate in the same plates we ate in. I once had a landlady who would keep a plastic kaylite outside (where the cats slept) and she would feed her gardener from it. He would wash it and place it right back until his next meal. I was revolted. The truth is, many people are treating the help this way. Withholding or locking the food away so that they can’t have it. Yes, some of them do steal and you need to secure the groceries but leaving absolutely nothing for them to eat all day? Repent please.
I’m gonna tell you the truth, my mom had to hide away food because I was the WFP in my neighbourhood. I would hand out that food to anyone who needed it, authorised and unauthorised. If you grew up in Waterford you know this. It wasn’t because we had a lot. It was because my mother was organised and was always adequately prepared for the future. As an adult, and knowing how much groceries cost, I know now why she was always upset with me.
Using food as a weapon is one of those generational curses that we keep passing down our bloodlines. We need to dig deep and self-analyse to get to the origin of this issue. Why are we so stingy? Why do we keep doing it? Why do you do it?