Woolworths TASTE - - Restaurant Staff Dinners -

STAFF DIN­NER chicken stew and pap

Pap is as es­sen­tial as wa­ter to the daily meal here and as long as there is meat to go with it, it’s a good meal rem­i­nis­cent of home-cooked fare: sim­ple, savoury and sat­is­fy­ing.

The old­est staff mem­ber in the kitchen is af­fec­tion­ately re­ferred to as Un­cle, and he’s sort­ing to­day’s chow: chicken stew and pap. This isn’t an un­wanted task for him; there is great joy for Un­cle in mak­ing the food for ev­ery­one and it feels ap­pro­pri­ate that the el­der is the one to nour­ish the young hearts. Whisk­ing pap for a whole team of hun­gry peo­ple is a phys­i­cal task and one of the taller chefs comes over to lend a hand.

Many a wooden spoon has been lost to the great pot of pap, I’m told.

Whisks fare bet­ter, but are not in it for the long haul.

Un­cle teaches me a new trick: scoop­ing per­fect rochers of pap (a half quenelle to you and me) with a side plate. He dishes up the plates demo­crat­i­cally and ev­ery­one col­lects and shuf­fles out­side to rest their bones. Un­cle sits down last, po­litely picks up a spoon and glances up at his kitchen fam­ily to see them gig­gling at him. I im­plore him to re­lax and pro­ceed as nor­mal, even though this is the first time they are be­ing pho­tographed do­ing what they do daily. Some­how, be­cause some­one is now tak­ing pho­to­graphs of their meal, it has been el­e­vated above a mun­dane act, and high­lighted as a glo­ri­ous com­mon thread that peo­ple share ev­ery­where. Nour­ish­ment. Fuel. Life.

So Un­cle sets down his spoon and puts his hand into the cloud of pap he has just pre­pared. Rest­ing his el­bow and sink­ing into his ta­ble­side pos­ture, he scoops up the fruits of his weekly labour. Chef Jack Coet­zee asks me if I have the recipe and I re­ply that they had given it to me writ­ten on a till slip with just five main in­gre­di­ents. He asks if one of them if Ra­jah curry, which is in­deed on the list. “Ja, they won’t do any­thing with­out that,” he says. I guess that makes it an Ur­banologi clas­sic.

Clock­wise from above: A kitchen brigade that eats to­gether, works well to­gether; tra­di­tional pap and chicken stew; Un­cle serves the sta­ples.

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