Gender politics of cooking pap spreads needless fear

Stifling gender roles may just be the culprit to keeping certain talents and passions hidden, the writer says.
Stifling gender roles may just be the culprit to keeping certain talents and passions hidden, the writer says.
Image: gstockstudio/ 123rf

South African men like complaining about the quality of pap as if they can even braai.

How many of us have had to bite through charcoal-infused meat at a braai because Ntombi's boyfriend thinks he's a braai boss? Meanwhile, he had an opinion on how women should cook pap.

"Hey chief, if your girlfriend doesn't know how to cook pap then you're done for boy! Uzodlani?"

The politics of whose girlfriend cooks pap and who's boyfriend braais the meat is always entertaining. I find it sad that my fellow people are so obsessed with gender roles. Men do the braaing and women cook the pap and all the other chores. No questions asked.

But what if Steven is actually a better pap master and Ntombi is the true braai master? Now, because everyone conforms to stifling gender roles, his true passion remains undiscovered.

But even within the different gender divide, some women have it better than others. For example, some women get to show up in heels while other women know they're going to end up washing the dishes and cleaning up after everyone. But you don't mind because all of his friends are calling you mamakhe and "our wife".

Usually, by being the woman designated to cook the pap means you have some kind of social currency (of course this is debatable; I think it just means you're a bari).

However, this means while you're slaving away in the kitchen the other women seen to have a different kind of social currency are actually enjoying the braai. Charcoal-infused meat or not. They're having a drink, getting some laughs all while keeping their makeup intact.

And what about you? While you're trying to make the pots happen, you're also dodging the boiling hot mixture that's shooting out of the pot while your face beat melts off because of the steam.

While you're questioning if this is what your parents sent you to the city for, the boys outside haven't even managed to get a decent fire going or it's a raging inferno that needs to be tamed.

But Steven is also under pressure. Deep down he knows he's not the best person to braai but he needs to perform masculinity for his friends or risk being roasted for the rest of his life.

But I guess I may just be projecting my own fears of cooking pap onto everyone else. I grew up in the Sepedi and Ndebele culture which is very particular about how pap is cooked.

My mother would check out the consistency and question how it was cooked and if the temperature of the water was good enough. Was the mabele or mielie meal whisked properly?

Did you give the pap enough time to breathe? Did you turn it properly? This unfortunately made me avoid cooking it because it truly is an art form that I have not perfected.

If you fear cooking pap like me then the best bet is to stay far away from Northerners like Pedi, Tsonga and Venda men. Rather find a soul mate in a Nguni king who only cares about the meat on his plate.

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