Left-Over by Julie Nxadi
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Left Over

I know the difference between umbeko and scraps.
Umbeko is always planned. Deliberate. Thought through.
I could always recognise a good breakfast when I met it the night before. Samp and beans slow cooked from 3pm, potatoes, onions and a beef stock cube dropped in at around 5, and then every fifteen minutes after that, another layer, another texture, another taste added until six thirty when they would all meet my young eyes as an ensemble.


A different time.


It’s been ten days since Christmas so I know there is still chutney and Aromat in the cupboard and pig fat in an enamel cup in the fridge.
Drink a cup of water. Drink another.
Now drop a dollop of pig fat in the middle of this soupy, sampy goodness and stir.


Drink more water.


Add a spoon of chutney now. And then sprinkle the aromat across the meal like they do in the adverts.
One more sip of water.
Now have a spoon. Two spoons. Five. Eleven.
Wait! Remember breakfast.


In the deep of the night somewhere behind my dreams my mind anticipates the treasure I left in the fridge.
Warmed in a pan (with more pig fat) chased down by a cup of sweet, black Ricoffy.
“Kha’ndi phe mntase?”
Oh dear cousin, I would love to share this treasure with you, but (I raise my knotted fingers), unfortunately I called niks before I went to bed last night. The rules are the rules but don’t tell Makhulu I ate alone.


I know the difference between umbeko and scraps.

A different place.

My aunt is climbing out of the taxi after a long day working at the Checkers Deli.
“Yho nanku u-Mama wakho”┬ásome kid shouts to my cousin. We scramble into the house to make sure it is in order. We straighten the couches, fix the doilies on the table, make sure there are no dishes in sight, and then switch on the kettle so that by the time she opens her eye from her “end of the day” sigh, all she sees on the shakey coffee table before her, is a tray with a cup of tea prepared to her taste.
We have to make her as comfortable as possible before we break the news to her:
We finished the bread by mistake.
My cousin lets her down gently. But surprisingly, my aunt does not shout. Instead she reaches into her bra and pulls out a twenty rand note. “Thenga iiloaf zibeyi two”




My cousin looks at me confused and excited, before she takes the money and darts out the door.
My eyes fall onto my aunt’s hand bag which she carelessly tossed onto the table when she arrived. I notice a plastic bag tied tightly and packed full of cooked bones and skins from the rotisserie chickens they make at Checkers.

(They scrape all the meat off to make chicken salads and pasta and other fancy things and then my aunt collects the bones and skins and tells the white people at work that she has dogs. They would probably fire her if they found out that we are people.)

I rush into the other room where the rest of my cousins are sitting.


“Oh shit yall” I whisper.


All their eyes widen.

It’s scraps day!
We do a silent dance anticipating the skins folded in fresh Sasco brown bread and the snap and crack of the bones as we suck out the marrow.
“OH SHIT” my cousin yells. We shush him (my aunt is a christian woman). He gathers himself and announces that there is still Cross and Blackwell Mayonnaise in the fridge from when we made potato salad.


And guess what else?




Our dance becomes more athletic, we kick our legs and gyrate. We know that we will feel sick at the end of the night. We always do on scraps day. But that is just another difference between umbeko and scraps.

Julie Nxadi is a South African storyteller who is currently a Masters fellow at the Centre for Humanities Research at the University of the Western Cape, completing her degree within the English Literature department Creative Writing program.

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