Slice Of Life: With everything you do, you must just have patience

Asa Abrahams, 90, remembers very well what she cooked on that day: panang curry, beef biryani, roasted chicken and yellow rice. (David Harrison)

Asa Abrahams, 90, remembers very well what she cooked on that day: panang curry, beef biryani, roasted chicken and yellow rice. (David Harrison)

I’ve been cooking for 60 years now. I started with my mother. We used to walk from Bo-Kaap all the way to the harbour to sell cookies and cakes she would bake. Then she started catering for events.

One day, social workers I had cooked for before asked me to cook for an event. I can’t remember where exactly it was – I just remember it was a huge hall. And Nelson Mandela would be attending!

I remember very well what I cooked on that day: panang curry, beef biryani, roasted chicken and yellow rice.

I wasn’t really nervous because I believe that with everything you do, you must just have patience. But I became nervous when they asked me to make a speech after the meal – I am very shy. I was also thinking: ‘Here are all these big people and here I come – what am I really going to say?’”

But I had a photo taken with Madiba. I am a very simple person, so I felt very honoured to have my picture taken with him. I can’t remember what he said to me but I remember asking him to please be a good president for the country; for our people.

I still cook for weddings, funerals and other functions. I cook things like denningvleis (lamb stew served with rice), Malay curries in 60 litre pots, various kinds of biryani, frikkadels (traditional meatballs), and yellow rice. The funerals are sometimes up to 300 people and I also help serve the food. I once cooked for three weddings in one day. That was for about 5 000 people.

My cooking made meeting Madiba possible. It is really the love of my life.

Asa Abrahams, 90, as told to Carl Collison, the Other Foundation’s Rainbow Fellow at the Mail & Guardian

Carl Collison

Carl Collison

Carl Collison is the Other Foundation’s Rainbow Fellow at the Mail & Guardian. He has contributed to a range of local and international publications, covering social justice issues as well as art and is committed to defending and advancing the human rights of the LGBTI community in Southern Africa. Read more from Carl Collison

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