In my mind’s eye, I see Mando Jamnda standing over the hot wood stove in her grandmother’s house in Katlehong, a township in South Africa. She is laboring over a pot of chakalaka, the ubiquitous South African dish that punctuates many a meal.

Her mother, Khali, my best friend and housemate, and I watch her chop cabbage and grate carrots before putting them into the pot to simmer. She adorns the  vegetables with pungent spices that elevate its humble ingredients to epic proportion. As we sit drinking KWV at the kitchen table, it is hard for Khali to restrain comment on her daughter’s efforts. Like many mothers, no matter what her child does, it will never be “all” right. Mando, being the independent person she is, rebels at her mother’s admonitions. The serene grandma Lehoko, in whose kitchen we sat, presided without comment, a twinkle in her eye.

Mando died of AIDS some years ago, but this picture will always remain in my heart.

This evening, I made chakalaka to take as a gift to American friends I will soon visit in Virginia. They will have no idea how much emotion and history imbues my effort.


½ cup oil (peanut)
1 large onion (chopped)
4 plum tomatoes (chopped)
6 carrots (grated)
4 cups cabbage (shredded)
1 can beans in tomato sauce (optional)

½ cup water (hot)
2 tbs bouillon (beef)
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper (black)
1 tbs pepper (crushed red)
1 tbs curry powder
1 tbs ginger (crushed)
1 tbs garlic (crushed)
1 chili (chopped fine)


DISSOLVE beef bouillon & baking soda in water
ADD other seasoning; MIX well & SET ASIDE
HEAT oil in a medium skillet
SAUTE onion until soft
ADD carrots, cabbage & tomatoes
ADD seasoning & MIX well
SIMMER until vegetables are cooked through
ADD beans; MIX well; SIMMER until they are warmed
SERVE hot as a side dish/relish or poured over maizie meal, ting, or dumpling



1 Comment

  1. hlomies said,

    6 November 2014 at 3:40 am

    I have a similar picture everytime I cook in that kitchen. ❤️ Thank you for such a fond memory. Hope your friends enjoy the chakalaka.

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