I’m assuming you’ve heard of BYOB. Well, what about BYO napkins, utensils, and plates–to a restaurant? Neither had I. That is, until I ate at Mzoli’s Meat.
When most college juniors think about a semester abroad, they imagine eating gelato while floating down a Venetian canal in a gondola or eating croissants at a café on the Champs-Élysées in Paris. So when I tell you that, instead, I’m eating meat with my hands in Gugulethu, a township on the outskirts of Cape Town, bear with me.
When my friends and I arrive at Mzoli’s, we order our meat right away, because it can take up to two hours for it to be ready. We order boerewors, a spiraled South African sausage, along with chicken legs and lamb cutlets. We take our raw meat around back, where there are eight wood burning and coal powered braai fires (braai is the Afrikaans word for barbeque), and leave it there with the cooks.
In the meantime, we head across the street to the kitchen of a neighboring house where we buy 750mL bottles of Black Label beer for less than two American dollars each. We buy glasses, since Mizoli’s doesn’t provide these, from the vendors lining the street selling cups refashioned from liquor bottles. Next, we stop at the corner shop to pick up appetizers—fried dough balls. If their name, “fat cake,” is any indication of the calorie count, I don’t even want to begin to imagine it. But these fat cakes taste unreal.
Mzoli’s hosts live bands and DJs and eventually turns into a block party of sorts. While waiting for our meat to cook, we join the hundreds of people who are dancing in the streets outside of the restaurant. Locals dressed to the nines join the tourists after attending church. There are people of varying ages, races, and intoxications. We play and dance with the cutest little girl, Lisa, I ever did see.
Our meat is finally brought to a table on a huge platter, served with a chopped tomato and onion relish, and pap, ground maize boiled with water. The meat has been rubbed with spices and doused in a secret sauce, the ingredients of which, just like a good magician, Mr. Mzoli won’t reveal. We all grab a piece of meat with our hands, and realize it was so worth the wait. I might even dare to say it was finger lickin’ good considering our lack of napkins and silverware…
Lucy Dana is a junior at Duke University, currently spending the semester in Cape Town, South Africa where she is trying to muster up the courage to conquer the world’s highest bungee jump. Read More…