Let them eat fruit! (and other revolutionary ideas)
It is late summer, early morning. That hour when the street lights still have a vague purpose, if only to put pressure on the grid and cast a long shadow over municipal expenditure. I take to the twilight streets, loosely disguised as a morning jogger who just happens to be dragging a long wooden pole that ends in three gnarly hooks. It’s actually an old broomstick and discarded garage nails fashioned into a weapon but in this light who can tell. And besides, I am a woman walking the streets of South Africa. It makes sense for me to be armed tooth and (rusty garage) nail. Sadly. But I can’t claim that purpose now. My mission today is more suited to the shadowy hour of its doing.
You see, for two Summer seasons now, I have been waiting and watching as the resident Pomegranate tree comes into fruit, lauding its bulbous baubles over me like a Christmas tree I can never quite reach. I pass it on foot. I stalk it by bike, trying to build up the courage to climb the wall that will boost me into the branches to claim its precious rubies with my trembling fists. But I fall short, of chutzpah if not height. So instead I use my fists to punch the sky and curse the Gods for gifting this tree to neighbours to lazy or stupid to stand on a ladder and pick the tree before it goes to seed, which its does, every year. But not before the birds take a few stabs at it, just enough to force it into spilling its red guts to the ground, like a bloody scene from Dexter. You get the point. I am half mad, half sad. Because it’s not the only street or tree in Tamboerskloof (and I dare say Cape Town) to be wasting its valuable wares when its owners or neighbours could be picking, juicing, preserving or gifting its figs, lemons, guavas, avocados and mulberries they are charged with. Yes, our neighbourhoods are rich beyond the double garages and exhausts that populate them. So I don’t get it. Food security is a real issue. So is unemployment. Could we not marry the two and have neighbourhood fruit stands and juice bars pop up every season? For the benefit of others. (Our car guards? Homeless?) It makes me madder than the South Easter to see rake-thin bin pickers dig for discarded food, devoid of nutrients, when our neighbourhood trees are literally dripping with Vitamin C. You can probably tell that I am but an Avocado tree away from pelting the houses with their fallen fruits. Let them eat (stale) cake!
Personally, I have no qualms picking any fruit that hangs onto the street. I make sure I share them with neighbours, friends and passersby. That is their right if not my duty. Granted it takes some getting used to – a woman with a homemade weapon trying to push fruit onto you on your way for a drink at the Power and Glory. It’s not hip or hipster. Some have looked at me like the wind must has gotten to my brain, not just my hair. But I don’t mind being old fashioned. When did being resourceful and street savvy become unfashionable anyway? They won’t be laughing at me when we start importing fruit (our own back) in Dollars and Euros. R30 for an avo anyone?
But today I am on a special mission to claim the prize that has eluded me for so long, the ruby in the urban foraging crown – pomegranates. I have had to fashion a new stick, with bigger teeth and longer limbs. Even the long arm of the law has never been so long. It’s economic emancipation at its most rudimentary. Have you seen the cost of pomegranates? R26 for a small punnet at Checkers. In season, nogal. I could fill three punnets off of one fruit. And so I do. Many bags over until the Summer days do us part and the Autumn rains start. Which reminds me… mushroom foraging anyone? There’s no time (or food) to waste.