Culture of Koeksiestes

by Mymoena Daniels

Fast asleep. The dreaded knock on the door. Not another school day again! Time seems suspended.... Then: “Wie gaan koesiestes haal?” Slinking further under the blanket is interrupted. Sunday! Glorious Sunday morning means koesiestes in the Bo-Kaap. A wonderful assortment thereof. Spicy koesiestes, potato koesiestes, syruped with yellow coconut, or white coconut, sticky coconut in the centre, the choice is endless. So are the vendors. Aunty Beirie of Boeta Betjie in Bryant Str, Aunty Jaamie in Pepper St, Aunty Galiema Van Tanna of Pentz St, Laa of Boeta Happie in Rose St, Davids sisters in Longmarket St.

Origin of this culinary tradition probably derived from slavery days. Ancestors adopted the ‘koeksister’ they saw being made in colonial kitchens and adapted it with their own spices. Sundays were holy days and nobody allowed to work with all shops being closed, thus opening opportunities for bespoke home industries. Bo-Kaap bristles with them. Seemingly every second house.

Quickly out of bed and dressed, irresistibly enticed by the thought of getting a pasalla koesieste from Aunty Beirie. The queue is long but patient, eyewitness the rest of household still asleep. Kitchen shared by Aunty Beirie and Naa, toiling away independently, with former selling a smaller cheaper koesieste with white coconut, while the latter’s was larger with yellow coconut. Finally Aunty Beirie fills the proffered plate with steaming koesiestes straight out of the pan and wraps it with lunch wrap. Now for the best moment. The pasella gets pride of place on top. The walk home is deliberately long. Nibbling on a free koesieste is so much fun.

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