Reed Holler, North West Province. South Africa.
27. April 2012.
South Africa’s answer to the American doughnut is the fatcake, known in Afrikaans as the vetkoek and in the Setswana as legwinya (pl: magwinya). Magwinya are not as sweet as their American cousins, made instead from a simple yeast dough without a lot of sugar and fried in sunflower oil. Magwinya can be eaten with spread with jam, dusted with cinnamon and sugar, or wrapped around mince or atchaar. However, I prefer my magwinya as most South Africans do: plain, along side a cup of sweet, strong tea.
In Reed Holler, an old gogo makes magwinya from her home, rising in the cold before dawn to knead and fry the dough. Though I have bought magwinya sizzling with oil right in her kitchen, I simply know her as MaGogo, or Grandmother – by which I address all elder women in the village. Every morning, her grandson – a friendly young guy named Thapelo – wheels a wicker basket full of the fried treats around Reed Holler’s dusty streets, selling them at one Rand (about fifteen cents) apiece.