A Winter Potjie Kos

Dylan Miles • 2 June 2019
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It is now winter in Cape Town and something I look forward to on a cold Cape Town winter Sunday is sharing a lamb potjie with my family.

Last Sunday I arranged with my Dad to meet early at my house to begin preparing for everyone to arrive in the early afternoon. A potjie is a cast iron pot used to slow cook a type of layered stew over many hours and a well known favorite dish in South African.

Both my Mom and Dad arrived early in the morning and the first step is to get all the ingredients ready. This is a process because my Dad tends to get distracted and go off on enthusiastic tangents. I tend to want to control him and focus on one thing at a time and my Mom is asking what she can do to help when my Dad and me are as clear as mud! lol!

What we can agree on is that we should start the fire, so while my Dad tends to this I start laying out the ingredients in the order I think they should go and set my Mom to chopping up the larger vegetables.

When my Dad comes back from starting the fire the negotiations begin and after a while we have agreed on an order to the ingredients. Phew!

I then set myself to grinding up the spices in a mortar and pestle my Mom gave me years ago which I find calming while my Dad starts preparing the potjie and adds the first ingredients.

I can see in my Dad's enthusiasm a familiar pattern of trying to prove his value to those around him.

One of the things I have learned over the last years of attending ISM Retreats and Courses is about my own sense of self worth and how much of my behavior was driven by trying to prove my own value to those around me. Through this I learned how to simply claim my own value rather than trying to prove it. I also learned that this is a journey of a life time!

Having remembered this, I can let go of having to control my Dad and we settle into a steady rhythm of adding layers of ingredients over the hours using a stop watch to let us know when it is time to add the next layer.

In between layers, I take a walk around my garden with my Mom. I ask her how it is going with Dad and can see her slump a bit and her eyes roll back as she talks about his latest behavior. 

I feel my self getting pulled into a Mother Son conspiracy which I luckily recognize in time and tease her by asking her how she is encouraging him and pointing out that he is only trying to prove himself to her! Lol!

As another layer gets added I take a walk with my Dad and we sit on the deck and talk about the pergola I have been building which is nearing completion. As we chat he has all sorts of advice about what to do which I absorb and neatly side step a feeling of inadequacy that rears up in the face of his enthusiastic onslaught. I laugh quietly to myself realising all the good advice I must have missed just because I have been interpreting it as me not being good enough.

The potjie is bubbling away and most of the layers are in and the rest of my family have arrived. Salads are made, the table is laid and we all sit down to a delicious potjie kos.  

The conversation turns to memories and my parents start sharing about their parents and so we start to trace back the behavior of proving our value and in the end it turns out it was all my grand mother's fault! Lol! But wait, as we explore another generation back we find out it actually was her father's fault! Lol!

And then, suddenly looking around the table at my family I realise how far I have come in my journey to becoming human. From being lost in my head, building castles in the sky here I am home with my family having shared a delicious meal, a moment of connection, conversation and laughter.