Hungry Travellers Love Their Padkos

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By Surihe Gaomas GOBABIS The smell of mouth-watering steak draws you to the fireplace. Despite the heat and smoke from the crackling fire, the sight of delicious meat cooking inside the three-legged black pot makes your visit to a bus stop area in Gobabis a worthwhile experience. Situated ideally along the roadway to Tallismanus just on the exit area of the town is what one could call an open meat market. Here, the business is meat. Bellowing smoke is a common sight as the almost ten Ovaherero women make fire to cook what to many in the Omaheke region is considered a delicacy. Sitting under the shade of a huge tree is Silvia Kambato, who for years now has been selling cooked meat to passengers on long-distance taxis at the bus stop at the corner of Kerkstraat. “Everyday customers come and buy my meat and vetkoekies and it’s really a tasty padkos (food for the journey) for them,” said the young woman with a smile. Everyday, together with other women, she comes here as early as seven o’clock by taxi to make a fire. Unpacking her plastic bag full of steaks of meat and placing them in the pot, Kambato is glad that this is another day. With luck, she hopes to cash in on the many travellers who frequent the Big Tree before boarding buses or taxis bound for out of town. The town of Gobabis is known as the Cattle Country because of its quality beef from surrounding farms and here people love meat. “The Tswanas and Hereros love to buy meat from me,” says Kambato while stirring the pot attentively with a wooden stick before placing the lid on. Prices are fixed at N$6 a piece. However, for a bigger piece, one has to fork out a bit more. A single mother of an eight-year-old boy, Kambato is happy to support her family with the N$250 she makes a day. Competition is stiff at times especially at the end of the month. Customers simply pass by their with loads of cash and prefer to spend elsewhere because they can afford it. A few meters away is Ujanua Marenga who prefers to sell a whole plate of food instead. “People are sometimes very hungry and it’s better to offer them the whole package,” said Marenga washing her hands next to her pot. Such a dish would normally include meat, macaroni and salad. Marenga is not intimidated by the high competition from neighbours who sell almost the same dishes. “The secret lies in the type of spices you use and how you spice your food. It’s only when you have the hang of this that you’ll know whether your customers love your food or not,” she added, fanning the smoky fire with a black plastic lid. For most of these women the meat is bought at the town’s butchery. However this is not a favourable option as it can be costly. As in the Herero tradition, the slaughter of cattle for fresh meat from the communal areas and bringing the meat to town is a much better venture, because then one can make huge profits. Yet, whatever way it goes, for this group of women at the corner of Kerkstraat, it’s always business as usual.

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