Cape Town – Who knew that Polony Gatsby stuffed with chips and cut into three, bought just after the midnight jol at the Galaxy in Athlone, would be history in the making?
That is what Tazneem Wentzel, who graduated with a Master’s in history at UWC, did when she made the Wembley Whopper and the Super Fisheries Gatsby the subjects of her thesis. She submitted her thesis titled “Producing and Consuming the Wembley Whopper and the Super Fisheries Gatsby: Bread Winners and Losers in Athlone, Cape Town, 1950-1980.”
The Wembley Roadhouse and Super Fisheries in Athlone are popular outlets on the Cape Flats. “I chose to write my thesis on takeaways because I figured I should write about something I relate to. I have also always been interested in other ‘sauces’ of history. The family photos tucked away in my mother’s cupboard were my earliest historical fascination.
“I guess this curiosity for history outside the classroom has always fascinated me. Museums and history-making are in our kitchens and in our food. Also, I was working for the District Six Museum huis kombuis project and I realised that the Whopper and the Gatsby emerged at very particular points in history – that is, just after the forced removals, when people were re-establishing themselves on the periphery of the city,” said Wentzel.
The establishment of these family-owned takeaway outlets that catered for black consumers were made popular during the political and economic upheavals of forced removals in the 1970s. The thesis explains how the take-aways surrounding the Cape Flats have lived through the apartheid era and the various social challenges.
“Ideas of tradition and health became categories through which racial discourse was operationalised by both cultural and scientific agents of the colonial and apartheid state.
“Nevertheless, the Whopper and Gatsby represented culinary adaptations that appealed to a mobile generation of activists that challenged social restrictions and ideas about race and diet,” said Wentzel.