14 December 2011 by Robyn Campbell

Padkos, then and now

Padkos, literally, road food, is a time-honoured tradition when travelling around South Africa by car. More than a roadside snack, padkos is a ritual that provides a family an opportunity to eat together (and also to stretch one’s legs, escape in-car squabbles, and attend to the call of nature) on a long journey.

In our house, padkos was synonymous with school holidays, when for three weeks our entire household (sans the dogs) was packed up and schlepped to the coast or the bush or the berg.

Furthermore, before a journey was considered worthy of padkos; a full day’s drive was required. On shorter day trips or weekend escapes, where we reached our destination in 4 to 5 hours, we would make do with water, fresh fruit and those corn-flour-and-icing-sugar dusted travel sweets from tins.

On longer, 8 to 12 hour treks however, padkos was a necessity. My father was a “We’re not stopping unless we have an emergency” driver. In those days, not every little dorp (town/village) had a petrol pump, and the general stores, restaurants and tea rooms often closed for lunch, or shut shop at 1pm for lunch and closed at 5pm - sharp.

My mom’s homemade padkos kept our family from certain starvation, or at least the agonising “Are we there yet?” tummy rumbles.

To my chagrin, our family’s version of padkos never included any junk food. No sweets, crisps, cans of cool drink, hot dogs or hamburgers. Instead, we had homemade sandwiches (called sarnies or sarmies) on whole-wheat bread, fruit, biltong, my mom’s (famous) crunchie biscuits, and tea or water.  Occasionally, en-route, we would stop at a farm stall and buy dried fruit and mosbolletjies (aniseed-infused bread made with grape must) as a treat to add to our picnic.

Nothing got my gastric juices going as fast as the first click-tick-click of the car’s indicator, and the familiar sight of white concrete tables and benches (always under an acacia thorn, eucalypt, or willow tree depending where in the country you were travelling) because it meant my father had finally conceded to pull off the road for a rest break - yippee. I still remember gulping down hot thermos tea and happily munching peanut butter and apricot jam sandwiches like it was high tea at Fortnum and Mason.

These days, fast food has replaced the padkos of my childhood; and family tenderness it seems, comes in the form of refined and processed foods laden with sugar, salt, transfats and ketchup.

But padkos it is, and new generations are building their own family holiday memories with mouthfuls of Wimpy breakfasts, MacDonald’s burgers and KFC meal boxes. Far be it from me to judge their happiness…

Image is courtesy and copyright of the recipe site: www.eJozi.co.za



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