Peanuts, Cassava and Newspaper

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Footsteps, yarns and little fibs
Two more petty traders doing their best to make a living.

Submitted: September 07, 2016

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Submitted: September 07, 2016



 Sitting on the footpath just along from Naaz Hotel a pleasant woman used to sell delicious peanuts. I referred to her as ‘The Peanut Lady’ because to me she was a lady, a term not often awarded to petty traders. I can’t say I knew her by name, but I was a regular customer and we chatted small-talk from time to time.

I frequented Naaz because while it is a hotel with all the connotations of a hotel, it was a restaurant-cum-tearooms-cum-internet café, so I went there to read and send emails as well as partake their fine sweet, milky tea, samosas, rice cakes and other delectables. Their passionfruit juice was of note too!

The Peanut Lady only sold the long, red variety of peanuts, lightly roasted and salted. She measured out a little plastic tubeful into a cone made from newspaper and sealed it with a twist at the top. I was interested to know how she prepared them, but when I asked, I received only a sweet smile and ‘that’s my secret’ for a reply. I sort of knew because Mama Upendo prepared her peanuts in a similar way, by pouring salted boiling water over them and then dry roasting them in a pan. But The Peanut Lady’s were slightly different somehow. The curious thing was that when Tanzanians are eating peanuts, they usually do not eat the brown husk, they peel it off and generally leave it in a small pile on the table. The Peanut Lady catered mainly for locals, maybe touts or others servicing the tourist industry and I noticed they ate these red peanuts husk and all.

She never touted for business, her nut quality spoke for itself! Just the same, the polite, ‘Karibu’ was her first greeting whenever someone stopped to make a purchase. Her supply of nuts, prepared at home, sat tidily in an ungo basket, and on the little ‘table’ beside her were squares of newspaper ready to make her cones. Each little tubeful cost fifty shillings and two of them would fit into a cone. As a treat for my nursery workers, I would take them a coneful each – there would be questions if I failed to do so!

When I was but a lad, my Dad would send me to Sydenham on my bike with a bundle of newspapers on the carrier to give to the fish and chip shop man! It is no longer allowed because of the health risk, and I suppose that is fair enough. You never know, someone might sneeze while they’re reading the daily news! However, it fitted in with the economics of the day, the very same reason petty traders used newspaper as a wrapping. They have no alternative.

If I was not too late in the day returning from the villages or various meetings, I used to stop at Liganga to buy some cassava for a snack to take home with me. In her late teens or early twenties, this young woman had the knack of cooking and business expertise that would stand out anywhere in the world. She obviously scrubbed her karai, wok, clean each evening and used fresh oil each day. She too wrapped her product in newspaper and separately, as part of the purchase, she would wrap a chili/salt mixture as a dip for the cassava. There were a few people who would drift in when the bush telegraph spread the news I had cassava aboard!

It is difficult enough to scratch up a living, and securing a place in the towns or villages can be tenuous because councils move people along for their own reasons and perhaps because an official wants to favour someone else, or requires a fee. My hope is that these women remain adding vibrancy to lives of people who purchase their products. Good luck to them!

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