Depending on how you look at it, Friday night’s live political cook-off between four major Western Cape parties was either further proof that End Times are nigh, or a welcome descent into silliness during a fraught election season.
There was certainly something about watching ANC Western Cape secretary Faiez Jacobs earnestly mashing potatoes while wearing an apron emblazoned with President Cyril Ramaphosa’s giant face that brought on the giggles.
And while most of the predominantly Muslim crowd watching the Radio 786-organised cook-off at the 2019 Ramadaan Expo seemed in good spirits, there was one exception: ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte, who joined the fun as a spectator, wore an expression of “one is not amused” at various points.
Battling it out over frying pans were Jacobs, the Good party’s Patricia de Lille, EFF MP Nazier Paulsen and a little-known former provincial DA Youth leader, Reagan Allen. All four were provided with chicken, potatoes, spinach, aubergine, fresh cream and a variety of spices – and given around 40 minutes to cook the best dish they could manage. The politicians received assistance from four trainee chefs at a local cooking school, but judging by the results the help was insufficient in certain cases.
De Lille kept her head down from the beginning, busily chopping and frying, and responded to MC Tashreeq Truebody’s banter at one stage with: “I’m busy cooking, hey!”
The EFF’s Paulsen, by contrast, could not be persuaded to shut up, maintaining a constant stream of sledging directed at his culinary rivals.
Paulsen explained that he was cooking a “nice creamed spinach” because he had just returned from some weeks in the rural areas “so under-developed by the ANC” that a decent meal had been impossible to find.
His jabs at the other parties arrived thick and fast, much like his spinach. Paulsen mocked the DA for fielding a Western Cape Premier candidate – Alan Winde – who is “only a Matriculant!”
Paulsen’s suggestion that the DA was “disgustingly racist” prompted a peal of delighted laughter and applause from the ANC’s Duarte in her audience seat – one of the few moments where Duarte appeared uplifted by the spectacle.
The DA’s Allen did not rise to the bait, beavering away at his frying pan, but he did find time to accuse the ANC of having “orchestrated protests” in the run-up to elections.
“We haven’t got the time,” yelled back Duarte.
Allen received a rebuke from the organisers for having a friend in the audience taste his sauce.
Asked how his cooking was going, the ANC’s Jacobs replied that it was “always well on track”, adding: “We always keep our promises”.
When the time was up, all four were required to plate their fairly underwhelming-looking dishes for blind tasting by the judges.
“That looks nice, Aunty Pat,” Jacobs told De Lille kindly. She did not respond.
Paulsen was not so high-minded. Pointing at Jacobs’ dish, he announced: “The ANC is dark in the middle and white on the outside!”
De Lille’s dish, described by her as “Honest to Goodness Chicken”, was judged by the three professional chefs tasked with evaluating the meals as having a “pretty good” balance of flavours, though the chicken was “a bit dry” and “could do with more spice”.
The DA’s Allen had done party stereotypes no favours by delivering a fancy potato rosti and chicken dish, which was described as nicely textured but undercooked on the potato and aubergine fronts.
Paulsen had termed his dish a “Moroccan hot pot”, damned by the judges as bland and overcooked.
“Whatever this is,” commented one judge, circling the plate disparagingly with her fork, “has no flavour”.
A “rich and creamy mash to complement the chicken stir-fry” served up by Jacobs also came in for a bashing.
“This isn’t mash just yet, it’s raw potato that’s been blended,” was the judges’ view.
While the judges deliberated on the winning dish, the politicians were given the last opportunity to make a punt for Cape Town’s voters.
“For residents of the Western Cape, we are probably all feeling this election needs to come to an end already,” said the DA’s Allen with admirable candour.
Paulsen’s appeal to the electorate was based on the fact that the EFF was the only party present which had not already governed – and in his view, messed up – the Western Cape.
“As the ANC, we are a non-racist, non-sexist party,” said Jacobs. “Vote ANC. Shukran (thank you).”
De Lille finally got out of the gate with some political smack-talk, announcing: “We are sick and tired of the DA’s blah blah. We are sick and tired of the EFF effing around, and we are sick and tired of the ANC’s BS!”
The judges returned with a unanimous decision. De Lille’s dish was the stand-out winner, with Allen a “close runner-up”.
The quality of the dishes supplied by the EFF and the ANC were judged to be so much worse that they “did not come close at the polls”.
Before it all wrapped up, De Lille had a complaint.
“They say I’ve got an advantage because I’m a woman. Are they not sexist?” she asked.
Paulsen, as ever, was ready with a response.
“We’re not sexist, we’re sexy,” he said, grinning. DM
"We spend the first year of a child's life teaching it to walk and talk and the rest of its life to shut up and sit down. There's something wrong there." ~ Neil deGrasse Tyson