When I finished reading Nelson Mandela’s memoir, there were many things that stuck with me. One detail in particular, rattling around in the back of my mind, was the Xhosa tradition of leaving milk in the sun to sour it. Apparently this makes it easier to digest for those that have mild lactose intolerance and is common practice for the Xhosa people.
Mandela related a specific incident involving this spoiled milk while on the run from authorities. He was staying in a safe house in a white area, and without thinking, put some milk on a windowsill to sour. A couple of laborers noticed it and remarked, “Why would a white man put milk in the windowsill? We are the only ones that do that.” Nelson was spooked by his near discovery and left for a new hiding place that very night. Interesting, I thought, and yucky. But, I mused, sour milk is absolutely perfect in baking, cakes and… pancakes.
“Yes, pancakes,” I said, “I resolve to make Mandela Pancakes. I will call them Mandela Pancakes, and I will sing an African Folk song while I make them. Nel-son Man-del-a, Nel-son Man-del-a. ”
Yesterday, I zipped out on my bicycle to fetch a small carton of whole milk for the purpose of spoiling it. I left it out the entire day in the hot Caribbean sun, the sides bulging as gases pressed on the waxy cardboard container. I picked it up several times to check it, shaking it for good measure and when the night arrived, I opened it and took a whiff. It was there, yes it was, that faint sweet acrid smell of spoiled milk. Aha! Tomorrow, we shall have Mandela Pancakes, and they will be delicious. “Nel-son Man-del-a, Nel-son Man-del-a,” I sang, and the kids laughed. I then told the story of how he was almost caught because of his soured milk.
Who knew the things one can learn from a man on another continent? And it is suggested to me that these things we learn, the serendipitous delights of interconnected knowledge, are made possible by diversity, by embracing the pluralism we find everywhere. And the pancakes? They were delicious.