There is a house in Zone 4 Diepkloof, that is the busiest house in Soweto. Any time you pass this house, you will see people sitting outside, laughing and talking.
As you know, Learn and Teach does not like to miss a party. So we went to find out what all the people were doing there.
As we opened the gate, we smelt food cooking. Behind the house we saw a tin shack. And under a tree, people were sitting, eating food and laughing.
THE MONK HIMSELF
A big man came out of the shack. He came up to us and asked us what we wanted. At first we felt a bit scared. Then we told him that we were from Learn and Teach and that we wanted to know why so many people came to his house.
“My name is Bra Monk Mojatau ” the big man told us. “And this is my restaurant. If you want food, you are at the right place. And if you want a story, you are still at the right place.”
FOOD FROM A BICYCLE
Bra Monk started by telling us how he got into the food business. “I started selling food in 1982 when I came out of ‘university’,” Bra Monk said. We looked at him. He did not look as if he had been to university. Then we realised that he meant prison.
“I had no job,” Bra Monk went on. So I built myself a fireplace. And I bought some pots to cook with I used to cook the food at home. Then I loaded the food onto my bicycle and rode around, selling it.
“During the week I sold my food at schools. And at weekends I sold it at shebeens, stokvels, at Orlando Stadium – anywhere where lots of people came together.”
CAN A MAN COOK?
“At first people laughed. They said, ‘What does a man know about cooking?’ But soon they were coming to my house to buy food. So I built a shack to cook in. And now people come from all over Soweto, just to eat my ‘specials'”.
“I do everything myself – I cook, I dish the food up and I wash the dishes when people finish eating. We don’t use knives and forks here. People eat with their fingers.”
NO ‘WOZA-WOZA’ FOR MONK
“Some people say I am using ‘woza-woza’ muti to bring customers to my backyard. But that is not true. People come because I cook well and my food is cheap.”
We looked around while Bra Monk was talking. There were a lot of people sitting around in his backyard. A man shouted out, “How about a story, Bra Monk?”
But Bra Monk carried on talking to us. “I have no music here,” he said, “But I don’t need music. When my customers get bored, I tell them jokes. Some people just come here to hear my jokes.”
“I have a special price for school children. I charge them one rand a plate for ‘Cuchamba Special’- pap and meat. Lots of school children eat their lunch here.”
“All sorts of people eat here,” said Bra Monk proudly. “Coal sellers, taxi drivers, people with no jobs. But I don’t care who my customers are. It doesn’t matter if they have suits or overalls – they all have stomachs and that is what is important to me.
“Some of my customers are really funny. There is one fat coal seller who eats more than three of my other customers put together. School kids call him ‘Sgantsontso’ after the green man on TV”.
“I cook many different dishes. I make ‘Three Quarter Vegetables and Pyapya’. That is vegetables, pap and pork. Then there is ‘Mr Porky’ – a spiced pig’s head.” We asked Bra Monk to tell us more about this ‘Mr Porky’ dish.
“The first time I made ‘Mr Porky’ I cooked a pig’s head and put it on a tray for everyone to see. But people just laughed – no-one bought it. So I put a pair of glasses on the pig’s head. The trick worked. Now ‘Mr Porky’ is a favourite.
NO CLOSED OR OPEN TIME
“There is no open or closed time here. People come at any time. I start cooking at four in the morning. People start coming at six o’clock for breakfast. And they do not stop until midnight.
“Week-ends are my busiest time. My bra, I do not sleep. Many people want food before they have a drink. Shebeens do not sell food, so people come to me.
“Some of them come in the early hours of the morning. I want the money. So I wake up and give them food. But I understand. I also sometimes have a drink. I know what it is like to be hungry in the middle of the night”.
Monk showed us that he really knew how to tell a story. When Monk finished, we asked him what he dreams of. Monk told us that he hopes to make a lot of money. Then he will buy a caravan and sell food from it. He plans to call his new business ‘Monk’s Meals on Wheels’.
There was only one more thing to do at Monk’s Kitchen – try the food And that was what we did. It was hard to decide what to eat. But in the end we asked for ‘Mr Porky’s -they were delicious!