I start cooking at precisely 18 hundred hours every evening, or 6pm for those that follow the 12-hour clock. There are studies that suggest people should eat dinner at 18 hundred hours, and there are studies that say this is not necessary. When I told my father this, he’d said, “I eat between 6.30 and 7.”
My father prefers to use the 12-hour clock. But I knew he meant ‘pm’, which stands for ‘post meridiem’ which is Latin for ‘after midday’.
I make dinner every evening because my father believes that cooking is woman’s work. I told him there were no scientific studies that support his beliefs. He told me, “I don’t need science to tell me something that everybody knows. Men don’t cook unless they’re chefs. In the home, it is the woman’s job. Just those feminists got some people confused about how life works.”
I don’t believe him, but he’s my father and I have to do what he says until I get my own home. I have told him, “When I leave, you’ll have to cook for yourself.”
“I will find myself a new wife in good time,” he says.
I’m not sure any woman would want to marry my father if she finds out he just wants her as his cook and cleaner. But I don’t tell him this because I know it will make him angry. Lots of things make him angry.
I do have two older brothers, but they did not have to cook or clean, being boys, and they’re now men, married, and living in different houses. I once asked them if they make their wives do all the cooking. They didn’t tell me, only warned me not to make trouble with our father.
My sister, Senamile, used to cook and clean, too. But she left home last year when she got a job at the municipality. “Very good medical aid,” she said.
I miss Senamile. Our home was better with her here. But I can visit her on weekends when I need to. I just have to make sure there is dinner already made for my father to heat up. He is fine with that.
My mother cannot cook because she died of complications from diabetes type 2, three years, six months, and five days ago. My mother, unlike Senamile, did not have good health insurance, or any health insurance.
When I get a job I will make sure to get one with a good medical aid plan. Mr. Dubula, my science teacher, thinks I will get a bursary to university. He says he will help. We will see. Many people say one thing but do not actually do it. I have learned this.
“Do I smell broccoli?” my father says. He is sitting on the sofa in front of the television.
“No,” I tell him. It’s kale, because the broccoli was too expensive. But that last part I keep to myself.
“Good,” he says.
He is not going to be happy about the kale. But I’ve chopped it up into small pieces and mixed it in the potato salad, so he won’t notice it too much. Potato salad is high in starch, which is a problem with diabetes type 2. The clinic says he doesn’t have diabetes type 2 yet, but he is showing signs of prediabetes. So I only make potato salad once a week.
“You are a terrible cook,” he tells me, when I serve him dinner. He pokes at the bits of kale with his fork.
I don’t say anything. It will only start a fight. Like the time I told him, “If you don’t like my food then you can cook.”
He’d slapped me.
Senamile says I should stop trying to feed him healthy food. “If that’s how he wants to die, let him.”
But I don’t think she means that. He’s our father. We have to take care of him, even if he is mean and grumpy.
Tell us: What do you think of the common belief that women in the home should do all the cooking? Do you agree? Why or why not?