South Africa: A Sticky Story - the Journey of Mebos


Sweetly salty and sour at the same time, mebos is a love it or hate it comestible.

The author supports Yeoville Meals on Wheels who distribute food parcels to the elderly and needy.

Close your eyes and imagine the definitive taste of Cape cuisine. Perhaps the creamy comfort of umngqusho comes to mind. Maybe it's a coconut rolled koesister or snoek braais on the beach. For me, sweet-sour-salty cylindrical slabs of dried apricot mebos induce regionally specific drooling delight.

Not everyone agrees. More than Marmite, mebos is a love it or hate it comestible. For some the robust, layered flavour profile of the brined then sun dried and sugared apricot is deeply disconcerting. Others argue that sensory confusion is precisely the point. Either way, mebos offers insight into the South African story.

Fruit has been sun dried at the Cape since time immemorial. Renata Coetzee's A Feast from Nature describes Khoi-Khoin traditional preservation methods for wild fluweelrosyntjie berries (Grewia flava) suurvy (Carpobrotus acinaciformis), t'samma (Citrulus lanatus) and !Nara melon (Acanthosicyos horridus) which were: "Cut into pieces and cooked without water until they melted down into a thick syrup. The syrup was then spread on a flat rock to dry in...

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