My biological father left when I was very small, and my mum married again when I was two – so “Dad” to me is, unsurprisingly, the man who raised me.
Biodad has been in and out of jail his whole life for various financial scams, so it was no great loss that he vanished out of our lives well before my older brother or I could hope to remember anything about him. I was in my mid-teens before it came up in conversation that he was South African by birth, and had only moved to Australia with his family as a young adult. This was cool because it means I’m half African. (White South African, clearly. . . When I visit Indonesia people ask to take photos of me because they’ve never seen someone so white).
*Abrupt change of topic*
I’m known for my pancakes. My sister used to ask me to make them for her when she visited from Perth, and when I decided to quit all paid work and give writing a full-on go back in 2001 I lived mainly on pancakes (with margarine instead of butter and using powdered milk, one can eat pancakes two or three times a day with lemon and sugar for about $5/week) for several months. It didn’t even put me off pancakes.
At the child care centre where I work, two of our cooks are South African and the main lady in the 1-year olds’ room is from Finland. When my Finnish co-worker talked about how she was looking forward to making cloudberry pancakes on the weekend like she used to do in Finland, one of the cooks talked about how South Africans love to make very thin pancakes, cover them in cinnamon sugar, then roll them up and eat them as the cinnamon sugar melts into a syrup.
It so happens that the pancakes I make are extremely thin – almost see-through – and I like cinnamon sugar on toast enough that I have cinnamon sugar pre-mixed in my cupboard. For the first time ever, I felt I had a connection to the country that gave me half of my DNA. I actually misted up.
Naturally, I celebrate this new-found “family tradition” with pancakes and cinnamon sugar – cooked paper-thin and rolled into a tube to eat. Because that’s what we South Africans do.