Thursday, June 13, 2013

Here a Tuck, There a Tuck, Everywhere a Tuck Shop

Growing up, especially when I was visiting my cousins and grandparents in the Bronx, everything always tasted better at the corner store. I could taste those delicious 10 cent egg creams right now---deeeeelicious! Those corner stores slowly faded, but the occasional one still around, is still absolutely deeeeelicious! Here in Botswana, we also have small corner stores called Tuck Shops. They are small food selling retailers, or quite informal convenience shops, usually run from home, though there are many next to important places like a clinic or the educational center where we trained in Kanye. To my dismay, there are no deeeeelicious egg creams, rather, the tuck shop foods here hardly meet any nutritional standard---and I swear---those Bronx egg creams were undoubtedly nutritional in my book.

The Tuck Shop though is the spirit of our village street culture here, and they are the people who create, innovate, and improve their lives. So, I noticed since the time I moved here, my neighbor and great friend wakes up daily to start making fat cakes, throws one to Keoki, and then lugs a big barrel of them and lollipops all the way across the village to make a small pula for the day. It looked so hard, greasing yourself up, stirring the batter, walking that far in this heat, cold, or crazy rainstorms. So I asked her one day why she couldn't get her own tuck shop, after all, her fat cakes are better than most around here, and we wound up having a long talk about succeeding in these parts. Well, the subject was dropped until about a month ago, she came to my door and told me she bought a tuck shop and was going to pick it up tonight. “What do you mean, pick it up?” Naively, I really assumed Tuck Shops, or any shops are built or bought at sight. Is this like moving a house from one town to the next? I was deeply confused!

Well, indeed, the tin tuck shop was delivered, and ok, naively, I gave her a week to set it up, and then I would come and take photos. I went---I was greeted with all sorts of huge smiles and hugs, inviting me in, watching the fat cake making, watching people make instant coffee, but there are no goodies in the shop, just fat cakes and coffee. I make some suggestions about getting tables outside, painting the shop, learning to make banana bread, and having a coffee shop/tuck shop with pizazz like nobody has seen before. Well, they love the idea and were jumping all over me! Now I have to figure a way to put it together in a short time.

I walked away feeling so proud for my friend, but the quirky side of me also thought that someone should make a reality TV show called the "Tuck Shop Ladies. " It would be so explosive, in one episode, the entire Tuck Shop owners would be made redundant, in another, an irate parent would hurl abuse at the new tuck shop owners for taking fat cakes off the menu in lieu of something healthier. Elimination episodes would take place where parents and TS owners would battle it out in the style of a Jerry Springer show. The stakes would be really high because a good tuck shop can make bucks---there would tears, award ceremonies, and of course cooking. Botswana would never be the same!

Keep dreaming Lynn---but the real message is that someone who had nothing took a chance of improving her life, it took courage, endurance, and strength, and when I went to sleep thinking of the tiny pie warmers in the shop and stuff strewn around, the people milling because of her popularity, I thought how lucky she is to have her tin tuck shop with the best fat cakes in town!  Now if I can only teach her how to make an egg cream!

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