A thesis written by a females Master’s graduate from the University of the Western Cape (UWC) has tongues wagging due to its unusual focus subject – the history of the Gatsby, the quintessential Cape Town takeaway staple. Titled “Producing and Consuming the Wembley Whopper and the Super Fisheries Gatsby: Bread Winners and Losers in Athlone, Cape Town, 1950-1980”, the thesis is a study on the ties between food and history.
“I chose to write my thesis on takeaways because I figured I should write about something I relate to. I have also always been interested in other ‘sauces’ of history. The family photos tucked away in my mother’s cupboard were my earliest historical fascination,” Tazneem Wentzel, the graduate who wrote the thesis, said to IOL.
Wentzel is of the opinion that museums and history-making is in the food we prepare and consume, and found herself fascinated by the emergence of the whopper and gatsby. “I was working for the District Six Museum huis kombuis project and I realised that the Whopper and the Gatsby emerged at very particular points in history – that is, just after the forced removals, when people were re-establishing themselves on the periphery of the city,” she said.
These family-owned fast food outlets, which catered specifically to customers of colour, gained popularity during the political and economic upheavals in the 1970s.
“Ideas of tradition and health became categories through which racial discourse was operationalised by both cultural and scientific agents of the colonial and apartheid state,” Wentzel said. “Nevertheless, the Whopper and Gatsby represented culinary adaptations that appealed to a mobile generation of activists that challenged social restrictions and ideas about race and diet.”
Picture: Cape Town Travel