Abassie se warme worsies

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Last Saturday was a bone-chilling and wet morning. Many have been saying it’s the coldest winter they’ve experienced here in Cape Town. I think this hyperbole must be true. After a long week of turkeying and shivering, suddenly my mind snapped, and I thought, “I actually have lus (a craving) for a warme worsie (warm penny polony).”

There is something so intricate and special about going to a butcher, reaching the glass cabinet, glaring at the various kinds of meat, stating your order, watching the items get weighed and finally paying – in fact, many of us develop strong bonds with our local butchers. I can still vividly picture how every Friday I would be sent to our former Biesmiellah Butcher in the Bo-Kaap to buy sausages, viennas and mini-steaks, because it’s somehow imbedded in us as Capetonians not to cook on Friday nights. And how my father and I would drive off to this butcher to purchase this type of meat, and then jet off to another butcher to get our hands on that other specific cut – agh (ah), you know how we as humans have our quirks. And I’m pretty sure that you have a similar story of how you have connected with your favourite butcher that you have been supporting for years – but this story is not about nostalgia. Instead, this story actually takes place on a whim.

So, last week, as I ran through my mental rolodex, I remembered how my mother has always mentioned “Abassie’s worsies”, a staple in her home as a child. Ironically, she never carried on the worsie tradition with us as I grew up, so, with spiked curiosity and the intense urge to satisfy my cravings – or the “lussies”, as many say – I drove to Adams Moslem Butcher, colloquially known to many as “Abassies”, at 41 Coronation Road, Walmer Estate, here in Cape Town.

As I approached the butcher, instantly the bold and colourful paintings on the outside walls struck me. With interest, I stared at the intricate art. A familiar and nostalgic feeling engulfed me, although I had never been to the butcher before. I entered the relatively quiet space, with my stomach yearning to eat the much-anticipated warme worsies. Finally, as I reached the counter, a woman with kind eyes stated, “Maaf (sorry), we are sold out. We only sell worsies every Wednesday and Thursday.” But before I strolled out of the butchery in disappointment, I turned around, because in my heart I knew that there was a story I needed to tell.

The intricate wall art and paintings outside of Adams Moslem Butcher in Walmer Estate

***

Today is Wednesday, and yes, I’ve returned to Adams Moslem Butcher to officially satisfy my “lussies”! Luckily, I’ve missed the morning rush, and caught the butcher at a quieter time. I enter through the single door frame, and as I step onto the little mat, I’m welcomed to glowing smiles and that distinct butchery aroma. There are two people in the queue in front of me, and as I wait, I imbibe my surroundings. Finally, after not that much waiting time, I edge forward, and Boeta Ashraf Johaadien stands ready to take my order from behind the counter. Instantly, he remembers my face (from the other day), and he returns peace and salutations upon me. But, as I mentioned, I haven’t come back to Adams Moslem Butcher merely for worsies – there is a story that I need to hear before I can place my order. I need to know more about Abassie and his famous warme worsies!

“‘Waar is Abassie? Waar is Abassie? (Where is Abassie? Where is Abassie?)’ is the first thing newcomers want to know,” relays Boeta Ashraf Johaadien, the current head of the butchery, with a slight giggle. No! Boeta Ashraf is not Abassie, a common misconception. Instead, he explains that Abass Adams, rahmatullah alay (God have mercy upon him), was actually his maternal grandfather.

“When new customers come in, just like yourself, it is actually because the parents or grandparents would say, ‘Gaan maar Abassies toe (Go rather to Abassie’s (butchery)).’ Of course, when they first arrive, they don’t know that Abassie actually passed away many years ago.”

The late Abass Adams in his lounge at home

Boeta Ashraf then further reveals that his grandfather, Abass Adams, was originally from India. After he settled in Cape Town many, many years ago, he opened a butchery in Hanover Street, District Six.

“Abassie’s surname was originally Dansay, and his father was Adam Dansay. When he came to Cape Town, they changed his surname and he became Abass Adams,” continues Boeta Ashraf, as he recollects his memories of his late grandfather. “Also, Abassie originally spoke Urdu. Would you believe it if I said that he didn’t write or read in English or Afrikaans, but he could write words like ‘chops’, ‘mince’ and ‘meat’?” asks Boeta Ashraf, as he points to the different meat items on display. Eventually, as he stops at the sausages, he comically adds, “When customers ask to buy our boerewors (a popular type of South African-styled sausage), ek sal somtye nonsens praat en sê dat ons het net Slamse wors (I will sometimes joke and say that we only have Muslim (ie halaal) sausage)!” We simultaneously laugh at this comment. Hey, I love being around funny people!

The late Abass Adams at his former butchery

Although Boeta Ashraf has been working in the Walmer Estate Adams Moslem Butcher franchise since 1991 – which accumulates to approximately 32 years now – he takes me back to the good ol’ days, and he starts to reminisce about his childhood.

Ek is amper sestig jare in dié besagheid (I have been in this business for almost 60 years). As children, back in those years, we had to go work over our weekends and holidays. At first, I had to work outside. Ek het al die skaapkoppe skoon gemaak (I had to clean all the sheep’s heads) –” Boeta Ashraf pauses to think, and after a moment, his piercing chartreuse eyes light up, before he continues, “en al die pens en pootjies (and (I had to clean) all the tripe and trotters)! At that time, it was about five cents an ox trotter; now, it’s a delicacy,” he comments, with his laughter filling the space between us. “I actually enjoyed myself back then. Then, when I became older, I could move inside to mix the meat. Daai tyd het hulle gesê dat jy moet met die oeg steel (back then, they would say that you must rob (and learn) with the eye). So, I would watch how everything was done. Sometimes, when the guys would get tired or go on a break, I would just go and try my luck with the meat and the machines. Finally, when I was maybe about 17 years old, I could work at the front of the butchery.”

Pictured left to right: Shanaaz Adams, Fatima Salie, Achmat Salie and a young Ashraf Johaadien

I’ve been learning that the older we become, the more we lose our idealistic view of the world, and the same goes for Boeta Ashraf. Sadly, his childhood memories are interrupted with the damages caused by the apartheid government.

“With the introduction of the Group Areas Act, the District Six branch of Adams Moslem Butcher had to close down. Abassie did manage to open other butcheries in Surrey Estate, one near Strand, in Manenberg and in the town centre (which still operates).”

We stop our conversation for a moment, realising that too much time has passed, and we have actually forgotten about the worsies! Boeta Ashraf asks me for my order, and I kindly ask for R100’s worth. The order is written down on a piece of paper and passed to Aqeelah Johaadien, Boeta Ashraf’s daughter. As I await my order at Aqeelah’s till, Boeta Ashraf steps out from behind the counter to hand me the worsies wrapped in a white sheet. I ask him to explain to me, and most importantly to you, my dear reader, what exactly a worsie or penny polony is – without giving away the secret recipe, of course!

Aqeelah Johaadien, Boeta Ashraf’s daughter, 40 years old, sits proudly continuing the legacy of her great-grandfather, Abass Adams.

“A worsie is almost like a sausage, but our worsies are already cooked. Meat is, of course, stuffed into a casing. With sausages, we use sheep casings, but with our worsies we use ox casings. Of course, we put dye in the pot to give it the red colour. In other words, a worsie is almost like a vienna, but thicker and with more meat inside.”

Boeta Ashraf Johaadien, 67 years old, holding today’s batch of warme worsies

A close-up of the bundle of worsies held by Boeta Ashraf

There must be something extra special about Abassie’s warme worsies that has made it so popular and sustainable after all these years – the writer in me is dying to know the secret ingredient of Adams Moslem Butcher. Again, without revealing any secrets, Boeta Ashraf instead provides me with a valuable life lesson that he heard from the well-known Abassie himself: “You can rather charge a man a rand more, but don’t ever give him stuff you wouldn’t eat yourself.”

Boeta Ashraf jokingly admits that it is because of age that he cannot remember all Abassie’s exact words of wisdom, but he reveals another valuable life lesson.

“He had this saying printed out – something about, ‘You can work eight hours a day for the boss with no worries; once you become a boss, you work 24 hours with all the worries.’ I can still picture it.”

He laughs. Before Boeta Ashraf and I depart, he stops at the entrance of the butchery with his left hand on the side of the door, and I ask him if he has any final words to share with you, dear reader.

“It’s important for the readers to know that if they can’t make it to Adams Moslem Butcher here in Walmer Estate, they must kanallah (please) support my cousin, Anwar Adams, at the Manenberg branch of Adams Moslem Butcher, or my other cousin, his elder brother, Sameer Adams, in the Mitchells Plain town centre – both continuing the legacy of Abassie and his warme worsies.”

Boeta Ashraf Johaadien at the entrance of his butchery, reflecting on his life

***

After much anticipation, I return home with a fat parcel of Abassie’s warme worsies. With much excitement, my mother receives the worsies as she prepares the table – the same way her Oemie (grandmother) once did.

“I remember clearly how in the ’60s, when I was a child, each Friday one person had to go buy Abassie’s worsies for all our surrounding neighbours in the flats here in the Bo-Kaap. The worsies used to cost a penny, but in those years, we didn’t refer to the English currency by its proper names; locally, we called a penny ‘’n ôlap’, or in suiwer (pure) Afrikaans they would say ‘’n oulap’. I believe that’s where the name ôlapworsies derived from,” relays my mother, Abieda Soeker, as she looms over our kitchen table.

“The moment the neighbour would deliver the piping hot ôlapworsies to our home, the table would already be decorated and laid with atchar (spicy pickled vegetables), blatjang (chutney), gesmoorde uiwe en tamatie (braised onions and tomatoes) and bread, of course. Oemie would unwrap the ôlapworsies from the layers of paper – remember, the worsies would still be burning hot; and down the middle (length-wise down and not right through), Oemie would cut the worsie. Each one of us, around the table, had a choice of what we wanted to have with the worsies.” With each memory being recited from her head, my mother re-enacts Oemie Gadija’s exact actions. My mother then unwraps the white paper to ultimately and finally reveal the shining red and piping hot bliss! She gently lifts one, and slices the worsie down the middle (length-wise down and not right through), just as Oemie Gadija did, and we all, here in our home, get to choose from the various sauces.

“Every Friday, at the end of every lunch, secretly I hoped that there would be worsies left, because the next day my Ma would make gesmoorde ôlapworsie sandwiches as treats for us to eat at the Saturday matinee at the Alabama Bioscope,” my mother recounts, too caught up in memories even to eat! As she, too, finally takes a bite, she exclaims, “Abassie’s warme worsies taste the same after all these years!” She can taste her childhood.

As we savour the worsies and folktales here at our home, I silently ask the Almighty to grant Boeta Ashraf, the various Adams Butcher franchises and all their employees nothing but success, insha’allah (God-willing). And if you haven’t yet, I humbly encourage, if not coerce, you to kanallah (try) the famous Abassie se warme worsies! Oh, but don’t forget that you must go on a Wednesday or Thursday!

Visit Adams Moslem Butcher at:
41 Coronation Road
Walmer Estate
Cape Town
7925

Phone/WhatsApp: 021 447 5654 or 078 552 3107

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Kommentaar

  • Shukraan for giving me a taste of my childhood memories. I distinctly remember my grandfather calling them ôlapworsies.

    Well done on this piece Zubayr.

    Ek lus nou vir Abassies worsies, haha!

  • Abieda Soeker

    Ai Zubayr, your essay is going to evoke fond memories of many childhoods. Family and friends alike will nostalgically reminiscence about their "warme worsies" experiences, like you did with me. I know it will be the topic for discussion for a while with my siblings after they read your awesome depiction of the history of Boeta Abassie se Worsies. Well done again for this amazing read!

  • The one & only best warme worsie ever. I applied for a job there just to be close to the worsies on a Wednesday & Thursday.

  • I remember as a child of 6 I had to go and buy a sikspens se worsies every Wednesday en vanaand het almal in die kraal (boeta Whitey, antieHya, motjie Nappa, my grandmother, die Khalifa) ook ate worsies cause die kraal was in Plymouth Street where Golding school is. Today I’m 72 and still enjoy going to buy my worsie by aunt Aziza (boeta Ashies wife). Those days Abbassie was next to the Naazrestaurant which was also next to the Avalon bioscope.

  • Noore Nacerodien

    Salaam. Shukran for rekindling the memories of my life in District. Abassie's was a big part of that life.

  • Faikah Amardien (nee Toufie)

    Shukran for bringing back my childhood memory, back in 1983 as I remember "olapworsie day" was on Wednesdays, as a kid I had to run to stand in that queue at the Mitchell's Plain branch where Uncle Ashraf also use to work. Yes, it still tastes the same, most of the sausages too. I remember the friendly customer services with delight to serve.

  • Alhamdulillah 👍 beautiful memories of our childhood in District 6. Proud of you, my dearest cousin ❤️

  • Fazlin Ferguson

    My name is Fazlin Ferguson and I grew up with abassies warme worsies in D6. My fondest memory of it was going with my mommy on a Wednesday afternoon to Abassies butcher in Hanover Street to buy our warme worsies which obviously was our Wednesday evening meal made with a tomato smoortjie. I still remember the lots of school children coming into the butcher after school to buy theirs. I'm still a customer of Ashraf and Azieza to this day and my shopping still includes the warme worsies which is my favorite! Shukran to Ashraf and Azieza for keeping this going for us, their customers.

  • Tyler Jansen-Alben

    What a lovely read! As a reader, it felt like you were sitting right there and part of the conversation. You have such a way with words, my friend.

  • Faraaz Fakier

    It feels somewhat wrong “lissing” for Abassie’s worsies on koeksister Sunday.

    Such a good read, Zubayr 🙏🏽

  • Jamielah Adams

    Just as the others say, memories don’t leave like people do. They stay glued to your heart. Shukran, Zubayr, for taking me back to my childhood days. It brings a tear to my eyes and I can still taste the worsies. You are brilliant.

  • Ruschana Benjamin

    Absolutely loved it ... and I lived it. Assie's cousins Anwar and Sameer are my cousins too. Their late mom was my dad's only sister. Currently Assie's younger daughter is married to my youngest brother. LOL. I have a few memories of Papa (Abassie) ♥️♥️♥️ Definitely bringing back memories.

  • Moejaahied Bardien

    Outjie, Rayyan Bardien and I, when we catch up from time to time, enjoy doing it while enjoying Abassie's worsies. Adds a warm feeling to the fact that we've been friends in excess of 40 years.

  • Well Zubayr, I've been 'coerced'😁. I've always wanted to know what these worsies, and of course, its history, was all about. I too had heard lots about these worsies and the comparisons people would often make, with the often heard 'hulle kannie vi' Abbasie se worsies kla maak'ie'. So I guess that meant nothing could compare. Thanks to you, I've learnt so much about these legendary polonies and the joy it brought to so many. Reading your mom's nostalgic tale had me almost taste those delights. My memories are scant and few of said worsies, since we left Cape Town when I was only 8 years old. So for that reason, and to quell my curiosity, I've been 'encouraged' to try and, who knows, build some new memories with my grandkids. 🙂

    As always, thank you for the journey your stories always take me on.

  • Gamida Soeker

    Wow Zubayr my beloved Nephew...what fond memories you evoking in me ..."ń Olap of ń styer ve a AbassieSe Worsies ..." reminiscing of those days as a youngster looking forward to a Thursday wrapped lunch with 4 slices of AbassieSeWorsies lekker gesmoor met uiwe en lekker mango atchar ...water my bek nou ve daai warmer AbassieSeWorsies oppie brood...ooh lekker salig oppie♡. Shukran Z for always writing stunning pieces and holding me to the point where I just want to read to the end♡♡♡ Awesome...just loving this piece of writing to the fullest
    ♡You are the bestest♡♡♡Z♡♡♡
    Your ever loving Aunt●Oetie♥︎♡

  • Leilah Abdullah

    Enjoyed reading every bit of this!! my husband
    is a teacher at a school in Manenberg and would often brag about Adams worsies omw I never knew it's the actual old school Abasies favorite!!

  • Latifah Jacobs

    Jinne maak jy my nou lus vir warme worsies I remember a friend request being 20 years away from cpt and all she said pls don't go out of your way all I want is a penny smoortjie so yes I thank you for capturing this story and sharing it with us

  • Anshaaf Hendricks

    Definitely remember Abassie se worsies.
    A unique experience in flavour.

    My children have eaten them too.
    Hot. In the car. Lekka.

    Great that the family business still is still operating and serving Cape Town Maa sha Allah.

    All success to their and other family businesses Aameen

  • Ahh this just brought up childhood memories on abassies worsies, their worsies are one of the best in Cape Town and by now I have an idea when tasting a worsie if it came from that specific butcher or not, haha.

    Well done Zubayr on an amazing piece and making me lus (crave) for a worsie now ! Haven’t been there in a while, will be making my way back soon.

  • What a lovely read Zuby! I’m so glad that you took the time out to tell this story about this family’s legacy.

  • Baie dankie Zubayr wat n mooie storie van familie wat nog tradisie voortbou.. Rooi worsies of penny polonies soos ons dit genoem het was koningskos in tye van swaar kry toe my kinders klein was. Ek hoop om eendag van Abassies se heerlike warm vleis penny polonies te eet. GOD BLESS YOU AND ALL THE ADAMS BUTHERIES🙏🙏 (not related😀)

  • Lovely read Zubayr, great memories. keep up the good work. Penny smoortjie and scrambled eggs for breakfast is the best.

  • What a brilliant piece of reading Zubayr! Fond memories of 83 Dorp Street. Fresh white blue ribbon bread and penny polony smootjie.

    PS: my Wednesday stop before heading home in traffic 🤦🏽‍♀️
    Keep us the good Work !

  • Ah…Zubayr! This brings back so much memories of the late oumi and Deda, they mentioned the “oulap” story verses the rand, even the worsie thing is such a preference in Cape Town. I can proudly say, I was raised with Abasies se worsies, this is what I knew, this is what my mom who moved out years ago still will go and buy. This is the ones my kids ask for, “we only eat Abasies se worsie mommy”. Thank you for sharing this memorable, well-written story with us, and for showcasing the best worsies around! Proud of you Zubayr! Now I soema lus for it…

  • Beautiful written story I enjoyed reading it I even felt the taste of the worsies on my tongue while reading. So so real.

  • Mishkah Bassadien

    Well done Zubayr what a 'warm' and inviting story MarshAllah. A great tribute to his family and culinary tradition of the Cape 🙂

  • Tharwah Solomons

    You bring back so much good memories and always take me back to my late parents and grandparents, thank you for reminding us of what life was all about. Continue and grow to make us feel grateful and honoured for something we might call the smallest things yet carries the most weight in our lives ♥️

  • Awesome read, Zubayr, well done. I remember how my mom raved about Abassi se warme worsies. Also, my dad use to drive to get us olapworsies on weekends... It was a thing in our home too and like your mom mentioned the next day or the Monday for school you would have gesmoorde olapworsies on your school bread. I loved reading this.

  • Ferranaaz Hanslo

    Wow such beautiful childhood memories of District Six, when we as kids had to go to the butcher in Hanover Street, next to the Crescent for worries... if only they had a delivery service...still tastes mouthwatering

  • Mogamat Kamedien

    Like the story line and structure - looking in from the outside , then taking your reader to the intimate side of family from the within household in terms of emotional ties and nostalgic recollections of elderly relatives. what is most revealing from this excursion into recovering "abassie se warme worsies" folklore, is the resilience of this family business who has branched out to keeping this secret family recipe alive as a culinary legacy by the Adams offspring. It remains awesome to read that former D6 residents continue maintain this warme worsies tradition, despite the distances to be travelled over the decades

  • Wow such an amazing and beautiful story. The details are picture-perfect even though it is written down🤝🥰

  • Growing up in Manenberg we had a tradition every Wednesday that we would eat worsies, up on till today I send my husband to Coronation Street, because he works in town it's still a tradition in my house. We make sure we get my mother and father in-law as well, they grew up in District 6. It's always a joy and excitement when we eat warm worsies, it's such a delicacy to us, it's Wednesday today and my mouth is watering already

  • Gadija Samuels

    The best and a well written piece... I go to Adams butchery in town centre when I want worsies

  • Wow, I just went down memory lane now, I could actually smell the worsies.. Mmmmm, and the atcha in the worsie was simply the best. May Allah reward the late boeta Abass Adams and his whole family for the leka warme worsies that we had in D6. Many have tried to copy the abassie se worsies and did not succeed. Whenever I'm in town on a Wednesday, warme worsies is on the menu Algamdulillah and to see the faces of the butcher staff is unexplainable.. Still looks like the same worsies, and faces not to forget.

  • Ingrid van der Heijden

    Hi Zu
    So awesome geskryf en wonderlik om te lees. My ma het grootgeword in 229 Breëstraat, net onder die Bokaap. Onthou nog al haar stories van hulle bure wat haar ma, my ouma, Miss Molla genoem het. My Pa, 'n gebore Duitser van die Cape Flats, Phillippi, se favourite butcher was die Moslem butcher, langs Soutrivier Werke, waar hy gewerk het. Daar het hy elke Vrydag ingestap, na werk, en die beste skaaptjoppies en "boerewors" gekoop. Regte vleis met liefde en passie voorberei. Hou so aan, met die skrywery en ek sal voorstel dat jy dit op Cape Town Historical se FB page ook post.

  • Mogamat Shirage Davids

    Maashallah. What a wonderful history that was shared about the origin of the classic warme worsies. I'm very grateful for this wonderful information. We travel from Mitchell's plain if it's possible to buy this classic warme worsies. Shukran again for sharing this beautiful story. May Allah grant barakah in your business Inshallah and that the WARME WORSIES recipe must never change Inshallah.

  • A lovely piece of writing that illustrates how the memories of my own childhood are intertwined with the cultural roots that have shaped them. You have invoked a strong sense of nostalgia which has encouraged me to reflect on many other childhood experiences. The familiar words are comforting and a reminder of fond memories and experiences: the good old days, the simple life – a warm embrace from the past.

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