I’ve Put a Lot of Disgusting Things in My Mouth…

The Background

Whenever somebody starts a sentence with “I bet you won’t eat…” I don’t even hear the rest. The cacophonous ringing of cash registers in my ears drowns out whatever comes next. I’ve hate-fornicated my mouth hole with a jug of vinegar, an entire mug of hot sauce, a dried out crab shell my friend Fariyal found on the beach (related-Fariyal is a giant jerk), and the list goes on and on. You know those giant banana slugs they have on Vancouver Island? Probably not, unless you live there. They’re exactly as you’d imagine: a giant slime tube straight from your nightmares. I’d be willing to bet not many of those slugs have ever seen the inside of a human mouth. But thanks to the generous offer of $5 from my camp counsellor at Cowichan River Bible Camp when I was a young kid, one unlucky sludge tunnel found itself playing tonsil hockey with a biped.


Food Fail

And this doesn’t even crack the “Top Ten Most Disgusting Things That Have Ever Been In My Mouth” list. (source) 

I know what you’re thinking here. And unfortunately, yes, ladies. I am taken.

My whole point here is that I’m not picky. Growing up with my mom’s cooking helped me to be remarkably undiscerning when it comes to what I cram into my face.

I still really enjoy good food though. And one of my favourite culinary discoveries in South Africa has been the lowly bunny chow. Before you get all bleeding heart on me, please know these have nothing to do with rabbits. A bunny chow is a hollowed out loaf of bread filled with curry. If you’ve ever stood beneath an angel running on a treadmill and had that angel drip buckets of sweat directly into your open mouth, you know what a bunny chow tastes like. I guess that analogy works best if you have an angel sweat fetish, but I mean, who doesn’t? And here’s the thing about bunny chows- the best ones are served from the greasiest, sketchiest roadside stands.

Food Fail

Like so. Irene at Bunny Chow Heaven in Middelburg serves the best bunny chows on earth.

So anyway, one day I noticed a new food stand had opened up, and it exuded exactly the right mix of grease and sketch. It had been like, 28 minutes since my last full meal, so needless to say, I was famished. When I walked up, there was no sign advertising what was on the menu, which is kinda normal with these types of places. I asked what I could buy for lunch and was told they had 1/4 bunnies, which is just a small bunny chow. Jackpot! And it was only R15 (about $1.50 CDN)!

However, when I opened the bag, I was in for a surprise.

The Horror!

Instead of being filled with delicious curry, this thing was…well…I dunno. There was a hollowed out chunk of bread for sure. But in it was a steaming dumpster fire of shame. I was able to identify beans, a hot dog (or vienna as they call them here), french fries, lettuce, some sort of weird sauce, and a hunk of polony, which is similar to North American bologna, but is actually somehow worse. What in the suffering snaketits was this???

Food Fail

Believe it or not, this is PRE digestion.

There’s no way this was a real thing. Somebody was punking me. I took a hesitant bite, and holy armpit of William Shatner was it ever horrid. It tasted what I imagine the entire internet would taste like if you could lick it. Of course I ate the whole thing, because like I said, I was withering away into nothing, but I certainly wasn’t happy about it. And neither were my innards. I’m surprised my neighbours didn’t call the police to report the volcano erupting next door in the morning. But that’s a whole other story.

What The…This Thing Has a Name?

Following the fiery aftermath, I decided to do some research. Apparently what I ate exists in some form or another in many parts of South Africa and is called a spatlo. I can only assume it’s because that’s the sound it makes as it hits the sides of your toilet a short while after eating it. And there’s no set way of making it- you just kinda throw whatever your dogs refuse to eat into some bread and call it a day, like so. I guess at least now I know.

So what did I learn? I learned not be excited about super cheap food anymore. There are three things that you really should pay a lot of money for in life: whisky, hookers, and food. Feel free to shop for bargains for literally anything else, and let my mistakes in life be your cautionary tale.

And will I buy another one tomorrow? You bet your underboob I will.

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About the Author

I’ve been many things. A university English instructor, a picker upper of dead bodies, a musician, and a sales guy. My work brought me and my family from Vancouver, Canada to Pretoria, South Africa in September 2016, and I’m still wondering how that happened. I started this blog mostly because my friends back in Canada kept asking me how things were in South Africa, and posting about my experiences seemed more efficient than repeating myself hundreds of times. Maple and Marula is a way for me to make sense of my new surroundings as an expat who has no idea what I’m doing.

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  1. From what I remember, the crab was not dried out. It just floated by me in the ocean and it was a soggy, low tide decaying crab.
    I dared you to chew it for a full minute and it was truly horrifying to spectate.

    1. Right! Still not the worst thing that’s been in my mouth with you around. I can still taste the bird poop in my dreams.

    1. OK, I just Googled that. Hard pass. Why do South Africans insist on putting fries (chips) on EVERYTHING? Insanity.

      I hope my home city is treating you well!

      1. Lol I’ve never had a gatsby or bunnychow!! And never heard of a spatlo until your post – braver man than I, Gungadin.
        Vancouver is awesome – celebration of light, Canada Day on Grouse, microbeer on tap, Bard on the Beach, etc etc

      2. You don’t have to go to Cape Town! The south side of Johannesburg has lekker ones. I prefer the one from Hunga Bustas (a little greasy spoon takeaway inside the Fomiss She’ll in Ormonde). Shaheem’s next the Pick N Pay in Ormonde is also legit – as long as you like ground beef!

        Don’t get the one from Jimmy’s Killer Fish. I mean it’s alright…. But really overrated.

        If you do pop down to the South of Joburg also be sure to pick up the original Wonder Why from Akhalwayas. There is one not far from Hunga Bustas. It’s a pizza with slap chips and, well, tons of other stuff. Kind of like the sandwich you had but legit.

        Oh and I’m Yasmin, the halaal foodie American. I’ve been living in the area since 2012. Generally speaking you can’t go wrong with halaal food. Us Muslims aren’t allowed to drink so we pretty much try to eat ourselves into a coma 😉

        1. OK, I’m going to keep track of all this! You seem to know what you’re talking about! And lol re: eating yourself into a coma- I can relate!

      3. Did you just say that being from the land of POUTINE??

        Gatsby’s (AK-47 in Jozi!) and Kota’s are our smorgasbord of cheap-as-chips (see what I did there) street food and great for sharing!. Highly recommended on the way home from a ‘jol’ 😉

        Try out Nkukhu Box for a great and varied Kota…

        1. OK, fair enough. I love poutine. I’ll give a gatsby a go when the opportunity arises and I hate myself enough that particular day. As far as Nkukhu box- I’ll try anything once…

          1. Oh and I forgot to suggest – you GOTTA do a shisanyama. I highly suggest Chaf Pozi in Soweto for the vibe, there’s things to do for the kids and the price of beers will make your Canadian heart soar.

            Of course check out Vilakazi street when you’re there.


  2. The weird sauce was likely atchar. As an American living in Pretoria for ten years now (who will also eat anything, even if it’s still crawling!), welcome to South Africa! By the way, we have banana slugs on the coast of Northern California as well, though I’ve never eaten one!

    1. Hi Annie! To be fair, I didn’t actually eat it. I just had to hold it in my mouth with my lips closed for 30 seconds. Which somehow doesn’t sound any better as I wrote it out…

      Hm. Good to know re: the sauce. I chewed down on some zebra t-bone last night. No regrets. I love this place.

      1. P.S. I feel like I need to apologise for Trump. I voted for Canada for President of the U.S., but no one listened to me! Would love to connect my family with yours someday, if you’re up for it (at the risk of sounding like a creepy internet person, which I can assure you I’m not, although it won’t mean much to you!) Let me know if you are up for it.

        1. Haha! Apology accepted I guess. I’ll tell you one thing, if we ever run your country, you’d better start making poutine more available. We won’t riot or anything, but we will apologise very angrily for being upset with you.

          We’d love to hang out! I sent you an email. Cause I’m creepy too.

  3. You can go spectacularly more off key than the Spatlo. Have you heard of a walky-talky where you cook up chicken heads and feet? And not to forget Mopane worms- basically a dried up caterpillar that’s cooked into a stew. For a more elegant refined taste, hunt down some Waterblommetjie Bredie when its in season. (In Cape Town). Basically, you eat pond foliage 😉
    PS- feel like I should introduce myself- I’m a South African currently living in France, and worked as a chef in SA for 17 years. For more venison, look out for Carnivores Restaurant between JHB and Centurion just of the N4 highway.

    1. Wow- all those things sound, uhhhh…like things. And we’ll leave it at that! Thanks for the comment, Gaenor- it made my day (although it somehow got flagged as spam and I didn’t see it for a couple weeks, so sorry for my late reply!).

      I have been to Carnivore and tried kudu (delicious), crocodile (rubbery), springbok (directly from heaven) and giraffe (like chewing on a floor mat). But maybe I’ll try some of the other things you listed, just to say I did!

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