Like so many others I was born with an addictive personality. My long list of addictions include, but are not limited to, Imperial Mints, throat lozenges, food in general, B&H Infinite Lights, computer games, Egoli: Place of Gold. Admittedly, I am using the term ‘addiction’ rather loosely to refer to cases where one feels compelled to repeatedly engage in an activity to the detriment of one’s overall well-being. (What is the difference between an addiction and a bad habit?)
So far my most bizarre addiction has been to bran flakes. It started during the summer holidays, just after I finished high school and just before I was to go to University in order to pursue Higher Learning. My sisters, who have already spent a year at this noble institution, took it upon themselves to prepare me for the new chapter in my life (as good sisters do). So they took me to De Akker, that famous cockroach-infested pub in Stellenbosch, where I was to spend most of my free time over the next ten years. After a Tassies and Black Label-inspired performance my sisters realised that I could be a Big Hit at University. If only I would lose weight. (For some reason one has to be small to be a big.)
I have always wanted to be popular, so I decided to give it a go (I mean, imagine that, being a big hit!). They put me on The Shape Diet. You get to drink three delicious milkshakes instead of your three daily meals, plus all the bran you can eat. The Shape milkshake was a good start to the day, believe you me. Banana was my favourite. Then strawberry for lunch, and vanilla for dinner. Unfortunately, in addition I also ate some bread with Trim mayonnaise, lots of fruit (how can that be bad?), and various other secret scraps on the side. My sisters confiscated the Shape after one caught me eating Christmas cake with all the icing. There were some angry words (“The stuff’s expensive, you know”) and that was the end of it. That was the last diet I ever went on, for I realised I did not possess the virtue of moderation and was destined to be chubby.
But somehow I found myself eating more and more bran and going to University completely hooked on the stuff. Bran is the perfect food: zero calories, 100% fibre, and cheaper than chips (about R2,50 for 1,5 kg, that’s about a week’s supply if you're a heavy user). It is probably also the most innocuous substance one can possibly abuse. Some would say it is impossible to abuse bran, but I would point out to them the unpleasant digestive effects of bran overdose. Your grandmother was right when she said ‘everything in moderation’.
Mastering the art of consuming bran requires considerable skill. The spoonful of bran must enter the mouth without touching anything, and be carefully placed on the tongue, then tipped over to leave a tidy little heap on the tongue. Then the mouth is closed, leaving the bran to soak, slowly, and only then can it be chewed and swallowed. This is the only way to eat bran. Any other way leads to choking when bran flakes are accidentally inhaled into the lungs.
There was a permanent cup of bran on my green desk. There was also bran all over my desk, and on my half of the floor. It was all over my bed where I often slouched to study some ancient text. Bran can be messy because if you breathe out while transporting it to your eagerly awaiting mouth, it will fly everywhere. It seems that bran is a particularly helpful crutch when it comes to studying for tests and exams, or when you’ve missed lunch at the residence and were to cheap or lazy to buy something decent to eat.
Then, one Sunday, in the middle of the mid-year exams, I ran out of bran. This was a problem. Some might call it a disaster. I could not concentrate on my work. In those days everything was closed on Sundays. I was not hopeful, but I had to try, and so the long walk began from the ‘dames koshuise’ (lady’s residence) to every café in town. By some miracle I finally found a bag of bran at a café close to the station, a very long way from the residence. Then there was the walk back, and all the while I was looking out for a private spot, a public toilet, perhaps, or some dark alley. It was more than I could take. I ended up on a bench in the Botanical Gardens, tearing open that bag of bran and devouring it wildly, the delicate art of bran consumption all forgotten. At that moment I realised: I must never experiment with drugs.
For those of you who are concerned about my mental health, let me assure you that I have worked through my issues and am no longer the slave of bran. But the point I want to make is this: The problem with having an addictive personality is that one can get addicted to anything, so one must always watch your step. The advantage of having an addictive personality is that one can become addicted to anything, so it might as well be bran.