In August, people across social media complained about pap taking longer than usual to cook.
The problem was raised on Twitter by a user called @Zamathenjwa_, who asked what was happening with maize meal because it was not cooking as it should.
In response, @SthokieM said she ended up throwing the pap in the dustbin, thinking that it did not cook properly.
Guys impuphu ayisavuthwa kanti kwenzakalani?
— Zamathenjwa (@Zamathenjwa_) August 12, 2020
She said that it was taking forever to cook. She made her sister taste it and her sister said it needed more cooking time.
And here I was last week ngichitha uphuthu ngithi linyelile. Izolo I was making pap & wondering why it’s taking forever to cook. Even made my sis taste it wathi lidlaza I must give it time 🤨
— Mumbo Omhlophe (@SthokieM) August 12, 2020
Maize meal is a staple in many homes in South Africa. Whether you have it as phuthu, umphokoqo, stiff or wet pap, and porridge, it’s the main source of starch. Many people eat maize meal twice or thrice a day, so not being able to properly cook it, has frustrated for them. Plus, it generally doesn’t take long to cook – about 40 minutes, depending on quality and the style of pap.
Mealie-meal brand White Star super maize meal took to Facebook to respond to the case and suggested a method people could use so that their maize meal cooked quickly and properly.
The brand said that after conducting tests, it could confirm that the difficulties were related to the new 2020 maize harvest. It said all maize meal producers in South Africa were experiencing similar challenges. Industry bodies, including the Chamber of Milling and the South African Grain Laboratory, were engaged in technical research to assess the 2020 maize harvest quality and the impact on maize-meal products.
“Our technical department has found indications of early sprouting in mealie cobs. This sprouting damages starch components in the maize kernel which, in turn, influences the quality of cooking, making the finished product appear more watery. This poses no health risk at all.
“We have been experimenting in our Test Kitchen, and the good news is that by reducing the amount of water used in cooking by 15% to 20%, and cooking the super maize meal a bit longer than usual, the end product is greatly improved and as you have always enjoyed it.
“We want to reiterate our assurance that White Star Super Maize is still produced at the same high quality and food safety standards that you have come to expect from a brand built on quality and trust,” they wrote.
And so ends one of the biggest food mysteries of 2020.