Chapter 13.03: On Innovation and Creativity

Introduction to Bacon & the Art of Living

The story of bacon is set in the late 1800s and early 1900s when most of the important developments in bacon took place. The plotline takes place in the 2000s with each character referring to a real person and actual events. The theme is a kind of “steampunk” where modern mannerisms, speech, clothes and practices are superimposed on a historical setting.  Modern people interact with old historical figures with all the historical and cultural bias that goes with this.

On Innovation and Creativity

October 1960

Cape Town

Dear Children,

I count myself among the most fortunate humans on earth. Still, I know that you may choose other occupations and passions. There are things that transcend all disciplines. In my research, over the years I came across some of the greatest stories but few are as great as the stories from your own family.

Oupa Eben Kok

My Oupa Eben Kok, your great grandfather was throughout my life an inspiration to me, not only of hard work but also in the field of innovation and creativity. One of the stories I remember about Oupa Eben was how he studied local weekly magazines for the farmers. He wanted to be a good farmer and knew he had to educate himself and for this reason, he read anything he could get his hands on related to farming. It reminds me so much of the many years I studied meat processing almost every night to learn as much as I can so that I would become proficient in the trade and art I chose as my career. All the letters I have written to you and everything I have written for Earthworm Express is only the result of this desire to become competent in my work. In this, I completely mimicked what I heard of Oupa Eben.

Another recollection about Oupa Eben is the fact that he was the first farmer in the district (county) to use a tractor instead of oxen to plough his fields. In my research on bacon, I unexpectedly came across this very short mention of him in newspapers in 1953 and 1954 across America. What probably happened was that these papers either belonged to the same owner or had some agreement about sharing content and so it happened that the story of Oupa Eben and his tractor was reported on across America. The exact article that appeared across so many newspapers is given below.

From The La Crosse Tribune (La Crosse, Wisconsin) 27 May 1953

The newspapers that carried the exact same story of Eben Kok were:

  • The La Crosse Tribune, La Crosse, Wisconsin, Wednesday, May 27, 1953 (quoted above);
  • The York Dispatch, York, Pennsylvania, Thursday, March 04, 1954;
  • The Times,  Shreveport, Louisiana, Sunday, May 03, 1953;
  • The Morning Call, Allentown, Pennsylvania, Tuesday, July 27, 1954
  • The Daily Sentinel, Grand Junction, Colorado, Sunday, May 03, 1953
  • Lubbock Morning Avalanche, Lubbock, Texas, Friday, May 01, 1953
  • The Morning Call, Paterson, New Jersey, Monday, August 17, 1953
  • Fort Lauderdale News, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Friday, May 15, 1953
  • Wausau Daily Herald, Wausau, Wisconsin, Tuesday, May 19, 1953
  • The Tampa Tribune, Tampa, Florida, Friday, May 08, 1953
  • Sioux City Journal, Sioux City, Iowa, Thursday, May 07, 1953
  • The Knoxville Journal, Knoxville, Tennessee, Sunday, May 03, 1953
  • Hartford Courant, Hartford, Connecticut, Tuesday, May 12, 1953
  • Dayton Daily News, Dayton, Ohio, Tuesday, May 12, 1953

Oupa Eben on Stillehoogte

Ouma Susan on Stillehoogte, bringing coffee and refreshments to her husband.

Oom Jan Kok (my uncle), eldest son of Eben Kok writes, “I remember the incident like yesterday. Japie’s dad, Uncle Freek phoned to say that the shed was on fire. Oupa Eben immediately jumped in his jeep and hastened to Stillehoogte (his farm). In the corner was a few 44-gallon drums with power paraffine used for the tractor. Fortunately, the fire was put out before they exploded. The parts of the tractor that could burn or melt were all gone. Oupa Eben and Uncle Rademan Marx, who had a garage on Reitzburg, re-did the wiring and everything that had to be replaced was bought. Eventually, the tractor could be used again. It was a blue Fordson.”

“The thing that made a huge impression on me was Ouma (grandmom) who sat on the bed with her head in her hands, crying. There was a serious argument between Oupa Eben and his father in law and mother in law over the tractor. The first year they used the tractor there was a complete harvest failure and Oupa Giel and Ouma Santjie staunchly believed that this was the tractors fault that the harvest was so bad.”

I can, of course, say much more about this but I will leave you with what I had when I started my life and the bit more namely that I followed Oupa’s example in every respect. There is not much more to say. Besides, I want you to meditate on this.

It is very cold again tonight. I can hear the waves crash on the rocks below our apartment. I am looking forward to an early night!

Lots and lots of love from Cape Town,

Your Dad.

Further Reading

Nose-to-Tail and Root-to-Tip: Re-Thinking Emulsions

Eben Interviews Food Mavericks

The History of Bacon, Ingredients and related technologies

The Present and Future of Food Processing


(c) eben van tonder

Bacon & the art of living” in book form
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