Once upon a time there was a goat called Allen and a girl called Candice. Allen lived in the Karoo which is a sensible place for a goat. Candice lived in Gardens which is a sensible place for a girl. Allen and Candice knew a secret not many South Africans, but several overseas visitors do: that his family of Angoras produce 75% of the entire planet’s mohair, and that this mohair – like most things to come out of the Karoo – is exceptionally beautiful and of an extremely high quality. So beautiful and so high that busloads of Germans and Americans and Brits flock to our shops every year and go suki la la and spend gazillions of monies on items which – compared to other parts of the world – are inexpensive, original and quite incomparably lovely.
And Allen and Candice think it’s a shame that the whole world knows of this thing and walks around Boston and Schleswig-Holstein wearing South African mohair while South Africans wear Foschini (no offence to this chain, but really). And it’s silly that we don’t know about this magnificent product right on our doorstep and support small businesses and the people who devote their lives to putting South Africa and its magic on the map. I met Candice at a dinner party a few years ago and loved two things about her: the fact that she runs marathons for fun and the magnificent, diaphanous scarf that floated about her shoulders like a rain cloud on a koppie. And I was astonished to hear she’d made it herself and that this, in fact, was her business.
Between her and her friend, Allen (and some of his friends), some of the prettiest and most delicate mohair products you’ve ever seen are produced and sold at selected stores around the country and online, and I think we need to familiarise ourselves with who is doing what down here and start making a real effort to support local businesses. It’s not easy competing with the big clothing corporations, and kudos to the ones with the courage to spot a gap in the market, venture out alone and do their own thing. I’ve been coveting Candice’s knitwear since I saw it, and I was excited beyond when she brought me a big box of woven beautifulness in shades of winter and told me to choose what I liked.
Candice’s products are made from kid mohair or baby mohair which is shorn from the fleece of a young Angora goat. Even though it is the softest and finest kind, it is in fact stronger and warmer than wool and will keep you cosy as anything when the weather turns cool. It’s lightweight, comfy, doesn’t itch, is the most durable of all animal fibres and won’t shrink which makes it easy to wash.
My favourites in her range are the ones which incorporate ostrich feathers (oh, another fact: every year South Africa exports a ton of feathers to Rio for the carnival. Just read that again: a ton. Do you know how little a feather weighs? Shem that they can’t even come up with their own). Mohair and ostrich feathers go together, in Candice’s words, ‘like cream and jam’. Clotted cream and gooseberry jam plunked on top of a hot, buttery scone fresh out of Karoo farm oven. There is nothing like a feather to make you feel like Edith Piaf in a Paris nightclub having no regrets, even if it’s just a Monday and you’re headed for the Spur.
So, a shout out to Candice, Edith and all the people in this world who are brave enough to be artists and creators and do something unique and original with their lives. And of course a shout out to Allen who, along with his sexy goat friends, has given us just one more reason to be proudly South African.
For more info on these fabulous things and how to find them look here. The website will help you locate stores in your area and give you info on prices. It was important to Candice, an animal lover, that my readers understand wool from Angora goats is very different to wool from Angora rabbits. While Angora rabbits are plucked, Allen simply gets a haircut. Which, in the Karoo summer, he adores.
So the other day this weird but not totally surprising thing happened. There I was at Checkers standing in front of the poultry section trying to find the least sorry-looking chicken breasts to grill in a dry, unappetising way for supper because #fatgirl and also #fatbastard and this woman comes up to me and says, ‘Excuse me… I’m sorry to interrupt, but are you Kendall Jenner?’ And it’s remarkable because even though I’m not actually Kendall Jenner I find that lately the similarity between us is becoming uncanny and something one can’t deny unless one is seriously impaired.
There are just so many things we have in common, Kendall and I. We both drive a black car and also she spends much of her time sadly picking at bits of lettuce in plastic containers and complaining about things like how busy she is and how much the paparazzi is hounding her. Which, if you’ll ask my husband, is very much like the way I spend most of my days except for the paparazzi part. Definitely I will concede that she is possibly more famous than me even though just this morning at the meeting to discuss outfits for the Grade 7 fashion show one of the moms said, ‘maybe you can write about it on your blog ha ha’ indicating to me that she knows of the blog and also that I write it. I know that Kendall gets comments like this all the time. It’s exhausting for famous and semi-famous people.
The actual truth of me is that I pay the DSTV people nearly R800 a month just so that I can watch the Kardashians being on holiday in Maui laughing and having the best time ever until ones pushes the other one overboard on a yacht causing her to lose a ginormous diamond earring the size of a ham hock and yet she manages to be sad for only one episode. They are very zen, those girls, and I admire that about them. If it was me, even though mine are cubic zirconias, I can guarantee that whomever pushed me like that and made one of my favourite earrings fall out would hear about it every day for the rest of their natural life. So it is literally the only show I watch since the cooking shows make me hungry and I can’t follow the news and all those words.
And I watch the show because it inspires me. If Khloe can get that thin in revenge against Lamar Odom (we all know the sorry details of what happened, no need to repeat it here) who am I to whine about having one boiled egg for breakfast? No-one. I am no-one. She is my inspiration, Khloe Kardashian. And their teeth… I think I find their teeth the most inspiring thing of all. With teeth so white and perfect how can you have one bad day in your life? The second I got a summons in the post saying chances are fair to middling that I’ll be going to jail for unpaid parking fines I would just whip out my compact and look long and hard at my teeth. Jail, schmail. Bring it.
Also, and this is incidental but I’ll mention it in passing, Kendall Jenner and I have the same watch. Just look at the pictures closely and you’ll see it’s true. Identical. She was also (like me) asked to wear it and in very laissez faire fashion kept her shirt unbuttoned to her navel. Because whyfor must she waste her time with buttons? She has black cars to drive and salads to eat. So next time you see me purchasing a package of Country Pride and wonder to yourself, is that her? Is that really her? wonder no more.
(If you also want to be mistaken for a celeb at Checkers have a look here. If you choose to purchase one of their seriously gorgeous watches online and put in the code DISCOPANTS (which is me, not Kendall) the Daniel Wellington people will give you a 15% discount up until December. Kendall and I love ours).
As we had been looking forward to our weekend away at beautiful Schoone Oordt boutique hotel in Swellendam for weeks, and also because we are a real-life family and not a TV show, the first thing we did that happy morning was have a huge fight. Not to mention names nor blame anyone, but the fight was around the fact that one member of our family (hint: it’s a man) decided he absolutely had to go to gym before we left. In his defence, he based his insistence on the truism that when we go away anywhere, even for a day, it takes me about 7,5 hours to pack and get ready. He (rightly) reasoned that since a gym session takes roughly an hour he’d be home with 6,5 hours to throw his clothes in a rucksack and pace while the three girls in the family ran around shrieking like panicked banshees.
Only, that morning – fueled by a determination to get on the road early and a hefty dose of righteous indignation (something we women get down to a fine art) – I somehow managed to be ready quite quickly, and it was my turn to pace and simmer and still be hotly simmering when he appeared, sweatily, at the front door, pumping with endorphins and properly pleased with himself and the world. Needless to say, the reception he got wasn’t warm. And even though he took his usual 9 seconds to shower, throw on a short pant and get himself behind the wheel, the rest of the family was of a mind to be Still Be Cross and the atmosphere in the car as we took off down the road was like the coldest night ever recorded in Novo Sebirsk.
It took us all the way to the N2 outside Somerset West, with several men trying to shove straw hats and cell phone chargers at us through the window, for anyone to speak to anyone else and also that didn’t go well because the first topic raised was whether or not we were going to stop at the Wimpy for breakfast. For me, and I think most South Africans, the fact that a place serves just about the worst food anyone’s ever eaten is no reason at all not to eat there. I suppose it’s a nostalgia thing, but a road trip is just not right without a portion of factory-cut chips and that very cheap tomato sauce that comes in a squeezy bottle. My husband, on the other hand, doesn’t share our enthusiasm and insists his cup of coffee should actually have coffee in it, so, we told him he could have cashew nuts in the car and that we’d see him in half an hour.
Happily for everyone, things started to improve after we’d eaten (there is something undeniably cheery about those red booths), and by the time we hit Sir Lowry’s Pass we were back to our normal selves. Also, every time I go over Sir Lowry’s Pass I remember the day, many years ago, my parents were driving home from Bonnievale and the brakes on my dad’s old Mercedes Benz failed. I imagine the fear he must have felt as he pumped the pedal and the car didn’t slow down but instead gathered momentum on that steep downward turn and the memory makes my eyes prickle because I love that man more than the world. Using the handbrake and carefully gearing down he managed to get them to the bottom safely, both shaky and white as sheets. And I’m grateful when I travel that stretch of road that they were lucky that day.
And this is how life is. One minute you can be safe in your car on a soggy Thursday, overtaking a truck and Johnny Clegg saying goodbye to December African Rain and the next moment everything can change. As we emerged from the clouds and dipped down towards Botrivier, the sun came out and lit up yellow, sheep-studded grasslands. I think only in South Africa are the ribbons of road this long and this desolate. Past the pink, flower-strewn vistas of the Tradouw Pass I remembered another thing: that the last time I traveled this road was in the back of a Volksie bus driven by the boyfriend of my oldest friend. He died of cancer less than a month ago. Road trips make you think about all kinds of things.
As we pulled into the town of Swellendam the rain had started up again. Kind people from the hotel appeared with large umbrellas which they held over our heads as we hurried to our room. That’s the kind of place Schoone Oordt is, big on attention to detail and the sorts of little touches that make everything better. The bathroom floor is heated (which really, really makes a difference), the bath salts have tiny, fragrant rose petals that make you feel like a bathing princess and while you’re having supper in front of a friendly fire some wonderful fairies sneak into your room and place hot water bottles in your bed. It was only the next morning, which opened bright and inviting, that we realised how pretty this old building actually is, its dining area opening onto a lush expanse of lawn which sweeps down to a blue and sparkling pool.
That afternoon, while the spring sun played dodgems, I found a pool lounger which offered just the right amount of shade for reading and rays for warming and was aware of a feeling of deep contentment as my husband and children enjoyed a game of hide-and-seek amongst the guava trees and I dipped in and out of a book which wasn’t good enough to hold my attention. And it was one of those moments in life where all aggravation is temporarily stalled and you can’t remember one annoying thing about the world which, for a time, has become the sound of your children laughing and clouds gathering and dissipating and an awareness that, at that exact moment in time, there is nothing you need and nowhere you would rather be.
For the next 48 hours we drank tea, took a walk, dozed, played scrabble, shared bottles of very good wine and had a hard time choosing between the delicious items on Schoone Oordt’s menu. My personal favourite was the rump, tasty and done to perfection, served with stywe pap and a smoky smoor, but the pork loin with sweet cabbage and green beans got a big thumbs up from everyone too. On our second evening we were getting hungry but weren’t quite ready to leave the fireplace or our Scrabble board (and were sipping a mighty fine bottle of red and also I was winning) so we ordered a cheese platter to share. A cheese platter is always a happy moment, but this one was a thing of rare beauty with warm, handmade biscuits and a homemade tomato relish off-setting a generous serving of some seriously delicious Overberg cheeses.
I was a bit bleak about leaving the next day – there is something deeply wonderful about arriving at the pool and within seconds being met with fluffy towels and the offer of a cocktail – but we were due in Barrydale at the Unplugged 62 music festival. Honestly, I was a little trepidatious about attending this event as camping and roughing it are not really for me, but I needn’t have worried because this was glamping at its finest – a comfy double bed with extra pillows, thick blankies to keep out the Karoo chill and – wait for this – while we were stomping in the dust some good and kind people snuck hot water bottles into our beds. This seems to be a tradition around these parts, and it’s a very good one. Also, it’s not quite what you’d expect in a campsite, but the Cherry Glamping people know a thing or two about creature comforts. They also provided bottles of water since the (a-hem) dancing builds up quite a thirst, and early next morning a kind man was up bright and early making tea and coffee and homemade rusks for whomever was in need of sustenance.
The festival turned out to be one of the nicest I’ve attended, probably because it’s smaller than the others and therefore less hectic. You know, for us older people. And the music line-up was impressive. I’d kind of expected a few local farmers with guitars, but my 12-year-old daughter’s eyes were like saucers when one of her favourite bands, Slow Jack, kicked off with their hit single, Love to Dream. It’s the first time we’ve taken our girls to a live music event and it was really fun being there with them, dancing up a storm on the haybales. The vibe was great, with everyone in the mood for letting their hair down and I remembered what I love about music festivals – how happy and chilled-out everyone is, and how many friendly, cool people exist in the world. And there something wonderful and uniquely life-affirming about dancing like lunatics under a star-studded Karoo night sky.
It was way past our usual bedtime when made our way across the dewy veld to our waiting tent, giggling like teenagers as we looked for the zip in the dark and tried not to wake our sleeping kids. The truth about this thing called life is that you discover, at some point or another, that whichever way it unfolds it is seldom the deal you expected, and being a grown-up can be harder at times than you ever imagined possible. Which is why it’s so necessary to grab hold of the moments that retain beauty and magic. None of us knows how much time we’ve been allocated on this planet. As I get older I begin to realise that the here and now is the only thing that really matters. Tomorrow it could all look very different, so we can’t take anything for granted. We must hug our children, appreciate our friends and notice the kindness and abundance that exists all around us if we choose to see it. And most of all, we must dance like lunatics as often as we possibly can.
I’ve been wanting to resurrect Fabulous Things for some time because, well, I keep finding fabulous things which deserve a mention, and I’d like to start writing shorter blogs more regularly instead of just the long, serious ones that make people cross with me. So, when a very nice man with an extremely suave-sounding name sent me an email asking if I’d like to take a look at his website and choose any watch I like it took me about 3,7 seconds to reply, well, yes, I rather would.
In truth, I’ve always been a One Watch Woman. I’ve been wearing my watch for about 10 years and the thought of replacing it was far from my mind. I also suffer from pathological indecisiveness, and the idea of having to choose another made me need Rescue Remedy, but I pulled myself together and clicked on the Daniel Wellington website.
Their watches are really pretty. Really pretty. They’re classic, stylish and trendy all at the same time, and nice enough to make me feel it was warranted to cheat on Watch #1 – if I apologised and explained the situation. Honestly, I liked them all, but my favourite was one in rose gold with blue hands and the date called the Dapper Sheffield which is just one of the prettiest watches I’ve ever seen. The date is a good feature for me because I am regularly unsure of what month, never mind what day it is. They’re also fairly big which makes them modern and a little bit edgy.
And what’s really cool is that you get an extra strap thrown in for nought ront so you can shake things up a bit and kind of wear a different watch every day. I chose one with jaunty nautical stripes. You know, for sunset cruises on yachts and… yachts. But there are lots of different designs and straps to choose from, and even though I’m fussy and really conservative when it comes to accessories there wasn’t one combo I didn’t find lovely.
Good watches are like good shoes. You just feel more fabulous wearing them. And happily, for those keen on some extra fabulosity, the nice Daniel Wellington man with the suave name is offering my readers a discount of 15% (which actually isn’t shabby) if you buy online and quote this code: discoDW (because… disco). Then they’ll know I sent you and everyone will be pleased. If any of you decide to buy one, let me know so we can be watch twins. And if you’re also a One Watch Woman, they make for really superb gifts.
I know a restaurant is my kind of place when the waiter shows you to your table, hands you your menu and asks you if you’d like a tequila. A tequila? At dinner, washed down with chardonnay? Obviously. Despite the fact that it’s a veritable stone’s throw from my house and an establishment frequented by many of my friends, somehow I’d never made it to dinner at Café Manhattan in De Waterkant. Which I realise, now, has been a big oversight on my part because it’s the kind of place you walk into, weary to the bone and bored senseless with the monotony of parenting and you remember, with stunning clarity, that you’re actually an adult who very much likes adult conversation and also wearing a leather pant and throwing back the odd shooter. In that order.
Within five minutes I’d cheered up so much I was barely recognisable to myself, and the evening was a joyful series of hurrah moments as I remembered important things like: I love that Cape Town has a gay district, and that I live a few blocks away from it; I love going out on a Friday night to places where children aren’t allowed, and I love talking to my husband while being plied with cold white wine and admiring the stylish, beautifully groomed young men who frequent this sexy eatery. The music is funky, but not obtrusive; the lighting is low but not seedy, and the service is friendly and attentive without you ever feeling harassed. And the prices are really, really reasonable. In fact, the burgers (which are huge and amazing) are cheaper than the ones we have when we go to that other place which does allow children. You know where I mean.
Anyhow. I was in an American kind of mood, so to start I ordered the corn and Arborio sliders which come on a generous serving of tasty roast vegetables (v. yum indeed), and Per had the salt and pepper squid. Both were delicious. Then, I had a very hard time because I almost never order the chicken in restaurants – it feels like such a naff, fence-sitty thing to do, and anyway, chicken is lunch – but this one I couldn’t resist the sound of, being buttermilk-soaked, coated in Texan spices and deep-fried, Southern-style. The portion is so big (think KFC’s family bucket) even greedy guts me could only manage half. Only order this dish if you walked here from Kimberley. Then again, it would probably be very nice with mayo on government loaf the next day.
Per had a T-bone with two sauces since he was having commitment issues – chocolate chilli and chimichurri which is an Argentinian thing made of parsley, garlic, olive oil, oregano and vinegar and goes very nicely on beef and also on double-fried chips and onion rings and vegetables and your finger. (Personally, I would have gone for the triple cheese or the smokey chipotle, but I only get to boss him around so much before he tells me to settle down and face the front).
By the time we were done we were too full to speak, but had to try one of the fun milkshake flavours for dessert. He voted for chocolate brownie, but since I was writing the review that was vetoed immediately and we had the apple and cinnamon (you can also have peanut butter and marshmallow and lemon meringue – yum) and it was completely divine, served with a dollop of apple pie and two spoons. They also do fun and unusual-for-SA things like root beer floats, soft shell crab and pumpkin pie, but those delights I had to leave for another day. If it’s been a long time since you had a decent conversation with your partner or it’s been a stupid week at work or life is just unimpressing you hugely, comfort food in a cheerful setting goes a long way towards making the world bearable again. Pull in, order the fries and say yes to the tequila. You’ll walk out a new man.
Café Manhattan is on 74 Waterkant Street, De Waterkant. Call them 021 421 6666 or check out their website http://www.manhattan.co.za/. They’re open for breakfast, and have a special Steak Knife Tuesday for when the weekend got really fun. The pavement tables are also good for an after work cocktail or seven.
A few nights back I started reading a Rayda Jacobs novel where she keeps referring to Gatsbys and I realised I’ve never eaten a Gatsby and it’s about time I did so I know what Rayda is talking about. So, I asked on Facebook where I can find the best Gatsby in Cape Town and some American friends of mine joined in the conversation and apparently in France it’s called an Americano and it’s made with burger patties instead of polony or steak or curry. But what was interesting was when I tried to explain how come I’ve never eaten this quintessentially Cape Town sandwich before, loving all things local as I do. And I kept starting and then deleting my comment because I didn’t know how to say it: that Gatsbys are coloured food and white people just don’t eat them. It’s funny trying to explain your country to foreigners and realising, anew, how mad it all sounds (how mad it all is).
But, that’s the gospel truth, isn’t it? They’re poor food; working class fair. We mlungus might go into a café that sells them, but we’ll buy a samoosa or a chicken pie and a can of diet coke. Not a Gatsby. And I started thinking about that and how, a while ago, I had to attend a conference in Bridgetown and we white people looked at each other in bemusement. There’s a Bridgetown in Cape Town? Who knew? Well, a lot of people, it turns out. The people who eat Gatsbys. Bridgetown is in Athlone, and while all the coloured people in the world will know where Camps Bay is even if they’ve never been there, the vast majority of white Capetonians will never go to Athlone. Unless they got drunk at Forries and made a wrong turn off Klipfontein Road and pooped themselves when they realised.
And it’s interesting how the apartness a lot of us grew up with is reflected in our food. Black people eat samp and pap; white people eat fish and salad. When I lived overseas people would ask me what South African cuisine was, and it’s an impossible question to answer unless you précis it with a summary of the socio-political history of our country. Because there is no ‘South Africa’ in the sense they were meaning. There are pockets of disparate people whose lives are vastly different in terms of what they can expect to achieve; the dreams they dare to aspire to, and the food they can afford to eat.
Strangely enough, the thing that helped me understand the Swedes I was living amongst was when I started cooking Swedish food. The food of a nation says a lot about their passions and preferences and who, quintessentially, they are. Northern Europeans might appear cold on the outside, but bite into a warm-from-the-oven saffron bun on a frigid December morning and you know, underneath their chilly façade, beats the warmest of hearts. And when we break bread with one another we also break through barriers. Which is, I think, one of the reasons I insist on serving chakalaka at braais. It’s my private little rebellion against the repressive norms of my apartheid childhood. (And also because it’s delicious).
And, I guess, what propels me to put my 68-year-old mother in a car and drive us to Miriam’s on Adderley Street on a Tuesday morning in search of the perfect Gatsby in lieu of our regular coffee. And I guess it’s about needing to step out of my own little pocket; trying not to be so precious and white all the time. And I don’t assume for a moment that ordering a chip roll will change the world; I just mean we must try and be mindful of where we come from and the assumptions we make, and that there are worlds of experiences out there and a wealth of lessons at our fingertips if we can remember to open our minds and our hearts to them. It’s like, if you take the courage to break through the boundaries of what you order for lunch, maybe some other boundaries will be broken down too in the process. I don’t know.
I invited my friend Zulfa along as she’d joined in the Facebook conversation and seemed to be a bit of a Gatsby expert, and every time I see her she reminds me of the time I went to visit her at her home in Athlone and, being the type who can’t find her way out of Cavendish square, naturally I got hopelessly lost. With a dead cell-phone and driving around aimlessly with two children in an area which (to my mind) could only be teeming with murderers and rapists, my anxiety increased about a hundred-fold when I realised I was being followed by a strange man in a car. Not only followed, but he was making hand gestures and seemingly trying to pull me over. While I tried my best to get away from him, my Toyota Tazz didn’t have enough power and for endless, excruciating minutes, I had to watch this man wave his arms as he threatened to bludgeon us all to death.
When, by some miracle, I finally found the right house, I was surprised to see the scary man from the car sitting at the kitchen table having a cup of tea. It was none other than Zulfa’s sweet, docile husband, Moegamat, who’d ventured out in a quest to rescue what could only be the lost and hysterical blonde chick. Shame. This is how mad this country makes us. I still cringe when I see him. But, back to the Gatsby: It was bigger and spicier and more delicious than even greedy-guts, curry-loving me had expected. And while I tried to eat it with my hands – never mind one hand as is the Muslim way – within three bites I knew if I didn’t resort to my knife and fork it was going to become a soggy mess. The steak was tender and flavourful, the chips were crisp and spicy and the sautéed onion tied it all together perfectly. It might not be the healthiest of meals, but some food is soul food and, when eaten while laughing and sharing life stories with people you love it becomes some of the best medicine in the world.
There was a time, not long ago, when raw food was associated with odd people in hemp leggings and homemade sandals, but in the last while (thanks, in part, to Hollywood) the notion of eating food in its original form has become a lot more mainstream. And someone who seriously debunks the notion of a raw being tie-dyed-hippie-crap is ultra glamorous Dane, Beatrice Holst, a sought-after Copenhagen chef and caterer who recently arrived in the Mother City to open the sexiest of raw food outlets, Raw and Roxy in Woodstock.
The reason why Beatrice gave up animal products and stopped heating her food was personal. From years of carrying heavy trays she developed early-onset arthritis in her wrists and decided to treat her symptoms with food rather than drugs. And it worked. After a daily dose of her Lemon Ginger Blast which contains ginger, spinach, celery, kale, apple, lemon and cucumber – a combination which makes the body alkaline – her pain disappeared, her eyesight improved and her menopause symptoms went away completely. Amazed at the results this simple change made, she decided to go the whole hog and totally transform her diet.
Having eaten exclusively raw for a year, there is nothing you can tell this lady about how to make simple food taste delicious, and her cupboard is packed with unpronounceable things she brings back from Europe and adds to her sauces and salads. And it’s interesting to see who visits her shop in the Woodstock Co-op – she has big, macho truck drivers who eschew the burger joint across the passage and come, instead, for a cup of freshly pressed vegetable juice, knowing how much their bodies benefit from the vitamin and nutrient blast.
I started with a fabulous glass of pink stuff called the ‘Love Elixer’ – a combo of black grapes, pomegranate juice and holy rosewater she has blessed by the Imam in the mosque up the road (hey, we must take our blessings wherever they may come from) followed by linseed crackers, cumin-flavoured guacamole and tasty dehydrated kale. For mains we got a huge plate of delicious raw lasagna, courgette pasta and the tangy, I-am-Adventurous Asian salad. We were hungry and I am one of the greediest people I know, but the meal was so filling and plentiful I couldn’t even finish it, let alone enjoy the incredible dessert of coconut-flavoured fruit salad and rich, chocolately ganache made from avocado and coconut oil (I defy anyone in this world to know this isn’t made with piles of butter, sugar and cream). Luckily, we were allowed to take it home in a doggy-bag.
It’s not for everyone to go 100% raw, and personally (being the unevolved soul that I am) I believe there’s a place in the world for bacon, but I love eating this way and find myself doing it more and more because it’s delicious and you feel so damn good when you do it. And if you do it 80% of the time or even 50% or even 20%, it’s a whole lot better than not doing it at all. So, go and visit this place. You can’t miss Beatrice – she has waist-length blonde hair, a huge smile and will probably be wearing an LBD and heels while she makes fresh berry smoothies and whips up lunch for 100 hungry people who know good food when they see it.
If you’ve ever wondered what the rich and fabulous (who made their money working for German airlines and fixing the noses of Monaco princesses before sensibly putting European winters behind them forever and settling in the fairest Cape) do of a late summer’s afternoon while the plebs of the world sit in stuffy offices, I can tell you – they gather around a dappled 30-seater, starched linen table at the Foodbarn in Noordhoek and partake of the most delightful lunch a foodie could imagine.
And the people who show up at the Chef’s Table are pretty much all foodies. Having done the graft and made their gazonkazillians they are now in the enviable position of spending their days mastering the tricky art of cold-smoking Norwegian salmon and sourcing the freshest porcini mushrooms, and they know a thing or two about culinary excellence. Which is why they flock to Franck Dangereaux’s 6-weekly event because, truly, one would be hard-pressed to find the equivalent skill, innovativeness and downright gutsiness of this ex-student of world-renowned French chef, Roger Verge, and founder of top South African restaurant, La Colombe.
I mean, who in their right mind would serve a three-cheese risotto including a heavyweight aged parmesan with truffles, tarragon and oysters, or pair salmon with licorice, vanilla and foie gras? This latter dish I was the least convinced about, but I have to say, unreservedly, that it was the singlemost delicious plate of food I’ve ever been consumed. While the flavours were subtle, the combination had an astonishingly seductive richness and a decadence, and the textures were like layers of satin on velvet.
I was still dreaming about this plate of food the next day, in another, heavenly kind of realm, while I went through the motions of shopping for a birthday present for a 7-year-old and taking the kids to a party, and was probably still drunk on the beautiful Raats series of Chenin Blancs we were plied with throughout the afternoon when I decided to mail Franck and tell him that if you could put sex on a plate, that’s the dish it would be. I hope he doesn’t think I’m a loon. But I really understand what the guy opposite us meant when he never misses a Chef’s Table because Franck’s food keeps him sane.
It was the first time in a while I didn’t think about Reeva Steenkamp or Anni Dewani or Nkandla. I suppose, in a sense, getting drunk as a miggie on a Friday afternoon and making merry with complete strangers as you bond over plate after plate of mind-bending, taste-bud dancing culinary brilliance, is a kind of decadent escapism. But also if you spend most of your time putting yourself aside and paying your Eskom bill and being a parent and washing the car and turning off the lights during earth hour, aren’t you entitled to a few hours a year where you treat yourself a little; put on your fabulous hat and throw back a vintage wine and put extra butter on your warm, fresh-out-the-oven bread bread and dig into the soft, yellow richness of a Gorgonzola creme brûlée and go, you know what? Life is short. I’m gonna have me a beautiful afternoon.
And South Africa is one of the few places in the world where normal people can, actually, afford to eat like kings in incredible settings. I mean, R695 is more than what we would normally elect to pay for a meal, but in this case – given the quality of the fare and the plenitude of good wine – it’s a damn bargain. By the time the coffee cups were cleared away we were jolly as the Easter Bunny and drunk as the dominee at nagmaal and definitely in no shape to drive home to town, so instead we went to the beach and stripped off to our undies and went swimming in Noordhoek’s warm (really), friendly waves and it was so much fun, and then we drove home along Chapman’s Peak where, even if you’re used to that view, you’ll never get used to that view, and a CD called movie magic or something was in the stereo and suddenly Love Is In the Air started playing and we turned it up loud and sang along and that’s what the whole world felt like because great food and wine will do that to you.
And in the joyous afterglow of a day spent with interesting, engaging people and an abundance of all things good and the sun setting over the sea the words of the song made me think of my great, consuming love affair with this country which, for better or for worse, has in some ways become the theme of my life: ‘And I don’t know if you are illusion/and I don’t know if I see truth/but you are something that I must believe in/and you are there when I reach out for you.’
Chef’s Table at the Food Barn happens every six weeks, and the menu is formulated in collaboration with a local winemaker. This time it was Bruwer Raats from Raats Family Wines (http://www.raats.co.za/) who offered a selection of their specialities, Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc, and delivered an interesting and impassioned presentation about why this underrated grape results in some of the most authentic and quintessentially South Africa wines around. Find out when the next Foodbarn Chef’s Table is happening here http://www.thefoodbarn.co.za/la-table-du-chef/, get there and feel the love.
If we South Africans had a national shoe it would, without contest, be the plakkie (or the slip slop or the flip flop – whichever word you prefer) – they’re cool, comfy, easy-to-wear and when you buy the larny metallic ones you can take them straight from the beach to the bar and still look fabulous. And, to this end, my sweet and gorgeous friend, Mike Cloete, is making plakkies that are, truly, very awesome to wear. And I know because he gave me a pair which I wear ALL THE TIME. Not only are they much (much) cheaper than a certain brand which begins with a ‘huh’, they’re excellent quality, very pretty, and best of all – they’re made in SA.
80% of all Beach Religion footwear is locally produced, which means Mike’s company is creating jobs for a lot of people, developing and utilising local skills, and wouldn’t you know, he’s just sent a consignment of shoes to Italy – land of Prada, Dolce and Gabbana and all manner of fabulous footwear – which means his shoes are bladdy well made. He’s also got a very fun, interactive thing going where you can design your own slip slop before each season, but mostly I just think it’s cool when quality stuff is made down here, and supporting local business helps us all. For info on how to purchase the raddest plakkies in the universe check out http://www.beachreligion.com. (And you don’t want to not be rad).
You know you have your finger on the pulse of the city not at all when it takes a Danish friend who has been in town for all of five minutes to tell you about one of the coolest endeavours Cape Town has ever been involved with. Creative Mornings (http://creativemornings.com) is part of a programme happening across the globe where a bunch of interesting cities from Berlin to Melbourne to San Francisco host a morning talk on the same day, in the same time slot covering a range of design/innovation/art/living in the world-related topics.
Last month’s theme, for example, was bravery, and the speaker was a young guy who decided to raise money by travelling alone through the Amazon jungle and ended up getting shot and surviving through the kindness of strangers. While not too many of us will kayak through a jungle, the point of the talk was human efficacy – how we must remember to be mindful; to ask questions; to think for ourselves; to say no when we don’t agree with what we’re being told.
Because bravery and courage are resources we need every day in a world which can be pretty hostile and more than a little bit scary. And, we tend to forget that one human being can, in fact, make a pretty big difference if we put our minds to it. It was a cool talk, and it’s especially applicable to anyone who has decided to take a path slightly less travelled, and use their skills and gifts and creativity to forge their own way in the world. Which isn’t always easy.
After the talk a bunch of us went up the road to a coffee shop in Rose Street, including a Finnish guy called Lukas Renlund who is totally going out on a limb by doing something incredibly interesting with social media. Lukas is a very successful fashion photographer (though that title doesn’t do his art justice) in Copenhagen who wanted to find ways of getting his work noticed by a wider audience. So, he decided to start a project called ‘Steal My Photograph’ where he travels to cities like London and Barcelona and encourages people to literally steal his art in exchange for the person in question taking a pic of where the artwork is hanging in their homes and posting it on his Facebook page.
And while it might seem mad – giving art away – this is how social media has changed the way we think, act and market ourselves. It’s not about thinking out of the box – there is simply no box anymore. Anyway, his work is amazing, and I loved the energy and enthusiasm with which he approaches his craft – and life. The world is wide open and, particularly here where the creative and entrepreneurial spirit is so strong, anything is possible.
It was really cool to hear all these Scandinavians raving about how innovative South Africans are; how cutting-edge our design is and how impressed they are by the way we think. Who knew? If you’re in town and you can, get to Creative Mornings. It’s a very worthwhile way of spending a few hours on a Friday. You’ll learn stuff, be inspired and are sure to make at least one interesting connection over coffee afterwards. Here are the videos Lukas made of ‘Steal My Photograph’ in Barcelona and Copenhagen. He has the good sense to be staying in Cape Town for a while. Check out his Facebook page for info on how to steal his photograph: https://www.facebook.com/Lukas.Renlund.Photographer