Archive | September 2010


Something that never ceases to bemuse me about Johannesburg is the phenomenon of the restaurant-with-a-view-of-the-car-park.  Most restaurants are placed on the outer edges of malls, presenting vistas of rows of cars.  It may be that this has much to do with the Johannesburger’s obsession with cars as status symbols, as opposed to the Capetonian’s preference to look out over sea or mountain.

Still, Cranks presents the best Vietnamese food in this city and we go as often as we can; the opportunities being limited to those occasions when we are child-free.  This is because the décor is best described as blatantly pornographic: Eric, the owner, has made ‘sculptures’ (using Ken and Barbie dolls) illustrating the Kama Sutra, that hang from the ceiling, lurk on shelves and sit as table centerpieces. 

None of this detracts from the eating experience; the tableware is delightfully mismatched, cheap plastic.  The food is HOT; both in taste and trend.  We were able to grab an early supper there last night, while Our Bunn watched a movie with a friend in the adjacent Mall.


On the subject of food trends, here’s an interesting list of things that are NOT HOT:



Why this is such a good meal:

(source: Wikipedia)


Canned tuna is a prominent component in many weight trainers’ diets, as it is high in protein and easily prepared. Tuna is an oily fish, and therefore contains a high amount of Vitamin D. A can of tuna in oil contains about the Adequate Intake (AI) of the US Dietary Reference Intake of vitamin D for infants, children, men, and women aged 19–50. Canned tuna can also be a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. It sometimes contains over 300 milligrams (0.011 oz) per serving.


Beetroot IS a rich source of potent antioxidants and nutrients, including magnesium, sodium, potassium and vitamin C, and betaine, which is important for cardiovascular health. It functions by acting with other nutrients to reduce the concentration of homocysteine, a homologue of the naturally occurring amino acid cysteine, which can be harmful to blood vessels and thus contribute to the development of heart disease, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease. Betaine functions in conjunction with S-adenosylmethionine, folic acid, and vitamins B6 and B12 in order to carry out this function.

Additionally, several preliminary studies on both rats and humans have shown that betaine may protect against liver disease, particularly the build up of fatty deposits in the liver caused by alcohol abuse, protein deficiency, or diabetes, among other causes. The nutrient also helps individuals with hypochlorhydria, a condition causing abnormally low levels of stomach acid, by increasing stomach acidity.


Red chillies contain high amounts of vitamin C and carotene (provitamin A). Yellow and especially green chillies (which are essentially unripe fruit) contain a considerably lower amount of both substances. In addition, peppers are a good source of most B vitamins, and vitamin B6 in particular. They are very high in potassium, magnesium, and iron. Their high vitamin C content can also substantially increase the uptake of non-heme iron from other ingredients in a meal, such as beans and grains.

And, just because it is Supagran’s birthday, a Wednesday and not a school day; a glass of crisp Rose *grin* !



There seems to be a technical glitch on WordPress at the moment and some of us are not receiving email notifications for blogs we subscribe to; this may account for my absence from some of my friends’ blogs.  Another reason for my current low-activity on the blogs is the fact that we have school holidays at the moment, so O Bunn either takes over my PC, or we are out and about having fun.  (You may read that as:  She is spending all my money.)

Jingle has announced her monthly blogs awards; I thank her and the friends who nominated me, from the bottom of my heart.  Congratulations to all the other winners.

The Celebrate Blogger of August in Food/Cooking Award:

The Celebrate Blogger of August In Short Stories Runner up award:


And then a little mystery; I mention it here in case the benefactor is a reader.  Last week a gift was delivered at my gate.  Our Alice could offer only that the delivery man drove a white car.  A very sweet gesture, I’m sorry that I am not able to thank the donor in person.


The wine was lovely 🙂


I am reposting this.  With our rains in smelling-distance, Stomp would have been very busy getting his garden ready …

In May 2008, South Africa was beset by violent xenophobic attacks on foreign, migrant workers.  62 people died and many lives were affected.  This is a diary entry from my journal during that time.



Stomp, our resident Zimbabwean Man-Who-Does, got his name as a result of losing half a leg when he was hit by a car in Sauer Street in 1978.  He more or less rules our little compound, mends fences and steadfastly refuses to indulge my yen for a Zen garden; constantly perfecting his wavy flowerbeds with a sharp spade.

We bought him a prosthesis some years back, but he prefers to go about his business with a cane and with his stump wrapped in one of Original Bunn’s old ballet stockings and manages a sprightly trot twice daily with the dogs, doffing his hat and making ribald suggestions to the local nannies.

He has been a third parent to The Bunn in her growing years and exhibits tireless patience; he once spent three hours in a wardrobe when a neighbour child popped over the wall and he Bunn promptly forgot that she and Stomp had been engaged in a game of hide and seek.  He frets about her diet and berates me for the lack of bread and butter as accompaniment to all our meals.  He is wild about television and becomes impossible to deal with if – for any reason – he misses The Bold and The Beautiful.

Every year, Stomp saves part of his monthly wages in a Post Office savings account for a Big Present for a family member back home.  When the Big Present is purchased a complicated series of phone calls leads to us taking a long drive to Beit Bridge, where a relative (who is rewarded for the service) meets us to collect the Big Present and sundry grocery items and take Stomp off for his annual month-long visit.  To date there have been: a sewing machine for his wife, a typewriter for his daughter (a school teacher) and an arc welding machine for his youngest son; amongst others. 

This year, the Big Present is a bicycle for his grandson.

It is the custom, on the first Sunday of every month, for Stomp’s wife and eldest son to wait, at 10am, at the public telephone outside the general dealer in their village, where Stomp will call them.  It has now been three weeks since he encountered the disconnected signal on the general dealer’s public phone.

There is a shiny yellow and black bicycle in my garage, waiting for a little boy.

There is a very sad old man in my garden, not worrying much about anything on television, except for the news.

Stomp died in June that year:

We received a call late one afternoon to tell us that Stomp passed away at about 5.20pm.  He had been suffering from a bad cold for a while and we took him in to the hospital.  We were told he had pneumonia. 

Despite the contradiction to his cultural tradition, we had no choice but to have Stomp cremated.  With the help of friends we managed to get the bicycle to Zimbabwe…


We got lost on the way, resulting in a scenic trip that lasted an hour and a half, instead of 20 minutes, which may have slanted my view of the whole experience, but I was dreadfully disappointed at the annual Good Food & Wine Show.

The Bunn and I had planned a girly day; I wanted to shop for some small kitchen gadgets, she wanted to see the BBC Cbeebies’ Sid and Katy in action and we thought we’d sit down to a leisurely lunch and say hi to my friend Jenny Morris, the Giggling Gourmet.

We go to this show every year, and I’ve always come away inspired, with each of us carrying a bag of lovely loot and empty wallets. 

Perhaps it was the change of venue from Sandton to Northgate that made the attendees so radically different, maybe it’s that I went on the last afternoon of the show? I felt badly for the exhibitors: it seemed like a mere 5% were there to actually experience new brands, the rest were freeloading yobbos.  Extended families stood around the tasting stands, shamelessly stuffing themselves and blocking access for serious buyers.  Only those stands where tasting was charged for stood deserted.  I lunched on oysters and champagne; R10 per oyster and R20 for a glass of very good bubbly.  The Bunn was taken with the prettiest stand at the show and had a generous glass of fresh lemonade and a lemon muffin.


I really hoped to find Verlaque there, but it was not to be, so we stopped at the impressive Froggit stand, where I made a purchase only because of the personable young man behind the counter. Cross with being constantly jostled by the crowd, and hungry (the only food for sale seemed to be a Schwarma kiosk) we sought out the exit and made our way home.

My purchases:

A case of Kleine Draken Sauvignon Blanc 2010 (Look out for lots of salads on my blog in the near future)

A case of Frankie’s Cinnamon Cola

A jar of Dhukka (Very pretty stall, start-up company; no label and no branding; very bad move considering the expense of having a stall at the show)

A bottle of Artica Coffee Liqueur concentrate (24% Vol/Alc: a coffee cake in the near future)

Froggit Thyme Infused Balsamic

Froggit Pomegranate Dressing

Froggit Ginger Infused Balsamic

A bag of vanilla chips (A steal at R5: will yield 2kgs of vanilla sugar!)

A pack of ‘sealing sticks’ (New product, wonderful for sealing opened bags of flour, sugar etc, and super for school lunches.)


I don’t know if I’ll bother going next year …


A repost inspired by this:

Seventy eight years ago a small Belgian girl, aged six, arrived at a convent school in Cape Town.  The details of why she was sent to this country are sketchy, but I know that she boarded with a relative in a Sea Point hotel.  This little girl, Elisabet, was befriended by a classmate, Veronica; who would become my mother-in-law many years later.

It was a friendship that would endure.  Grainy photographs show them dressed up for their first communion, as teenagers at a table at an afternoon dance at a local tea room.  They joined the St John’s Ambulance Service during the war and there is a picture of them posing in their uniforms with soldiers.  With the advent of colour film come snapshots of them, both now young mothers, on a trip abroad; at the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, in a field of Tulips in Holland and at the Eiffel Tower.

Elisabet and her husband eventually returned to settle in Belgium.  They would have three children; two girls and a boy.  Veronica had two boys and the women wrote to each other faithfully, every week two envelopes of news would cross paths across the ocean; shared news of the minutiae of everyday life.

One Christmas Eve, as was the custom in their small Belgian town, Elisabeth’s two teenaged girls took the walk to early mass at their church.  On their return walk, looking forward to hot chocolate and roasted chestnuts, they were hit by a hit-and-run-driver, drunk from an all-night party.  (The driver later came forward and handed himself over to the police). The impact catapulted the two girls over a low wall and into the garden owned by people who had gone to Germany for the holidays.  The heavily-falling snow covered the two bodies even before Elisabet looked at her watch and remarked to her husband that girls were naughty being so late, they must have lingered talking to friends outside the church.

A search-party was mounted that evening and the town was scoured for the girls.  After two days, the whole country was on the lookout for any sign of them.  Rumours began to circulate; people speculated that the girls had run away.  Some – even in that time of relative innocence – wove ghoulish tales of paedophilia and captivity.

After almost two weeks, the neighbors’ return from their German holiday and set about clearing the mounds of snow from their garden and discovered the two frozen corpses.  My mother-in-law believes that Elisabet’s Alzheimer’s disease took root that day.

Their letters dwindled over the next years, eventually become little more than the obligatory exchange of Christmas and birthday cards.  Veronica learned that Elisabet’s husband had one day left a note on the kitchen table to say that he would not be home for supper and had never been heard from again.

They spoke on the telephone a couple of times a year, although – with time – Elisabet became less and less lucid.

When I came into Veronica’s life, I took up a friendship with Elisabet’s son, Bernard, and was able to give Veronica updates about Elisabet’s health.  After a few years Bernard decided that a visit to her childhood haunts may jolt Elisabet into some kind of lucid state and he planned a holiday in Cape Town.

Veronica was terribly excited to see her old friend, and her dismay when they arrived was heartbreaking to witness.  Elisabet, although fit as a fiddle physically, was like a toddler in her behavior; at restaurants she had to be restrained from eating the butter-balls and sugar sachets, she wet her pants often and sometimes it was quite clear that she didn’t know that Bernard was her son and not her husband.

It was soon after this visit that Veronica suffered her third stroke.   Almost paralysed, relying on me for the most intimate parts of her ablutions, frustrated beyond belief at her inability to communicate verbally with me, she managed one day to utter her first coherent sentence in days:

Dear God, I wonder if Elisabet is better off, a healthy body and an oblivious mind …


South Africa celebrated National Braai Day yesterday.  I was disappointed that there was no initiative to encourage the nation to burn alien vegetation and so to preserve our indigenous trees, my personal choice was my trusty gas griller. 

Ours was a low-key affair, the household members had things to do and places to go; the children chose to have lunch in the pool, the men munched intermittently around the snooker table.


My sauce stole the show, thank you Tandy.

(I added cream and green peppercorns from my precious little bottle that came to me all the way from Madagascar.)

I was especially homesick for my hometown, but the eponymous wine went some way to soothing my longing.


Today lies ahead, with no commitments; I think a trip to the Good Food & Wine Expo is a good idea …