Archive | May 2011

46, 47, 48 …

I had to ask Old Spouse how old I am. It’s a bit distressing to find I’ve spent all of this year thinking I am only 46, when I am – in fact – 47. The reason I wanted to know is because it would have been my parents’ 48th wedding anniversary today. Yes, I know … I was a January baby. Don’t bother doing the math. It wasn’t exactly a shotgun marriage; they had planned it, but had to speed things up a bit.
In my memories they’re always young and slightly apart from us, the children. Oh, they were present for us, good parents, but I think of them as an insular unit. There were us, and there was them.
She’d not had a boyfriend before him; he’d had one girlfriend and had her name roughly tattooed on his wrist. This tattoo made my mom cross, for years and years, and she bought my dad a big watch to cover it.
It’s hopeless … I will be retrospective today. I may as well wallow in it …
1. I am eleven years old. I walk home from the bus stop to find my Nan sitting in the lounge with my mom. This is unusual for a week-day. My mom tells me “Oupa died this morning” and I laugh hysterically, or so I think, and then I am sitting on the floor crying and can’t stop.
2. Uncle Arch has visited and given us those sweets that look like large apricots. I am eight, my brother is four. I gobble my sweets and he hoards his. Later I cannot resist temptation and take a bite of one of his; he sees me and stabs me on the side of my face with a toy screwdriver. I still have the scar.
3. My bath is being run. I pick up my mother’s petticoat from the stool in the bathroom and wear it like a boob-tube dress and pose in front of the mirror, pretending I am Twiggy.
4. Standard Four (Grade 6): Anneline Kriel has brought home the Miss World title and will be making a parade through Bloemfontein one night. It is a school night, so we aren’t going. We have our baths and supper, and then my mom says ‘Get in the car’ and off we go, in our pyjamas. The next day at school, popular Paula Nunes asks everyone ‘Did you see baby-Cindy in her pyjamas last night?’ and everyone laughs for days.
5. Also Standard Four: My mom tells us to stay inside and not come out under any circumstances. Then she sits on the stoep, smoking and waiting until my dad gets home from work, she walks to his car. We hear the strangest sound, a groaning; like a severely wounded animal. She has told him that his best friend has died in a parachute malfunction. It is the first time I hear a grown man cry.
6. Uncle Billy and my dad are laughing in the kitchen and I go to see what it’s all about. My dad says ‘close your eyes and open your mouth’ and I taste the most heavenly thing in the world. I open my eyes and he pulls a red monster from a pot on the stove. ‘Want some more?’ and I scream in terror. My first encounter with crayfish.
7. My mom is helping me with my homework at the kitchen table. A neighbour bursts in through the door with my baby sister (four years old) in her arms; bleeding, broken little body. Two boys were racing on their bicycles and one lost control and ramped onto the sidewalk where she was playing and dragged her along under his bike for a few meters. Those nights that she slept at the hospital were the first time my mother was away from me for such a long period of time.
8. It is a Sunday night in summer, I must be six or younger because my sister isn’t in the picture yet. It is hot and my mom says we are allowed to eat rubbish food and break the rules. We have waffles with ice cream and hundreds-and-thousands sprinkles, and Cream Soda. We eat outside and then lie on the lawn. My dad lies propped on one elbow and leans over to kiss my mom. I get embarrassed and start doing cartwheels to get them to stop.
9. We’re fourteen, my friend Zelda and I. It is a Friday afternoon and we’re getting ready for a party that night. I’m lying on the floor of her bedroom, reading James Mitchener’s The Drifters. I roll onto my side to reach for a glass of Coke and I burn my arm on the curling iron which has been turned on in readiness for us to try and replicate Purdy’s hairstyle. Another scar.
10. It is my sixteenth birthday, and my father’s 37th. It is a very important day; since I was born on his 21st, my dad has vowed that he will take me ‘wining and dining’ when I turn 16. We are going to the President Hotel and I have a white Broderie Anglaise dress, made for me after a photograph of Barbara Barnard in an Errol Arendz creation in Fair Lady magazine. I feel like a princess.



My husband is a clever man. He’s a busy business executive; I’m told he is quite a force in the boardroom. He travels extensively for his business and, most weekends, he likes to kick back and relax, have a couple of beers or a Scotch, watch a game on TV and walk the dogs.
Occasionally, though, he does something that causes us all major distress. Original Bunn immediately goes to her room and puts her earphones on. The dogs, tails between their legs, slink off to hide under a shrub in the far corner of the garden. We know that, soon, the air will turn blue with cursing. If a hammer or – worse yet – a drill is involved; there is bound to be blasphemy, as happened this past weekend.
Yes, the man had decided that a bit of domesticity was in order and had got out his toolbox!
I shut myself in the kitchen. We were going to need some liquor soon, I was sure of it…



Yesterday’s lunch was underwhelming for a variety of reasons I’d rather not detail in this post. For the weekly photo theme of WATER, I’ll just share some pics I took and a bit of Johannesburg history, courtesy of Wikipedia.

My laughing child. Isn't it sad that, as 'grown ups' we can't do this sort of thing, for fear of losing dignity? I want one of these bubbles!

The Randburg Waterfront was originally built in 1994, and consisted of a large oval of shops and restaurants surrounding a lake in a natural depression in President Ridge in Randburg, fed by the Jukskei River. Shop fronts were constructed to have nautical theme, and the artificial lake had a motorised fountain system built-in, which would give evening synchronised light and water displays to the score of classical and contemporary music. The Waterfront was plagued by several delays in building, and the intended completion date of the complex was pushed back several times; when the official opening day came around, several visitors complained that many stores were uncompleted or not fully furbished.

Crowds of people, wherever I looked, all trying to get a free lunch out of the exhibitor stands.

The Waterfront suffered a decline in visitors after 2000, and as a result some of the many restaurants and small shops were forced to close. Addressing this slump in business, the Waterfront owners, Gray Property Trust, identified several issues leading to the economic downward spiral of the centre. These issues included a too-high restaurant density, insufficient retail space, clubs that encouraged drug abuse (most notably the since-closed infamous Morgan’s Cat Nightclub), and – ironically – the large body of water itself, which effectively separated the restaurants from each other and had, by 2000, begun to smell rancid.

My brandy & blue cheese fillet. Nice, but cold, at Babylon Again.

Gray Property Trust invested R80-million (approx. $12.5 mil, €10.4 mil, £7 mil) in refurbishing the ailing complex. An active decision to make the Waterfront a more ‘active retail experience’ prompted the redevelopment to greatly reduce the size of the artificial lake to a large central pond, which still features the musical fountains – drawing large crowds for the shows at 7pm and 8pm daily, as well as a meandering artificial river on the southern side. The area previously occupied by water was made into a grass park, which was then carved up by numerous walkways, and the centre of which a formal flea market was constructed.

Our guest's fish platter. It looked average, but he was polite and pronounced it very good.

The nautical theme of the Waterfront was replaced in favour of a Bohemian-cum-English commons feel, the idea of which lent itself to the complex’s new name; The Brightwater Commons.

I couldn't fault the oysters ...

Today, the centre is active and busy, with various events such as live bands and concerts ensuring a respectable number of visitors.


Someone is stealing from me. Little things; a manicure set, an empty perfume bottle … I have an idea who it may be, and I have sufficient knowledge of psychology to understand – and be sympathetic to – the reason why. But the latest theft is distressing beyond words to me.
I love notebooks and, throughout my life, I have collected them. This green one is one of my best-loved; it is the one that I only use when I am in Simonstown. When in Johannesburg, it lives on my desk and I dip into it most mornings. It’s gone.

There can be little value in it to the thief, but for me the loss of my doodles, like these (I scanned them for a challenge a long time ago, on another blog platform) are just devastating.

I suspect that the thief reads my blog and I beg that the notebook be surreptitiously returned, much as it was taken.
In the meantime, as serendipity often works, I received a beautiful notebook in the mail yesterday, from bluebee in Australia.

I plan to make this book a food diary; starting today. We’re off to a local oyster festival and – later – lunch at a Greek taverna.
Bonne chance, my friends. Happy Saturday.

“I would like to make a toast to lying, stealing, cheating and drinking. If you’re going to lie, lie for a friend. If you’re going to steal, steal a heart. If your going to cheat, cheat death. And if you’re going to drink, drink with me.”


When I walk into my kitchen today, I am not alone. Whether we know it or not, none of us is. We bring fathers and mothers and kitchen tables, and every meal we have ever eaten. Food is never just food. It’s also a way of getting at something else: who we are, who we have been, and who we want to be.
Molly Wizenberg, A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table, 2009

It’s Jamie Oliver’s birthday today. Who would have thought that the fresh-faced, lisping youngster would become one of the most enduring celebrity chefs in history with his Naked Chef series? Although, in Jamie’s case, ‘naked’ refers to simplicity rather than nudity, the very word makes me want to cry. Our current cold weather defies description; my nose is drizzling and my face is too numb to feel it. Until the drizzly bits freeze up, pulling my top lip up toward my cheek in a lopsided grimace.
And so, as often happens, Sidey’s weekend theme is right on the mark, there is a call for comfort food. Yesterday was National Soup Day and, daydreaming of sunnier climes, using what I had in my pantry and freezer, I set out to recreate a Basque stew/soup I’d once read in a magazine. Onions, garlic, white beans, herbs, white wine, fish, prawns, mussels, tomatoes … and lots of chilli.
Eaten beside a roaring fire, it provided no small comfort.

A way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, that shit true as gold. You put some love in your food and a fool can taste it. Raelle Tucker, True Blood, Cold Ground, 2008


Umami [uː mɑː mi], popularly referred to as savoriness, is one of the five basic tastes together with sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. Umami is a loanword from the Japanese umami (うま味?) meaning “pleasant savory taste”.This particular writing was chosen by Professor Kikunae Ikeda from umai (うまい) “delicious” and mi (味) “taste”. The Chinese characters 旨味 are used for a more general meaning, when a particular food is delicious. (wikipedia)

So the Danes, with little else to worry about, have examined Marmite, found it to contain added vitamins and – thus – banned it. As they say in Copenhagen, hvilket helvedet? That explains why, with the exception of Sidey and a few large dogs, I’ve never met a Dane I could warm to.
For me, Marmite is the quintessential smell of the schoolroom and the aroma of Marmite on toast brings back memories of doing my homework in my bedroom on winter afternoons. Dialogue on Facebook and Twitter yesterday gave evidence that the same was true for hundreds of people in England and South Africa.
I was so upset for the Danish schoolchildren that I went out and got my hair dyed the same colour as Marmite. Well that was my intention, but I chose the wrong shade and it came out plum. This gave my daughter a fright when she got home from school. There was nothing for it really; I had to make her a bowl of Marmite noodles to calm her down, because – as Nigella’s muse, Anna del Conte, puts it – I haven’t as yet found a child who doesn’t like it”.

Come to think of it, umami sounds a lot like ooooh mommy …


Foodreference trivia for 25 May back in 1986: Six million Americans participate in ‘Hand Across America’ by holding hands and singing across 4,150 miles of road in support of the hungry and homeless.
Well, I don’t know that the hand-holding and singing filled anyone’s belly. It strikes me they could all have made big pots of soup to hand out instead. Nice ham & pea soup to hand out. They could have had a field day promoting it in the media. I can just hear the jingle … Give Peas a Chance … would’ve become a hit song.

Anyhow, we have warnings on our own shores that a severe cold front is approaching, so I am grateful that I am not homeless and have the privilege of warm, hearty dishes like the fiery Nua Pad Prik I made yesterday. When I put this dish up as my Facebook status, many friends though I was cursing, but it is – in fact – nothing more than Thai Chili Beef.
I made this from notes I took when I ate this at my favourite restaurant and am so pleased that my husband pronounced it 100% spot-on.
In other local news, 80 silly twits trekked from all over the country and checked in to an expensive Johannesburg hotel this past weekend to await the predicted Rapture. I’ve no idea why, it’s a tall hotel and they’d probably have been better off waiting it out in their homes. Really very silly.
Next thing they’ll be predicting wine from the heavens, now that would be something to look forward to …