Archive | September 2013

DECLINING AN AWARD ON HERITAGE DAY

I have been awarded the ‘One Lovely Blog’ award by Mal. I’ve been blogging on various platforms for almost ten years now and I think that it is time for me to begin declining these awards, although I am very grateful to Mal for the nomination. The rules of this particular one are as follows:
• Thank the one that nominated you. My sincere thanks to you, Mal:
http://maloquacious.wordpress.com/2013/09/22/one-lovely-blog-award-2/

Put up the picture for the One Lovely Blog Award.

one_lovely_blog_award

Tell everyone seven things about yourself. I think I’ve done this so often that all my blog friends know everything there is to know about me. Nonetheless, below are a few random facts about today:

I love soap. I’ve heard many people say they’d be insulted if given soap as a birthday or Christmas gift; I wouldn’t. Not at all, I have bars of soap stashed all over the place: in the pockets of my winter coats to ward off fishmoths, in my linen closet to scent my sheets, in jars on the edge of my bathtub … I love soap! (Spot the bar of bergamot soap poking out of the pocket.)

coat with soap_edited

Although much time has passed, and – to all outward appearances – I have settled nicely in my apartment and have “gotten over it”, I still occasionally reel in shock at the change in my circumstances. I will wake up in the morning and, just for a moment, I will forget that I am not a wife anymore; that there is not some shared activity in which to be engaged for the day. This – feeling like an amputee – I am told, is a natural part of the process of grieving:
“I had known a man, a butcher, who had accidently hacked off most of his left hand while cutting up a side of beef. All that was left was the thumb and index finger, but he claimed to be able to feel his other, absent fingers, so much so that he often went to twist the ring that had once rested on one of them. In a way I could still feel my other life, or the lack of it. Sometimes I would be walking down a Roman street and be overcome by the sensation that I was in the Via della Condotta or Volta dei Tintori, or some other Florentine place. But I was never able to grab hold of these things – of course not, because they existed only in my mind. I wanted to, though. I craved some sort of contact, to see or touch the ghosts of home.” – Appetite, Philip Kazan.

appetite philip kazan
Read this book if you love history, art and food!
Without the company of my cat, I expect I would go slightly insane on lonely days. Our relationship took a while to get off the ground, but she has proved to be excellent company and an ever-ready ear when self-pity threatens to overwhelm me. As a keeper of secrets she cannot be faulted.

ally on heritage day_edited

Today is our National Heritage Day and it has become customary for the entire nation to cook meat on fires. I’m not sure that barbecues are allowed on the balconies in my building, but I lit one in my miniature Weber regardless of what rules may exist.

first weber braai_edited

My feast today was a solitary one; my daughter is away at the coast for the school holidays, or I would have invited her and her swain to join me. I cooked chicken marinated in Portuguese spices and ginger beer. One leg for my lunch, with potato salad and sliced beetroot. The other will be used for chicken mayonnaise sandwiches for tomorrow’s lunch.

marinating chicken_edited

braaid chicken_edited

And so ends a relatively good day. I have been productive and have enjoyed sunshine, some good music and have attained a sense of relative serenity. All is good and I will sleep well. Tomorrow my job hunting continues and I will tackle it with the faith that I continue to operate beneath the benign hand of God. I will forge ahead and see what my new life becomes…

dilla lolly

In the meantime, I think an ice lolly will finish off the day nicely.

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ON KILLING ORCHIDS AND REKINDLING RELATIONSHIPS

orchid_edited

Lounge circa 2009
They say that it’s not a good thing to look back with regret, but I can’t help thinking back to the orchids I made flourish profusely in my marital home. I had them showing off shamelessly all over the place, seemingly thriving on my neglect. Yesterday – as I discarded yet another sad, brown victim of my newfound ineptitude with these exotic blooms – I was forced to wonder where I am going wrong. Perhaps I am guilty of extreme cosseting, but I vowed to give up. I have, after all, killed a sum total of eleven plants in seventeen months. Yes, I would give it up … after just one more try … if this one dies, I will throw in the towel and stick to the thriving pots of succulents on my balcony.

last chance orchid_edited

New orchid – the last chance.
Extreme cosseting is also something I must avoid as my rekindled relationship with my daughter grows tentatively close again. When we spend time together I have to curb my urge to smother her with physical contact. I want to touch her, to hold her hand and hug her all the time, but I know that I must restrain myself and be content with an embrace on meeting and parting.
My girl has a beau now and I was overjoyed (and more than a little nervous) to meet the lad this past weekend. They’re terribly sweet together; both earnest, smart youngsters who delighted me with their witty conversation. I took them to Thava, an authentic Indian restaurant near to my new home. The chap has an aversion to very hot curries and it was a testament to his devotion to my child that – when her Vindaloo dish proved too hot – he promptly swapped dishes and manfully made his way through the dish as best he could, although I could almost see the steam coming out of his ears.

curries at thava_edited
Chicken Tikka Masala / Chicken Vindaloo / Seafood Vindaloo with Basmati Rice.

seafood vindaloo at thava_edited
My own seafood curry was delicious.
Dessert proved less stressful for both of them and – again – the young man gladly agreed that they should exchange their portions halfway through.

vermicelli dessert at thava_edited
Payasam – Vermicelli cooked with cream, raisins and almonds.

fried ice cream at thava
Thava fried ice cream
It’s such a thrill for me to be sharing my daughter’s life again and I am so grateful to see her so happy. I’m looking forward to spending time with the two of them soon again, next time in an environment that is a little more relaxed for all three of us. I think I’ll give the curry a miss though, and cook for them in my new home … a wholesome, calming mutton doughboy at my own table, with – hopefully – a thriving orchid as a centerpiece.

doughboy_edited
Mutton Doughboy (Recipe on my previous post.)

BANISHING SUNDAY LONELINESS WITH CHOCOLATE ELEPHANTS AND SALT+PEPPER

Some luxuries just can’t be lived without. Perfume, flowers, a good book and chocolate elephants. – Adair Victoria Cross

stop and smell the roses_edited

I’d include the luxury of lazy Sundays in my friend Adair’s astute quote; I’ve come to love Sundays in my building. The residents are such a diverse mix of cultures and, as they all start their cooking for Sunday lunch, the smells that mingle in the stairwell are a delight to the senses. Today I can smell ras el hanout from the flat of the Ethiopian pastor on my left and thyme in the stuffing of a roasting chicken from the little Jewish lady across the way. My own kitchen is fuggy with the smell of tomatoes simmering with harissa; I’m making a huge pot of sauce to freeze in batches for the week ahead and have made a batch of sausage rolls for the next few days’ lunches.

pies and tomatoes
I’m also preparing to cook a mutton doughboy from a recipe from a book which has made my senses dance a merry jig from the first page, Niel Stemmet’s ‘Salt+Pepper heritage food journey’ (Lapa Uitgewers, R358.00 from Exclusive Books). Niel is a Facebook friend of mine, whom I first discovered via his blog.

salt+pepper cover

salt+pepper doughboy recipe

Niel’s one of those iconic figures who makes everything he touches turn to gold. The seventh-generation descendant of a Dutch glassblower, Niel is a writer, photographer, restaurateur and guest-house owner and décor guru par excellence.
The book was first published in Afrikaans and the translator has been gentle with the author, allowing the unique Afrikaner voice to remain. The recipes are testimony to the history of South African cooking – before the 1970s brought the advent of quick-fix additives. Interspersed with the recipes are delightful anecdotes and reminiscences of the women who formed Niel’s love of cooking, and thought-provoking quotes from South African writers, poets and musicians – even some from the bible.

salt+pepper p123

salt+pepper p127

salt+pepper p140

Niel did all his own photographs and they alone are a good reason for relishing the pages of this book, which celebrates a return to the honest-cuisine of old times, when the only pantry ingredients necessary were salt, pepper, sugar, vinegar, lemon juice, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, coriander, bay leaves – or rather, shared recipes “told in our vernacular and passed on by grandmother to mother, daughter and son”.
And so, with a squirt of bergamot on my wrists added to the fragrance of the flowers on my sideboard, I finish clearing up after my kitchen session and carry a cup of coffee and a slab of those chocolate elephants to my sofa. Perhaps I’ll nap or – perhaps – I’ll devour more of the book until it’s a respectable hour to get under the covers and have an early night.
Just for today I’ve banished loneliness; just for today I’ve created my own bliss …

chocolate elephants_edited