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Hello world!

DSC_0397Welcome to my world! I am Anna-Karien Otto, a writer living in the Boland region of South Africa. I like to think of this space as a secret library, a tea party, a welcoming kitchen or even a magic toy shop where we can explore all sorts of treasures together. This is where I share my passions for food writing, children’s books, poetry and so much more!

The Curious Cook

If almonds be the food of love

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I first made frangipane tart on the day before Valentine’s Day. I was 19 years old and had fled the nest a mere month before, to live in a shabbily charming Victorian house. To celebrate my new life, I had been collating some new recipes in an exercise book with a red spine. And this was the first one: frangipane tart with apricots. It was a sunny day Continue reading “If almonds be the food of love”

The Curious Cook

Life and lemons

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Lemon madeira with lemon curd on a bespoke handpainted cake plate from 1910. Photo: Justus Wagener

Everybody knows you can count yourself lucky if you have experienced life on a farm. There is nothing like it, waking up early to milk the cows, exploring the wonders of the veld, not to mention the dramatic, rolling rainstorms. I was happily plunged into this experience when my father married a lovely woman with red hair and they decided to raise their children on her parent’s farm in the Kowie River valley, halfway between the villages of Bedford and Adelaide in the Eastern Cape.

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The Curious Cook

Cheese, please!

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Photo: Crate and Barrel

Like for many women around the world, Christmas is usually a stressful time for me. What is it with this persistent search for perfection? I am not an A type organised homemaker by any means but as soon as Christmas comes around, my nurturing instincts go into overdrive. I become momentarily convinced that orchestrating a perfectly varied menu means a memorable time will be had by all. The truth is, having a good time means actually being relaxed enough to enjoy the occasion.

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Poetry

to write this poem

I had to dig

deep,

deep down

into a drawer

that had been left untouched for years

Thick with dust and

terrible memories.

To write this poem

I exposed parts of my unbearable past

layers of papers like igneous rock

Letters from lovers

irrelevant newspaper clippings

Rambling accounts of dreams

dog-eared scripts and

labored scrawlings.

I had to read all of this

To write this poem.

 

To write,

I learnt how to breathe

differently

and let go.

The Curious Cook

Salad days

If there was one thing that my mother taught me how to do, it was how to make salad dressing. Just like me, she is super controlling in the kitchen – she never taught me how to cook. It was all instinctive, all I learned was from eating and observing, and discovering things for myself. Of course, there was always that niggling obsession with food that made itself known from very early on.

Continue reading “Salad days”