Welcome 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 first time I ever tasted basil pesto. A salad of sun-dried tomatoes and feta in a lovely sweet and sour vinaigrette. Roasted vegetables liberally sprinkled with rosemary and olive seasoning. Easy peasy tikka chicken curry. Delicious chocolate cake that even a child could make.
All this is thanks to one person – Mrs Ina Paarman.
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”
First published on http://www.ru.ac.za in May 2012
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.
Sometimes you just need some tried and tested standbys you can rely on. I always have these non-perishable items on my shelf- some of them are staples and some of them hover in the background but all are essential.
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.
I had to dig
into a drawer
that had been left untouched for years
Thick with dust and
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
I had to read all of this
To write this poem.
I learnt how to breathe
and let go.
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.