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.

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The Curious Cook

Like white on rice

 

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I love how some books take a long time to find you. Ever since seeing the Peter Greenaway film The Pillow Book in 1996 it has remained as entrancing as the first time I saw it. Then, as you watch the credits roll right till the end, you discover that it’s inspired by an actual text- The Pillow Book of Sei Shōnagon.

Sei was a courtesan living in 15th century Japan and her journal (which she kept in a hidden inside her wooden neck rest, or pillow) is one of only two texts that survive from this era. I recently found the Penguin edition in my favourite charity bookshop and it felt like something had come full circle.

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The Curious Cook

Curds and whey

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It is a complete rarity to find unpasteurised milk in this world. I was lucky to stumble across a small shop that sells local raw milk in the small Karoo town of Graaff-Reinet. The Karoo is a mythical place. Encompassing a vast area of semi-arid landscape dotted with ant-hills and thorn trees, is known for its cloudless skies, extreme temperatures and fossils, some of which have been recently discovered to be whole new species that have never been seen before. A primarily agrarian area, the Karoo is known for rearing sheep for mutton, goats for mohair and game. In prehistoric times it was a vast inland sea and, prior to colonialisation the 1700s, it was the home of indigenous peoples, the Nama and Khoi-San (formerly known as Bushmen). In fact, the last time I was there I read a fascinating article about how some of their almost extinct languages are being brought back to life through a series of workshops organised by the Pan South African Language Board (Pansalb). And thus, I digress!

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The Curious Cook

Hitting the right (sour) note

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Old fashioned vinegar pudding with roasted guava flavoured with cardamom.  Photo: Justus Wagener

With all the recent focus on fermented foods it is all too easy to ignore the oldest of these: vinegar. It is my favourite fermented foodstuff, which I naturally gravitate towards using to add a sour note to savoury dishes. It was only after giving it some thought that I realised the reason: all great dishes contain a balance between sweet, salty, fragrant and sour – with the added magical note of umami. The latter is of course enhanced when the right balance is struck.

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Journalism

Africa inspired- TEDxRhodesU breaks new ground 

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The Tedx RhodesU team headed by Tyron Louw. Photo:Melite Vivier

For over 25 years, millions of people all over the world have been inspired and transformed by TED Talks, made available for free online via TED.com. This has inspired communities and individuals all around the world to do the same, organising independent events called TEDx ‒ Technology, Entertainment and Design ‒ with the x signifying that the event is independently organised.

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