What is the dish that you associate with your earliest food memory? I love to think of what children long for, drinking cocoa by the fire after school like in an Enid Blyton story. In the classic Robert Louis Stevenson poem Young Night Thought a boy dreams of a procession of exotic characters marching past his mind’s eye as he falls asleep. My procession of nursery favourites would include dhal with spinach paneer from India, plum jam dumplings for the Austrian/Swiss Germans, pasta with pancetta and peas for those Italian bambini, vetkoek with mince or mieliepap with tomato onion sauce for us South Africans and roast chicken for almost everybody.
This year has been the coldest winter in the Cape in the six years I have been living here. I live in the Southern hemisphere and therefore don’t really have anything to complain about, yet every year the onset of winter takes me by surprise. I am amazed at how the cold changes my personality – I immediately become much more introverted, slow-moving and unexpectedly grumpy, like a desperate little animal preparing for hibernation, seeking only the warmth of its burrow. The only consolation I can think of is to seek out dishes that not only bring warmth and comfort, but galvanise me to not become too disheartened by the slow turn of the solstice.
Making a good omelette is a simple joy that has been eluding me for many years. I never seem to have enough patience to leave well enough alone and usually end up with an overcooked jumble of scrambled eggs. Eventually, it became so dire that I thought that only the most experienced chefs must know the secret and almost gave up altogether.
But then, while watching one of my favourite foodie films, Big Night (1996) I discovered a clue. This comic drama unfolds as two Italian brothers prepare the most wonderful multi-course meal for, among others, the beautiful Isabella Rossellini (who eats it all) and Louis Prima who of course never arrives.
The highlights of this meal-of-a lifetime is a groaning platter of risotto in contrasting colours and a giant pie filled with layers of pork sausage, tomato sauce, pasta and hard boiled eggs. This marvel is called timpani (the Italian for ‘drum’) because of its generous shape. And in this way, a legendary dish entered the public realm, beguiling food-lovers ever since. So much so that co-director and writer Stanley Tucci named his production company after it.
Today is Good Friday. A blessed day to you all.
There’s no escaping that most of the world is either under lockdown or restricted. I feel the weight of this on me every day, not only because I fear my loved ones will fall ill but because the world is out of kilter.
What is better than heading off down the unbeaten track, winding down the window and taking a deep breath of fresh air, mingled with traces of dust or the smells of the veld? When my partner J and I go on a road trip we love to seek out all the interesting little towns and villages and keep everything really relaxed and open ended.
PANNEKOEK VIR JAN & JORIE
Gepubliseer in Vrye Weekblad http://www.vryeweekblad.com in Oktober 2019
As ek dink aan oranje, dink ek aan my oranje-blanje-blou kinderdae. Die bloem van ’n lemoen. Sonsondergange en die bruin-oranje gesigte van sonneblomme.
As ek dink aan nartjies dink ek aan hoe die olie van die skil jou vingers taai maak en soms laat brand. En Jan Rabie se fel-oranje T-hemp met DJ Opperman se magiese woorde: “My nooi is in ’n nartjie” in wit hoofletters voorop en, soos hy omdraai: “My ouma in kaneel” oor die vleuel van sy skouers.
When I was a child, one of my favourite holiday treats was to stop at Mooiberge farm stall in Stellenbosch to buy a box brimful of freshly picked strawberries. Bright red and nectar sweet, I would devour them right there and then in the back seat of our old beat-up Mazda. We used to combine them with the most perfect accompaniment, a punnet of thick Jersey cream, into which we would dip the tip of each berry. This was back in the late 80s and 90s, when this now iconic farm stall was much smaller with only a handful of scarecrows to point the way.
Why do people pity you when you dine alone? I love taking some time just for myself yet, all too often, it becomes tainted by people’s reactions. Last time, at my favourite coffee shop, the barista even said ‘Good luck’ as I left, knowing I am usually there with a man who has a much finer appreciation for coffee than I do.