Name just one other thing in this world that is as evocative as food. I tend to voraciously devour almost any book I can find and spend far too many hours watching films; but nothing, absolutely nothing is as immediate, all-encompassing and deeply fundamental as the memories that can be unlocked in just one bite.
The wonderful American writer, director and die-hard foodie Nora Ephron had a special way of writing about food in the context of a rich, full, complex life. In her famous bittersweet collection of essays I Feel Bad about My Neck (2006) she included an op-ed piece she wrote for the New York Times about the regret of not eating more of a particular food that ended up vanishing out of her life. In “The Lost Strudel or Strudel le Perdu” she elaborates thus:
“Food vanishes. I don’t mean food as love, food as habit, food as memory, food as biography, food as metaphor, food as regret, or food as in those famous madeleines people like me are constantly referring to as if they’ve read Proust, which in most cases they haven’t. I mean food as food. Food vanishes.”
Kersfees gaan vir vele net oor drie dinge: familie, tradisie en kos. Kosskrywer ANNA-KARIEN OTTO gaan steek kers op by ’n Provensaalse Kersnageregtradisie, en dek die tafel vir ’n Suid-Afrikaanse fees van oorvloed en voorspoed met ’n buitengewone Kerskoek met rum en garam masala as die hoogtepunt.
Franschhoek and Stellenbosch may be the king and queen of dining destinations but the bustling town of Paarl and its quieter cousin Wellington have many culinary surprises hidden up their proverbial sleeves. Local food writer Anna-Karien Otto has put together her pick of favourite foodie items to be found only in these beautiful jewels of the Boland.
In January this year we went on a road trip, crossing the Western Cape through the Karoo to the hinterland of the Eastern Cape. After fulfilling the usual family obligations, we headed for our favourite destination – Graaff-Reinet.
It is here that we feel most at home, relishing in the absolute peace of the Karoo. The weather always seems to be perfect at any time of the year, with the loveliest long, drawn-out magical evenings. The sun takes its time to set, dipping below the mountain, painting the clouds gold or pink before giving way to a long deep cobalt blue twilight that seems to last forever. And in Spring the swallows and swifts arrive, gliding and dipping above the spires of the glorious cypress trees in the gathering dusk.
Imagine an ice cream that represents the many and varied flavours of Africa. Made with no preservatives or additives, only home grown ingredients. This is what Tapi Tapi desserts are all about, but the concept behind it is not only ground breaking, it could very well become a way to shift our cultural and social perceptions.
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.