Anyone who writes about food and cooks the occasional beef fillet or writes about ordering one in a restaurant will have encountered this conundrum. You say, aloud, a sentence containing the word fillet, pronouncing it “fill it”, and sure as a downpour follows a warm, clear Cape winter’s day, someone within earshot will pipe up and “correct” you.
Far more interesting to watch was Jade, who seemed to be more of a potential chef than some of her fellow contestants, although the real reason we wanted her to stick around was in the hope she’d give in and explain to us how she managed to get a Dutch accent while growing up at the Cape. Sarel looked like some oke who had wandered off from his braai and on to the set of a cooking show and thought, “Ja, okay, I’ll do that instead of fixing the bakkie today”. Who knew he’d be able to turn out a gorgeous little cupcake? And would he ever be allowed back at the braai by his mates?
This is not the side of food column writing that you normally get to see. You probably imagine it to be all fine dinner parties and genteel patter while cool music wafts in the air and things gently simmer and bubble in gorgeous little pots and the expectant hordes drool imperceptibly into their bibs at the sheer wonder of the impeccable repast shortly to be set before them.
Pickled as French farmers are much of the time, this is understandable. If you are French, it is your duty to make sure that there is at least a glass or two of red wine in you at all times, to ensure that you live a long life and keep the possibility of a heart attack at bay. Or that’s your story anyway.
It’s all Alice’s fault, apparently, or maybe Humpty Dumpty’s. More correctly, we can blame Lewis Carroll, who in Through The Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There (150 years ago, in 1872) invented the notion of a portmanteau, which in recent years has sprung into fashionability with the hybridisation of the names of Hollywood stars.
It wouldn’t be surprising to learn that macaroni cheese is popular among Country & Western songwriters. It’s just the thing after a night on stage pouring your heart out to your foot-stompin’, hair-tuggin’, breast-beatin’ fans about how your wife ran off with the handsome cowboy from the neighbouring ranch, the dog died of a broken heart (country singers’ dogs do that if they haven’t already fled to the neighbouring county to get away from all the goddamn caterwauling), or the lowlife yeller bastard you married left you for some tight-jeans-wearin’, over-mascara’d cow(girl) he met at the hoedown.
Woolies recently seemed to take a flyer and stock up on chunky tubs of duck fat, something that I have occasionally asked for over the past couple of years, always to be met with a puzzled frown, as if to say, “Why the hell would anybody want to buy that?”
Winter in Cape Town. Grey. Dank. Soggy ground under your boots. Endless ceiling of thunderous clouds overhead. Stack of umbrellas in a basket at the front door, half of them broken from over-use. Temperatures constantly around 10degrees. On a good day. Right? Have another look at the main picture. I took it in mid-June. In Cape Town.
Nobody could ever forget the day of the great Purple Rain when everyone – parsnips, carrots, cabbages, pears, grapes, even potatoes – was sprayed purple by the water cannon of the aparsnipheid pigs. A great expiation happened as understanding seeped into the national vegetable psyche. We are all one. Even parsnips.