At least, if you do drink beer of one kind or another, you’ll be better off than the disdainful frown and roll of the eyes you’ll get if you’re offered a drink in a pub and your reply is, “Yes please, I’ll have a glass of sauvignon blanc.” This is worse than admitting to rogering sheep or complaining that the tradition of Page 3 girls is demeaning to women.
ANTIE Amina in her Bo-Kaap kitchen, having read the title for this week’s recipe, is already burying her face in her hands in horror and reaching for the mouse to tap out an irate text to the Cape Argus SMS column. ‘No no NO Tony Jackman you do not put fruit in akhni, that is not an akhni, phone me and I will show you how to make a proper akhni. And where’s the potatoes? I tear my hair out! – Outraged, Bo-Kaap’
Never mind silver linings, in the dark of winter you know that what you need a warm place, the love of family, the kitchen range lit, logs in the fireplace, and a tender crackling. You need a slow simmer, a pot emitting a steam filled with joy and promise, and as the aromas build and the day recedes, taking with it its woes and challenges, you know what you have to do.
ROOIBOS tea is the twang of a blik kitaar drifting over the veld. Rooibos is the strains of an accordion played by a West Coast musician who proudly cites his influence as Worsie Visser en sy Boesmanlandorkes. Rooibos is the langarm in a Porterville farm shed, hay strewn on the floor amid much swinging of limbs and downing of witblits. It’s the wedge of bread ladelled with peach jam piled on the plate alongside the mussel stew and the kreef tail.
NOTHING says Cape cuisine like bobotie. In one word, in one dish, is summed up the essence of colonial food at the southern tip of Africa. In one dish you have all of our combined history, the spiciness of our cultures, the fruitiness of our natures, the nuttiness that it takes to forge a life at the Cape with all its weather, idionsyncracies and lust for life.
I would love to spot somebody like Dylan or a disinterred Hemingway or a Charles Bukovski in such a restaurant and sit quietly nearby, watching their faces, as such delights were set before them. Their BS antenna would be up quicker than a priest’s cassock on spotting a choirboy, and they’d be out of there in search of something honest, preferably involving a bar stool and plenty of Jack’s.
Roaming the crowd, you start to get a bead on personalities. While the hake are being suitably hake-like and the sole shark is largely ignored in a dim alcove, slyly biding his time while pretending to be engrossed by the strains of the jazz trio in the corner, you notice that the yellowtail are becoming rather garrulous as the wine dulls their inhibitions, and the Norwegian salmon – still jetlagged after its longhaul fight from Oslo – is losing its air of Nordic coolth as the third vodka kicks in.
JAFFLE iron. Or that’s what we’ve always called them. But I see now that it is actually called a Jaffle Pressure Toaster. Not to be confused with the not quite so oldfangled sandwich maker or snackwich, which are snack makers which don’t do the job quite as well as the eccentric classic on which the modern electric items were based. You can have your electric; I’ll stick with the eccentric.
HIER sit die manne. It’s not the Royal Hotel, somewhere in a forgotten part of Wynberg near the railway tracks, circa 1981. That was a younger him, and a younger me. I was a rookie arts journalist sent to cover the launch of his song Royal Hotel. He was releasing his new single. Soon everyone who’d ever been in a bar knew the lyrics off by heart. Come on, you can sing it even now … hier sit die manne in die Royal Hotel, ek ken mos vir almal, ek is almal se pel…
IT’S the deepest irony of our time that giving has become taking. Humanknd’s most gracious trait, the ability to give without expecting something in return, without having an agenda, without there being a catch that will somehow end up benefiting the giver more than the one gifted, has become a thing so rare that when you occasionally see it your breath is taken away.