Rawdon’s Matjiesfontein Christmas night dinners were legendary, with tatty decorations trimming the dining room, eccentric candle-holders, and the entire staff parading in from the kitchen, snaking between the tables while singing “We will make you fishers of men”, with one holding aloft an enormous flaming Christmas pudding. Rawdon was also an inveterate practical joker, known to arrange sausages and potatoes on his dinner plate with none-too-subtle suggestion and then call a waitress over to clear his plate.
It started with Queen Mary 2 and ended with Elton John. The day was all about queens. A proud and serene passenger liner gliding on a cool dawn sea with an orange sunrise gentling to the east is all the romance you need in a day. Watching her approach Table Bay on Thursday morning took me back, as ships always do, to key times in and even before my life.
The sole meat course was served beneath grand silver domes. After a very Grande Roche countdown (‘Sree, two, von!’), they were lifted to reveal the tiniest morsels of beef looking quite distraught, like wayward sons banished to the wastelands of vast white plates.
Risotto is a dish for a man who truly lives his life, and to hell with the consequences. Risotto is real zooma food, singing and dancing when ordinary people are idling the time of day. Risotto is not for sissies. It’s one of the most taxing things to make because it is so easy to mess up. Risotto rice, usually arborio, is as hardgrained as a politician who knows how to trounce opponents at the polls, with a winning smile and a compelling dance disguising the grit behind his eyes. Risotto is not to be messed with.
On the eve of the annual South African restaurant industry ‘Oscars’ we were hosted by a man who owns one of Franschhoek’s finest restaurants. You may have heard of it. But probably not. But we weren’t at Mange Tout last week. We were in the private dining room of the Mont Rochelle manor house just up the winding farm track.
I have been slow in coming to smoked paprika. It has been a foodie rave for several years and I really should have listened to the sussed editors of Posh Galore when they told us all that smoked paprika was the new thing, dahlings, and you simply have to try it.
I discovered an online source of help for people in this quandary at www.dishfoodmarket.com which is a Cape Town-based service that will deliver the makings of a dinner party to your front door. You make your choices of quick and easy quick-fix dinner party solutions, pop them in your ‘trolley’, pay, and wait for your delivery. I tried this, sitting at work and ordering online, and within an hour of getting home I was serving up a three-course dinner.
Pickled fish is one of those things people almost instinctively turn their noses up at. Sometimes some of the best things in life are just taken for granted. It’s the prophet in his own country syndrome – you know him so well that you just can’t believe he really could be such a clever dude.
Commercial jelly is one of those things one doesn’t admit to owning, lest one’s foodie friends snigger while secretly remembering the taste of jelly as a child and wishing they could eat some right there and then. Commercial jelly is a good barometer of pretentiousness.