Nothing is good enough for the more recalcitrant vegetarian. We must drop what we’re doing and make the most special vegetarian dish in the world, full of magical organic ingredients at which the rest of humanity can only marvel. There must be nothing obvious in it. No boring old tomatoes or sighingly familiar butternut, and puhlease do not bore us with mere pasta.
This land is quite different from the usual serried vineyards of these parts. It is sparse and seems dry, and the plants neatly spaced in the garden are still small, with only the promise of the harvest to come a year or more from now. Fyndraai restaurant celebrates the region’s three culinary traditions – the veldkos of the Khoe who lived on this land 2000 years ago with their Sanga cattle and fat-tailed sheep, the Cape Malay tradition of the slaves of the white farmers, and the boerekos and Dutch food of the farmers themselves.
It is all very boere-gay, with ribbon-bound old books adorning tables, tannie’s crockery on the walls, saucepans, koppies en pierings flung into the (white-painted) mish-mash madness of things happening in the ceiling installations above your head, not to mention knives and forks, ribbons and who knows what else lurks up there like so many miniature Swords of Damocles ready to descend if you frown at what’s on your plate. Best not to diss the food until you’re safely out the door. It is also perhaps best not to look too closely lest you spot something you left at the restaurant last time you were there.
Like most things truly South African, you won’t often find chakalaka in the pages of our effortlessly garnished food magazines, although I don’t doubt that one of these days this South African workman’s dish will be ‘discovered’ by the diamante-swirled damsels of Posh Galore, with sundry instructions on how to change it into something else.
How to cook your potatoes for Christmas dinner? Here are some ways… The German Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche argued that a diet consisting predominantly of them “leads to the use of liquor”, which would be enough for some of us to stockpile them, just in case.
We like chicken. We love chicken. When we see a chicken preening its feathers, our mind quickly pops up an image of it defeathered and roasted to gleaming, succulent perfection. We see its breast removed, slit asunder, filled with something yummy, closed, wrapped up and baked.
It was one of those moments when you wake up and realise where you really are. On a soccer field, yes. But no crowd, no glaring stadium lights. Just a modest small-town soccer field on the edge of town, and it’s Sunday morning coming down on a boy’s wild imagination.
Why are restaurateurs in this country unable to find our own themes and names for things? Tapas is not African. Small portions aren’t either. And there is one truly glaring omission from this supposedly African menu: there is no red meat on the menu other than a tiny portion of bobotie. In Africa, land of the cow, the goat and the buffalo, there is no meat on a showcase African menu. This is like not having soy sauce on a Chinese menu, or omitting the spices in a curry. Come on, we’re Africans, we eat meat.
Peruse the annual awards lists of the last 10 years and you’ll find many examples of restaurants that were once just the place to get to, dahlings, their chefs’ names thrown about as if the Gods had come down to save our palates. Then they slip down the lists until, in a year or two, they drop out of the top 10 and are often never heard of again.