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.
SEQUELS are bad clones of an original movie, with few exceptions. As a general rule of thumb, if a film title is followed by a “2” and a “:”, like Babe 2: You’re Bacon, run a mile. Which is what most sensible Americans did this week on hearing that two film companies want to make a sequel to It’s a Wonderful Life, the 1946 Frank Capra classic that’s been a Christmas season favourite ever since.
Veal, veal, veal, at the risk of being as offensive as Basil Fawlty was to his German guests in an episode of Fawlty Towers, quite by chance the subject of this week’s column turns out to be a veally, veally good one. But not everyone will share my joy in cooking slivers of the controversial meat.
IF SPICES were cars, vanilla would be a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air with off-white hubcaps, rare yet funky, stylish but not flash. Vanilla doesn’t need to take life too seriously. It’s there for the ice cream at the beach, the woodiness in the wine. Vanilla parks with a view of the ocean, listens to the flap of the gull’s wing, watches dozily as the surfer glides home.
I was given a charming little book about apples by the redoubtable Brian Berkman, he of the formerly impressive girth who now is hard to spot in a can of sardines. Fortunately there is still enough of him left to market certain covetable foodlike things, and numbered among these is the apples put out there by Tru-Cape, whose Buks Nel and Henk Griessel have come up with an informative little tome full of quirky facts.
THERE are always too many, always more than you need or the recipe calls for. A cucumber is always too long for the salad you’re making, and the leftover half more often than not will be left in the crisper just long enough to turn it to jelly. There will always be a few baby roma tomatoes left in the punnet, of which three, when you retrieve them a few days later to fling them in a stew, will have turned furry, so that you fling them out instead of in the pot.
Tuesday was fish and chips day, and I looked forward to supper from the moment I woke up. The days were long and hot in Oranjemund, and sandy if there was wind, the Namib desert never far. Our house was on one corner of the town, the only buildings beyond there being the hydroponics, where a scrawny man grew vegetables in strange watery circumstances, and the cemetery where my big brother Phillip was buried. We went there once a month to stand silently and remember.
It’s one of the first choices you have to make as a growing boy – are you a leg or a breast man? It’s a pity to have to choose, I always thought. Can’t you have the best of both worlds? Do we have to grow up to be so dull that you can either have one or the other, but God help you if you fancy both? And what about the thigh? Does it have to be the entire leg? What if you have a penchant for a nicely turned thigh but couldn’t be bothered with the scrawny lower leg? I mean, face it, there’s not much to recommend the calf, is there? Not much meat on it, nothing to get a grip on.
All of a sudden one day, a few years ago, I woke up like Rumpelstiltskin and looked around to discover that, while I had been sleeping, the world has been transmogrified from a grown-up environment in which grown-ups behaved like grown-ups – give or take – into some strange parallel universe in which the adults were, with worryingly few exceptions, spending half their lives in the kitchen making cupcakes and giving them extravagant toppings.
Slavery belongs in another time. America finally got around to it in 1863, when Abraham Lincoln ordered the emancipation of slaves in Confederate states. Hard to believe, that; 1863 is just the other day on the canvass of history. Just 150 years. That’s three Johnny Depp lives since Lincoln abolished slavery. He’s just turned 50 by the way (I know, I fell over too). On a backdrop of eternity, 150 years would disappear into a black hole sooner than you could say “My body is my journal, and my tattoos are my story.” (Johny Depp said that.)