I thought this time round I’d talk about the reason I have a recipe column and why I write about food.
I guess it’s all about the passion that goes with food and this has been particularly highlighted by the book I am currently reading, Recipes for love and murder, penned by Sally Andrew (Umuzi publishers – reviewed on these pages onMarch 9).
While the above book is actually more a detective novel, it, along with a host of other food books, describe so much the way communities are brought together by food. But more importantly, from my side anyway, Sally Andrew’s book shows how the protagonist Tannie Maria, the unlikely detective, is almost obsessed by food, and I can so identify with this. She lives on a farm close to Ladismith in the Klein Karoo and her love of food is all-encompassing. She even talks to her dishes and to food (because they don’t talk back to her) and just like Tannie Maria, the dish I have cooked may be on the table but, there I am, already dreaming up my next creation or an old favourite that I know will transport me away from the stresses of daily living into a kind of culinary wonderland.
It may be something as simple as an omelette or a cheese sandwich, but it’s the way it’s conceived, put together and eaten with relish that makes such a difference.
Food in many ways is like different languages – it has its roots and is translated by different cultures into their own version.
Take one of our national dishes – potjie kos – that well-loved slow-cooked stew on the fire, made in various guises, be it a chicken or a lamb potjie or even a boerewors potjie. In Greece one of their versions is a stifatho – a slow cooked cubed beef or lamb dish with red wine, seasoned delicately with a stick of cinnamon and oregano. Observant Jews cook cholent ahead of the Sabbath so that they do not have to desecrate this religious day by working. Ahead of the start of the Sabbath or Shabbat, they put on a pot and cook chicken or brisket with kishke (a kind of sausage), potatoes, sometimes whole hard-boiled eggs and more – for 24 hours, in which time all the flavours marry and get absorbed and you get the most amazing dish that just cries out “ess essen mein kind” – eat, eat my child.
In France, cassoulet is the Gallic version of this lengthily cooked stew – using a mix of chicken, duck confit and sausage with a host of wonderful flavourings. And think of curries the world over: they are stews as well – some more quickly cooked; others develop the flavours more significantly after an additional day.
But while food may bring communities together, it also sharply highlights how starvation is a harsh reality worldwide and how much food wastage there is in affluent society.
On show in Cape Town, along Government Avenue in the Company’s Garden, is a fascinating exhibition called Food (R)evolution, which brings food security under the spotlight and shows how well some people eat and how little others do; sustaining themselves on the basics.
Some survive on a few bowls of maize porridge throughout the day, while others have the luxury of choice and meat and veg. The exhibition, showcased through the prism of photographs, shows what people round the world, but particularly in Africa and South Africa eat on one day, as different families or individuals were tasked to lay out their daily sustenance to be captured by lensmen.
The differences are often jarring and remind yet again of the haves and the have-nots but also highlighted is the effects of climate change – how the drought and ever-increasing food prices are affecting the way we eat.
It’s well worth seeing and you can Google it on www.foodrev.net
One of the interesting things I read on their Facebook page was how in Kochi, India, an innovative restaurant has gone viral after putting a fridge on the street so that homless people can help themselves to the leftovers and there are no questions asked.
It’s open 24/7 and restaurant patrons can also stock it with their own leftovers.
Now imagine if more people did that and if it was used responsibly – what a wonderful world it would be…