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Books

Subcategories from this category: Reviews, News, Events

Posted by on in Reviews

 

KAROO FOOD by Gordon Wright, published by Struik Lifestyle, 2018.

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This second title from Gordon Wright is another "must-have" for every keen cook and for those aiming to become hosts whose meals are memorable and hospitality unsurpassed.

Chris Marais, who spends his life writing about the Karoo, describes Wright in his foreword as “an ambassador for the Karoo,... the life and soul of our party... as a chef who “lives, breathes, laughs, drinks with and cooks for his Karoo people...”

Wright lives up to this description with enthusiasm as he shares his expertise, starting, naturally, with Karoo lamb and mutton. Lots of advice interspersed with recipes less obvious than roast leg or shoulder, here we find roasted lamb belly, lamb sausage, roasted rump and mutton confit. On to beef, with tips on ageing, making broth and rubs preceding recipes for  oxtail, skirt steak and rib-eye with marrow bone sauce.

Venison gets special treatment with Wright presenting a friend's blueberry and sage wors, bobotie, sautéed kidneys, sosaties, fillet, biltong, even venison crisps as snacks, meaty alternatives to crisps. We also find venison meatballs, pie, tartare and skilpadjes (liver in caul fat).

His poultry and wild fowl chapter offers a creative variety, opening with homemade chicken nuggets served with black olive ratatouille dip – great for a first course while the braai is doing the main. Peanut chicken in cream is an easy oven -to- table dish with Indonesian overtones, andthere’s a delicious looking guinea fowl stew which is,  Wright says, a Karoo version of a cassoulet.

A chapter on charcuterie and curing will delight those wanting to get down to more than frying and braai-ing,  and then the scene turns to seafood (enjoyed during holidays on the coast) and a few vegetable soups and salads. The smoking and braai chapter will please outdoor cooks who are adventurous, and prepared to spend time on prepping their meat or poultry.  The book concludes with a few heritage desserts. Every item is photographed superbly by Sean Calitz, while his landscape shots add the perfect  ambience to this out -of -the- ordinary collection of modern Karoo cuisine with a nod to traditional favourites.

It’s good to see the same professional publishing team still working together to produce the most appealing cookbooks, food with flair and stories to digest, as well as  photographs to admire even as our mouths water. As always, Linda, Cecilia, Bev and others combine talents seamlessly and, for me, evoke happy memories that go back a good decade.

                                

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Posted by on in News

 

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Friday July 6 2018

 

 

Two days ago, Renata Coetzee’s latest work – another striking social history dealing with early South African cuisine – was shown to the committee of the McGregor Heritage Society. Recently released, a local resident had given a copy to the Society, a gesture much appreciated. Unknown to us, the author had recently died, bringing an era of impressive and prolific research to a close.

 

According to the notice in today’s Cape Times, Renata was born in 1930, and certainly lived life to the full to the age of 88. Her research in to our early eating habits saw a number of titles published, and these were readable, enjoyable books, rather than dusty tomes. Her interests were not only acadaemic, but practical, as her weighty manual on creative catering proved.

 

But let’s backtrack for a minute, and have a quick look at her impressive career. Her initial degree in dietetics was awarded at Potchefstroom, but she received her Masters degree in home economics at Stellenbosch University. She studied food and nutrition at three universities in the US of A between 1959 and 1974 and lectured at the University of Pretoria for some years .

 

Her first title The South African Culnary Tradition was published in 1977, a delicious mix of social history and eating habits of the early Cape Dutch community from 1652 to 1800, with more than 100 authentic recipes. It’s a title that has always been at my side when writing about the historic aspect of our cuisine , whether for the Cape Argus, for magazines or for any of my own titles.

 

Her interest in the food of Southern African tribes saw intensive research being conducted over several years, at a time when this received scant coverage in English and Afrikaans cookery books. Renata’s second book, Funa, Roots of traditional African food culture was the result, and one on the customs and traditional fare of the Batswana followed.

 

As the new South Africa came into being, Renata was ready on the gastronomic front with a large manual containing the fruits of long labour. Cost-Consious Creative Catering was launched to provide mass-catering for every cultural taste in South Africa. In a hand-written note she told me that this ground-breaking achievement presented user-friendly recipes , with clear instructions, for caterers to provided “Africa’s Natural Nourishment” as she termed it, in portions ranging from 50 through 200 to 1000.

 

Here her experience as Anglo American’s Gold and Uranium division manager of dietetics and catering becomes clear, as does her decade as senior dietician for Stellenbosch university. As a commercial venture she packaged traditional ingredients like sorghum, marogo, isjingi into quick-cooking food packs for caterers and included dozens of dishes that used traditional fare, with western ingredients (pilchards, bread, cheese, salads) to produce healthy and varied menus for balanced meals.

 

Fast forward to 2010 when Coetzee and photographer Volker Miros launched Kukumakranka: a triumph of a title embracing Khoi-Khoin Culture, Customs and Creative Cooking. Acknowledging contributions from those who talk about Griqua and Nama diets, this precious item of Africana is dedicated to the Khoi-Khoin women, who showocase their art of cooking on these beautifully designed and illustrated pages.

 

Around this time Renata advised the owner and chef of Solms-Delta near Franschhoek on what to plant in their veld-food garden and what to put on the menu to reflect the fare enjoyed by the region’s early inhabitants. The results have seen travellers from across the globe sit down and try ingredients truly foreign to them, but well received in the farm’s restaurant.

 

I presumed that Renata was enjoying well earned retirement in Stellenbosch. What a thought! Her latest and final title is a culinary and historical swansong that will surely complete some forgotten aspects of our nutritional habits that she wrapped up quite recently. I have not yet got hold of a copy, but will do so very soon.

 

In the meantime, my admiration and heartfelt thanks  to this amazing lady, whose unfailing enthusiam,  talent and work lives on between the covers of her titles.

 

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Posted by on in Books

THE AMAZING AFRICAN ANIMAL ALPHABET written and illustrated by Kristina Jones published by Struik Children, Cape Town, 2017.

 

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When reviewing books produced for small children, criteria change dramatically: one is more concerned with visual impact, simplicity of text, subjects that will appeal than looking at plots, language and other points applied to books for adults and young adults. 
So, first impressions are important, and here we have an interesting cover where a giraffe, buffalo, crocodile and zebra watch while an elephant is scooping up the “z” of Amazing in the title with his trunk. Sunny yellow endpapers are followed by a title page and then we are straight into A, featuring Amahle the Aardvark, who is contemplating a halved avocado adorned with a few ants.

Bandile the baboon is next, and he holds a birthday balloon while over the page, upper and lower case C’s are given life by Chris the crocodile who is in cooking mode, holding a sauce with corn and carrots. 

And so we work through the alphabet with a gallery of mostly wild animals – many of whom have culinary accompaniments, while others are reading, making music, even tying a knot (a pair of kingfishers). So we not only encounter a series of animals who illustrate the letter of alphabet, but are given names that also do this, and  are surrounded by yet more objects starting with the same letter.  In this book Jackals juggle with pots of jam and impala lick icecream, while Emma the elephant contemplates a soft-boiled egg and Doug the dolphin contemplates a doughnut... What does Zandile the zebra do, you ask? Ah, buy the book and find out...

They add up to a colourful collection presented in African style, the stylised drawings also reflecting some of the collage elements from the author’s  own collection of original Shweshwe fabrics.  A hardback of immense appeal and one whose anthropomorphic nature will be enjoyed by both adult and little children.

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Posted by on in Reviews

 

DEATH CUP by Irna van Zyl, published by Penguin Random House South Africa, 2018.

 

 

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How could I resist? A thriller sub-titled Murder is on the Menu, set against an Overberg background dripping with fickle foodies, on-trend restaurateurs and self-important chefs, followed by a series of deadly dishes and human corpses.

This is van Zyl’s second detective novel and is translated from the Afrikaans original, titled Gifbeker. I was impressed by the author’s culinary knowledge of gastronomic contests, trends and top restaurants. Having raced through the book, I came across pages of generous acknowledgements where she listed cookbooks that afforded her culinary knowledge both trendy and basic, chefs who shared their passion and knowledge especially with regard to foraging, both seafood and funghi and techniques like open fire cooking in the kitchens.

From page one the tension is tangible, as a well-known and not always popular food blogger keels over in a top restaurant and dies – a highly poisonous mushroom provomg responsible for her untimely death. Zebardines is one of the top restaurants in the country and is gearing up for the chef of the year and restaurant awards so timing could not be worse –Zeb the chef is celebrated, awarded, young and black – with everything going for him

Detective Storm van der Merwe is on the case, helped by a couple of colleagues, some friendly, others wary. Storm has her own problems to contend with , not least of which is Moerdyk, a former policeman who had quit the force ahead of being fired. He usually turns up at Storm’s doorstep when least wanted, such as just after the first murder. He is determined to stay, and help her find a new place to rent as the owner (also a restaurateur) has complained about her three dogs.

Tracey the waitress and seducer of Zeb is found dead in the restaurant wine cellar – victim number two and the plot thickens as Zeb is attacked by unknown men but survives and is taken to hospital. And Storm has to contend with Pistorius, her supervisor, a molester with past history and now transferred to Hermanus. Two men break into her bedroom and steal her phone and iPad, and her favourite dog Purdey disappears as they run away.

Protesters outside Zebardines, rumours of a food website takeover, a smooth property developer (and old boyfriend of Storms) add complexity to an already crowded scene. Tension reaches breaking point , as a third victim, Maria Louw Zebardine’s maitre ‘d is attacked but survives and the glitzy restaurant awards event in Cape Town take place with heightened security in place . Storm herself is in danger before the murderer is stopped – and as in all good thrillers, not many readers will guess who this is.

Topical, fast-paced, complex and accurately depicting Hermanus backgrounds, this is a well-executed and gripping crime novel.

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Posted by on in Reviews

 

 

     

A SHORT HISTORY OF MOZAMBIQUE by Malyn Newitt, published by Jonathan Ball Publishers, 2018.

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To start with the author, who has penned more than 20 books on Portugal and its colonial history, Newitt is one of the leading historians on the former colony and now independent Mozambique.  Now retired, he was deputy Vice Chancellor of  Exeter university and – given his background - one expects his latest title to be academic in tone and content. It is, but the text is  very readable, and not bristling with footnotes which can be so intrusive.   This is a book  that is  not only for academics, but for all involved in any capacity with Mozambique’s government and those doing business in that country.

And -  for those who head to its ocean shores for unique wild and wonderful  holidays  - you, too,  may enjoy exploring the background to the transition from Portuguese colony to independent country.The boundaries of modern Mozambique were drawn in 1891, giving a territory that is 309 000 sq miles in extent (compared with Portugal’s 35,560 sq miles! Its long coastline gives way to a low-lying hinterland leading to a plateau, and on to the high mountains on its borders with South Africa, Zimbabwe and Malawi.

Drought and famine punctuate its history and have much influenced its development, while serious floods did much to displace people and kill their cattle. Much of the lowlands are infested with tsetse fly, preventing communities from farming with cattle,

The monsoon winds not only  bring rain but link the coastal communities with ports of the Red Sea, the Hadramaut, the Gulf, India and the islands of Comoro and Madagascar.  Dhows visited the coast to trade for Central African gold and cargoes of skins, turtle shell, ivory, mangrove poles and slaves. The Portuguese started coastal settlements at the start of the 16th century and for some 300 years a pattern of life was established: ivory and gold traded through Islamic middlemen in return for imported cloth, beads and metal ware.

In the 19th century a series of droughts caused major conflict and migrations and fed the slave trade until it was abolished in Britain and Europe. However the slave trade continued largely serving markets inside Africa. The rising demand for labour in South Africa led to the slave trade of the south evolving into export of contract labour.

The  Boers, moving away from British occupation in the Cape, founded ad hoc republics in the north of South Africa , with Delagoa Bay as  their nearest sea port for the recently discovered gold and diamonds .

Frontiers drawn in 1891 gave Portugal control of British Central Africa’s access to its ports and routes for roads and railways. The country was ill-equipped to deal with the governing such a vast territory. Many Portuguese emigrated both from Portugal and its islands to Brazil but once the railwas line from the Rand to Lourenco Marques was built things improved and the city expanded rapidly .

In 1930 Antonio Salazar, now in power in  Lisbon, overhauled colonial policy and this was followed by the Great depression . Cotton and rice became major crops, supplying Portugal and receiving imported goods in return. Portugal remained neutral during the second World War after which Mozambique benefited from infrastructure projects and basic education policies while whites were encouraged to leave their home country and settle in rural subsidised settlements.

The first modern movements seeking independence for Mozambique started  among exiles livingsin Tanzania, Malawi and Rhodesia. Frelimo was formed for the liberation of Mozambique in 1962. In 1970 Samora Machel became president of Frelimo and while the Portuguese army seemed at first to be successful in clearing Frelimo bases a military coup in Lisbon in 1974 overthrew the regime and the guerrilla forces had won by convincing officers that war that could not be won was pointless.

 Subsequent events are  within memory of many adults today, Divisions in politics split along regional rather than ethnic lines. Cashew nuts became the most valuable export. But after independence up to 90 %  of the population of European origin as well as many skilled Africans and Asians left the country causing a severe skills shortage. Frelimo took over and Samora Machel became first president in June 1975.The economy came to a virtual halt. Economic policies based on Eastern Bloc practices were introduced to counteract this, but instead the country slipped into a violent and destructive civil war which lasted until 1992. Machel was killed in an air crash in South Africa in 1986 and it was widely suspected that the South African military was to blame.

The final two chapters focus on the complicated politics  post 1992 and the economy and society since 1994. That there is, according to the author, an increase in communal ceremonies connected with ancestors and bringing of rain not only in rural areas but also in towns. Some years ago there were reports of trafficking in body parts – whether or not for traditional medicine -  but just as these occur regularly in South Africa, they are not likely to surprise South African readers.

Illustrations are limited to a handful of black and white photographs. A comprehensive list of titles suggested for further reading  and a fairly detailed index complete the text.

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