Wednesday 7 September 2011


(Pinata installation - loved the designs - loved the colourful streamers. I want to live in a room like this)

( The remains of a very happy table. Photo taken by my lovely new friend Eloise Alemany)

On Monday morning I tweeted (because I occasionally remember to do that rather than just stalk people in cyberspace) 'Woke up this morning feeling happily inspired by food, design, pinatas, old friends, new friends, words and wisdom. Big love to Toffie Food'.
I dragged Jacques along to the weekend festival and he, if the way he threw himself into the ceremonial breaking of the pinatas on Sunday afternoon was any indication, had an even better time than I did. There were so many highlights; spending time with old friends , making new ones, the transformation of a staid city hall into something magical, the rethinking of old ideas, the reminder to approach things in new ways, and always the knowledge that food is intensely personal and therefore precious, not only as a resource, but as a form of identity. I think that's why saying grace, or something like it before a meal is important, even if it's just a quick, quiet acknowledgement - 'For what we are about to receive, may we be truly grateful.'

My highlights (in no particular order)

Her talk on food in Buenos Aires and her publishing philosophy makes me want to do two things; jump on a plane to BA and work on a book. Eloise's original and authentic approach with regards to food styling and photography and people who love food is something beautiful and meaningful. I am inspired. She is also a truly wonderful woman. And I am so grateful that I got to spend some time with her. She has a quiet grace and a gentle sensitivity. I breath easily in her presence.

I loved the book Julie & Julia far more than I liked the film version. And if I had to choose between having Julie Powell as a friend or Julia Child, I'd choose Julie. No contest. She is searingly honest, fiery and strong, but also fragile and vulnerable. During her well-delivered lecture (she's well-spoken, likeable, funny and self-deprecating), she spoke of how food memories could be sad and conflicted as well as happy and recalled how, as a young girl, her dad's mistress once gave her a chocolate caramel bar, and how awful the moment was but how delicious the chocolate tasted. I cried. I'm reading her second book Cleaving at the moment. And it's dark, and sad, once once again very very honest. And I feel like a voyeur, because it's strange to be able to see into someone's heart like that. Especially if you've met them.
There are two things I wish, the first is I wish I could find her original blog the Julie Julia Project in cyberspace, but it seems to have bloody disappeared. And the second is I wish to share a bottle or two of wine with her one afternoon, while her husband Eric runs a marathon and mine goes to work or something. Because she loves food and dogs. And because she wears her heart on her sleeve. And because she laughs often and says 'fuck' a lot.

I need to be upfront an honest about this one. I really, really did not want to like Anna. I am insanely jealous of her. Of her wonderful book Hunger for Freedom The Story of food in the Life of Nelson Mandela. She has written the book that anybody who loves this country, understands the emotional complexity surrounding food and who admires Madiba wishes that they could have written. The Taste lunch, during which Anna told an abridged version of Madiba's life and the food that defines him and which we ate piece by piece from a brown bag filled with tasters of food, was fabulous. But I cried of course. Especially when she told the tragic story of how Winnie Madikizela- Mandela's saved the top layer of their wedding cake for three decades. And of there came to be chillis on Robben Island. And of how Farida Omar gave Madiba the gift of a banana. So no, I don't actually hate Anna Trapido, in fact I rather like her. But how could you not like someone who buys an ostrich foot ashtray, and then allows her son to take it to his room, believing it to be a dinosaur foot?

We got really lucky with this one as we went to the Sumien Brink and daughter, Cara Brink's dinner. It was held at photographer Ulrich Knoblauch's studio and it was spectacular. All white elegance and platters of incredibly delicious food and fabulous deserts. Starters were cucumber salad rolls, lemon thyme prawns and salted caramel popcorn served on an oversized light box. Mains were platters of beef fillet, slow roast lamb shoulder, Greek beans, roast vegetables, herb salad with Tokyo dressing (amazing!) tzatziki, salsa verde and salsa rossa. Deserts were Creme caramel, candied orange peel in chocolate, meringue sticks and macerated strawberries. I think I may have eaten a kilo of Cara's meringues and half a creme caramel. It was sublime! My friend Annette le Roux (ex Jemima's) was a sort of mentor to Cara a few years ago and she would always tell me how talented Cara was, I think she would have been so proud of Cara on Saturday. The food was stylish, but unpretentious and it was deliciously soulful. Sumien said that this was the way that she likes to cook, that Cara had prepared for us the food she had grown up with. It really was a family and friend affair, Wilke Brink, son and brother, food and wine lover, made sure that we were never thirsty and we were served by Cara's boyfriend and friends. And at the end of the night, all who who had dined there, were friends too. And then as we left, Ulrich generously allowed us to pluck special copies of some of his evocative polaroids off the wall. A take home gift. A souvenir. Mine found their way into my favourite recipe books, to remind me of a really special evening.
For continued inspiration and to see the way in which Cara and Sumien view the world visit

The masterminds behind the Toffie Food Festival are Peet Pienaar and Hannerie Visser. They should be given honorary Mayor and Mayoress status. Cape Town is lucky to have them.