Friday 19 October 2012

The Avo Eaters

(Avo Perfection)
(The loveliest of notes)

I wrote of my affection for avocados in the October 2012 issue of Woolworths Taste. In it I confided how much (and how) I liked to eat them and of how intensely Jacques disliked them. And then I thought no more about it, other than smirking when Jacques told me that his colleagues wanted to know how he could possibly claim to despise avocados while quite happily eating guacamole. ( You see what I'm dealing with?) And then, out of the blue, I received an email from the South African Avocado Growers Association thanking me for writing such nice things about their fruit and asking for my adress as they'd like to send me something. Which is how I came to be in possession of a dozen avocados, a bottle of white wine vinegar and some sea salt and this rather lovely note, which said that they hoped I would enjoy picking out each avo cube just as I'd described in my column.
I cannot begin to tell you how much this gesture pleased me. 
Such kindness could only come from people who truly, truly loved avos.

Monday 8 October 2012

Writing is one One Elle-of-a Thing.

(The August 2011 Elle cover)

This morning I emailed something to Elle. I'd been asked to submit a small piece and, as always, the moment I sent it off, I started obsessing. Would it be good enough? Was I too honest? Is it what they wanted, blah blah blah...Why do we do this? Because once you've obsessed, panicked and written, it really is rather lovely to see your name in print. I wrote the following (unedited) essay on growing older for Elle's August 2011 issue. I thought I'd been too honest at the time, but once you decide to go the confessional route, there really is no going back. Anyway, I'm 43 now and it still hold true. 

On Growing Up, Not Old

The only things I miss about my 20s are my thighs and my ovaries.
My thighs are more flab than fab and fertility, let me tell you, is a bitch in your 40s. But as for the rest. I’m glad I’m here. I’m really glad I’m here.

I remember when my mom turned forty, it was a big deal, she had a Ladies Lunch at home and my dad arrived to propose a loving toast to her.  I was 13. When I turned 40 we threw a raucous party, with 80s music, and I wore a tiara, a too-tight bustier and masses of black, sequin tulle. We ate oysters. And drank too much.  My husband gave me two Nurofen and a litre of water before I went to sleep. I still woke up with a hangover. But grateful I had neither children nor babysitters to consider. In celebrating my 40th birthday, I had become the 20-something I had always wanted to be. I was less insecure, more in love, happy in my career, delighted with our travelling lifestyle and (more) comfortable with my body than I had ever been before. I was rocking. Dancing to Tainted Love and Rock Me Amadeus when you (finally) have big breasts and no longer have teenage acne will do that to you. Momentarily. But the euphoria does wear off. Especially when the Clomid kicks in and you find you’ve progressed from recreational to procreational sex. And when you realize how much it’s costing you to just hang in there. Because while you once proudly proclaimed that you intended growing old disgracefully, you didn’t mean this to be in the physical sense. So in addition to the once-monthly facials, pedicures and obligatory waxing, there is also the hair colour and cut every four weeks. And while I’m not exactly the poster girl for plastic surgery, I do admit to having a bit of work done. Let’s just say that Botox is a beautiful thing. There is also regular acupuncture and therapy but I consider those to be a necessity no matter what your age.

But I don’t feel old. I might be less fit than I once was and I may weigh substantially more than I once did. But I don’t feel like a ‘grown-up’, whatever that may be. I’m just happier than I’ve ever been before. Which doesn’t mean that I’m never sad, or no longer insecure, but it does mean that I now know that I can contain these emotions, even embrace them if I can learn from the experience, and that they too, will, like everything else, soon pass. I sometimes wonder how much of my present state of mind can be attributed to my age, or if it does, in fact, not have more to do with the man I married. A man, not afraid of complexity, a man who embraces all that I am. I do believe he deserves more credit than the inevitable chronological markings of time. But it is the passage of time and the experiences enjoyed and endured that define me.

Now in my 40s I am more comfortable with my own sexuality. It used to frighten me when I was younger and this, coupled with an intense shyness, prohibited me from enjoying the company of boys and men as much as my friends seemed to do. Whereas now, I am free to flirt without intent, I’m also comfortable in my own skin, which allows me to get closer to theirs. I like men, both straight and gay, young and old, I find them fascinating, mysterious, surprisingly vulnerable and extremely funny. I like their company and I like knowing that they like mine. But it is The Sisterhood that I treasure most of all. Throughout the years I have managed to surround myself with a group of strong, inspiring women who thrive on meaningful engagement as much as they like to open a celebratory bottle of Cap Classique or put the kettle on for a sympathetic cup of tea. They can all laugh raucously and rudely, but also weep at injustice. They are all kind.
I learned a long time ago that the two prerequisites of a great lover or friend is firstly are they kind and secondly do they make you laugh. Now that kind of wisdom comes with experience, and experience, always, trumps a tight butt and flawless skin.

Thursday 4 October 2012

Simple & Delicious. That's The Way I Like It.

(The cover of Alida's Book Simple & Delicious. Look out for it. 
And if you fancy buying the Afrikaans version, Heerlik & Maklik  look out for the tomato pasta cover)

(The Bollywood lamb chops recipe. Amazing! Jacques ate it 3 times in 12 days. 
Twice at our house and once at a friend's. He requested it again this week.)

I got to write the foreword for Alida Ryder's new book. I'm pretty impressed with myself as she has a great many friends in the industry. Foodies who cook far better than I do. People with whom she talks about food and flavours. I'm afraid to say that's that not quite the case when we get together. Firstly I make her drink enormous amounts of tea, something she doesn't usually do, but I need tea when I talk. And we talk. And so  I make tea. And so we drink it. Then she has to stroke Max's ears and reassure him that he is her favourite black labrador in all the world. (He would, of course, prefer to be the only labrador in her world, but times are tough and he has some strong competition.) And then we chat. About everything but food. And afterwards we plan where we're going to eat. And once we settle down to our meal, we acknowledge the food. Respectfully. And then we chat. About everything but food. 

And so here is my non-foodie foreword to her brilliantly simple book with it's incredibly delicious recipes. 
Congratulations darling girl. Your book is beautiful. x

The Foreword:

Unlike other brides, Alida never minded being photographed with a mouthful of wedding cake. I know this, not because I attended her wedding, but because she once used it as a Twitter profile pic. You want to be friends with a girl who likes her food and is not ashamed of showing it. 

I never quite understood the whole social media /twitter / blog thing. That is until it happened to me. Until I started reading blogs and realized it was like reading somebody’s diary, which I do admit appeals to the voyeur and snoop in me. And Google is a Godsend when you can type in ‘easy pork belly recipe’ and hundreds of appropriate entries pop up, you know you’ve come to the right place. Or when you find yourself returning to certain blogs, like Simply Delicious because you know you’ll always find inspiration in them when faced with the what-shall-I-make-for-supper- dilemma. I also started making friends online, virtual friends who were uncomplicated in their affection and encouragement -friends who showed pictures of themselves with a mouthful of wedding cake. Friends I wanted to meet in person. Friends like Alida.

Before I met her, I, like other followers of her blog, knew quite a bit about her. I knew that she dated older boys at school because she was so much taller than the boys in her class. I knew that she loved clothes and make-up; that she fell in love with the man who is now her husband when she was 17 years old. And that she became a mother of twins in her early twenties. I knew that she loves her father and brother very much and that not a day goes by that she doesn’t miss her mother, a brilliant lecturer in criminology whose interest in food was way less than her daughter’s, but who left her with a collection of recipe books from which she bakes clementine cakes. I also knew that Rooibos tea reminds Alida of her grandmother. I knew these things because Alida is such an honest writer; she knows that food and love and emotion are intimately connected, and so she, with open-hearted generosity, shares her life and her loves with us. She does the same with her recipes. Recipes that work. I know this because I’ve tried them. Successfully. I’ve always liked Alida's enthusiasm for food, her generosity in preparing it and her authentic approach to the sometimes rather stuffy and pretentious world of the culinary arts.  Having met her, I love her enthusiasm for life, her capacity for joy and her gratitude for the good things that come her way. And I know that this book; conceived, created, written, styled and photographed by Alida is a reflection of herself. And that is recommendation enough.

Alida reminds me of why I love food. Because the making thereof is a gift. Because it tastes good. Because it always makes me feel better. And because, sometimes, it really is ok to want more.

What You Need To Know
Who: Alida Ryder
Book: Simple & Delicious Recipes From The Heart
Publishers: Penguin Books
Twitter: @SimplyDelishSA

Saturday 8 September 2012

A Scrumptious Book (Good Enough to Eat)

A photo of the cover of Scrumptious
A photo of the Moroccan-Spiced Chicken Pie ( also taken from the book)

On our way to Jane-Anne's 50th birthday party earlier this year, Jacques once again asked me whose party we were attending. 
'My friend, Jane-Anne's', I replied. Again. 
'Have I met her?' he asked, puzzled. 
'No.' I replied. 
'Why not?' was his response. 
'Because I've only met her once.' I told him, by now exasperated by the conversation. 
'You've met her once and we're going to her 50th? he asked incredulously. 'Why?' 
'Because she's my Twitter friend. And I know her well, we tweet all the time. And she makes me laugh. And she also reads The Daily Mail. And she rages against injustice. And she has a really great blog about food. She knows her stuff. I like her. And I want to go to her party.' I argued defensively.
'Fine' he said, still puzzled. As someone unfamiliar with Twitter would be.
Anyway, we both had a fabulous time at Jane-Anne's party, the food was fabulous (as you'd expect), the company great (like-minded people), the speeches made me laugh and at one point get a bit teary, and her son and his band performed. All in all a great night out with friends.

So this is my long-winded way owning up to the fact that I consider Jane-Anne Hobbs a friend and so whatever follows may be conceived as being biaised. But honestly, my mom does not know Jane-Anne and she loves this book, loved its format, it's design, loved the photographs (by the talented Michael Le Grange), loved the recipes. In fact she lauded it 'the best cookery book I've seen in a long time.' And my mom's no bullshitter. Jacques also expressed an opinion when he saw the book. 'It's a bit higher grade for you, isn't it, love?' he commented, referring to the long, detailed recipes. 

And so I set out to prove him wrong, because I have more faith in Jane-Anne's ability to write a recipe than my husband has in my ability to follow one. I made the Moroccan-Spiced Chicken Pie, because we had our honeymoon in Morocco and we both love the flavours of this magnificent country. My intention was to seduce him with memories of Marrakech and impress him with my pie-making skills. I managed to do both. Extremely well, I might add. Now, Jane-Anne can take no credit for the former, but I will certainly thank her for her help with the latter. The pie turned out beautifully. Absolute perfection. And incredibly delicious. Scrumptious, in fact.

This preserved lemon, green olives, paprika, cinnamon, ginger, cumin coriander, cinnamo-sugar-dusted-phyllo-pastry bedecked chicken pie gave me the confidence to move away from those familiar few-ingredient-few-step recipes I'm usually so fond of.  This recipe book is brilliantly written. Follow the clear, concise, detailed, step by step instructions and you cannot go wrong. It is almost as good as having a friend who knows everything about cooking being in the kitchen with you and telling you how to do it as you go along. I also love her notes on shortcuts or preparing things in advance like 'This filling can be prepared the day before, and you can assemble the pie up to 3 hours before you bake it. Keep tightly covered with clingfilm to prevent the pastry from drying out, and bring it up to room temperature before you bake it.' Perfect advice for someone like me who gets flustered if I have to do too much shortly before the guests arrive.
The recipes in the book are also meant for between 8-12 people which is fantastic if, like me, you don't like maths and multiplication and believe that food tastes better when eaten in the company of many. There is also a lot of variety in the book; interesting starters (Mashed Feta with Artichokes, Lemon and Olive Oil), exciting salads (think Cauliflower Salad with Crisp-Fried Chorizo), robust meaty meals (Lemony Lamb Shoulder with Potatoes en Papillote), great vegetarian options ( Lentil and Butternut Bobotie) decent deserts (Nougat and Ice Cream Cake with Hot Raspberry Sauce) and some old-school favourites with modern twists (Salmon, Egg and Dill Pie with lemon butter). But all of the recipes indicate that you've gone to some trouble to prepare something special for those you love and like. 

She's a clever one, our Mavis. And she generously shares her knowledge. You'll be wise to learn from her. 

What You Need To Know
Who: Jane-Anne Hobbs 
Book: Scrumptious -  Food For Family and Friends
Publishers: Published by the clever folk at Struik Lifestyle (Random House Struik)
Twitter: @Jane_Anne62
Blog: www.

Friday 17 August 2012

The Heavenly Macaroni Cheese

another version of the ever-changing wall

the macaroni cheese

I adore Jacques Erasmus. I wrote a blogpost on him and his Hemelhuijs October 2010 and the only thing that has changed is the menu and that I like him even more than I did then. I also wrote a press release for him recently, which I'll post as is because I'm lazy and it's weekend and I'd like to get of here and onto the road. I'd also like to hurry up and eat the leftover Macaroni Cheese before we pack up the car and the dog. Because this Macaroni Cheese is sublime.  It's the Macaroni Cheese served at Hemelhuijs. Enough said. But in case you're still wondering, it's nothing like the one your mother made or the one that you ate at boarding school. Jacques gave me his recipe. He's wonderful that way. And I'll give it to you, so that you all think I'm wonderful as well.

Hemelhuijs - A Heavenly Space

‘It is at the crack of dawn each day that we add the happiness of bubbling yeast to flour.  Strong hands knead soft dough and heirloom bread tins are gently filled to the brim with the day's manna – in anticipation of a the warm oven.  The coffee grinder groans with the perfume of coffea rubusta and citrus fruits sacrifice their last moments of wholeness…’ This is Jacques Erasmus’s reply when asked if the breakfast bread at his restaurant is freshly baked. He has the soul of a poet, is an artist, a designer, a stylist, a chef, a baker, a curator and creator of all things beautiful and Hemelhuijs is his home from home. It is in this welcoming, beautiful restaurant that serves as a showcase of all that Jacques does so exceptionally well, that you will be able to experience, in some small measure, the passion of a man obsessed with beauty in all its myriads forms.

Since its opening in October 2010, the intimate space has undergone several transformations, the initial black walls gave way to a particular shade of green, before grey was introduced, the art changed, the displays were reinvented, the floral art styled according to mood, the menu is seasonal. The restaurant is a showcase of all Jacques’s talents, the talents his clients for whom he consults and visitors to his restaurant have come to know and appreciate. His is not a static style. Nor is it the whims of a man unable to make up his mind. His creative expression is a fluid fluctuation of mood and time. At Hemelhuijs there is an unspoken, constant invitation to return again and again and be inspired.

The menu is both sophisticated and authentic. While beautifully presented on an array of handmade and precious crockery, there is no pretention, only elegant simplicity and a sincere regard and respect for food. At Hemelhuijs Jacques invites us to ‘ Imagine a world with celebration, even for the smaller and simpler things in life.’ Which is exactly what he does so exceptionally well. Foreign, exotic flavours as well as the comforting, nostalgic tastes of childhood are both present on his menu.

This season offers nostalgic melkkos and breakfast favourites such as soft poached eggs and lightly smoked trout, ladled with warm buttery hollandaise.  Lunch celebrates the simpler things with milk stout braised beef brisket topped with snails and oyster mushroom butter or pan fried porcini mushrooms with persimmon and feta. The pan fried lamb kidneys with brandy cream and marmite toast soldiers are the perfect combination of grown-up pleasures and nursery comforts While a warm baby beetroot, roast duck and walnut praline salad with naartjiecelebrates the winter garden. Preserves are homemade by his mother and the fruits come from their country garden. Glasses are filled with dulce du leche swirled in warm frothy milk or freshly made citrus juices and cappuccinos wear mocha crown in ceramic bowls. 

As a tribute to his heritage Jacques offers visitors to Hemelhuijs a version of his ouma’s traditional mosbelletjies, the smell of which reminds him of being four years old and helping his grandmother bake mosbolletjies as a child. Baking and in particular the baking of this particular bread, has always fascinated him. It is the temperamental alchemy of dough that he loves. And which he so generously shares.

A visit to Hemelhuijs, will leave you feeling inspired. You’ll be seduced by the creative sophistication but also comforted by the nostalgic and unpretentious authenticity of a creator who believes that art should reach all the senses.

71 Waterkant Street, Cape Town
Telephone: 021 418 2042
Monday to Friday 9:00 – 16:00
Saturday 9:00 – 15:00

Jacques Erasmus’s Macaroni Cheese
(This recipe should give you 10 portions)

Cheese sauce
1litre cream
1tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp garlic
1cup grated boerenkaas
½ cup grated parmesan
30ml lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

1kg al dente cooked macaroni
300gm crispy chopped bacon
300gm potato cubes, par-boiled

Apple sauce
8 granny smith apples, peeled and cored
Pinch of salt
250ml water
2 tbsp sugar

Crumb mix
Toasted breadcrumbs
1/2c parsley, chopped
½ c grated parmesan

Apple sauce Method
Cube apples, place in a pot with enough water to cover, add salt and cook. 
Check liquid continuously throughout cooking, add more liquid if necessary so apples do not stick to the bottom.
When the apples are soft, transfer only apples to a blender and blend until smooth.  Retain cooking liquid if any.
If the consistency is too thick, add little cooking liquid until it has a puree consistency.
Add sugar just before finish.

Cheese sauce Method
Fry the garlic very lightly in a pot with a little oil for about 1 min on a low heat.  This should not change colour.
Add the cream and reduce about a 1/3 of the quantity.
Add all the other ingredients except for salt and pepper and stir through until all cheese has melted.
Season with salt and pepper if needed.

In pan, brown the potato cubes in a little oil.  Add bacon and cook 1min.
Add sauce and macaroni and stir through until macaroni is hot, on a low heat.  Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed.
Transfer macaroni to a dish, sprinkle with the crumb mix.
Grill the dish until crumb mix is golden brown.
Serve with applesauce on the side.

Sam’s Notes
I couldn’t find Boerenkaas at ‘Club Engen’ so I used mature cheddar.
I also used Grana Padana instead of Parmesan (and used 1 cup instead of  ½ cup because I believe that more is better)
I also used 500g of bacon (same more is better rule applies)
How decadent is a mac and cheese recipe that requires you to add fried potato cubes? How decadent and totally divine.
Apple sauce with mac and cheese? Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. 

Tuesday 7 August 2012

Oded Schwartz RIP

The cover of Oded's book 

I learned today that Oded Schwartz passed away on the night of 1 August after a long battle with cancer. I did not know him well, but what what I did know I liked enormously. I was fortunate enough to interview him for Woolworth's Taste magazine and a version of the following profile appeared in the December issue of 2010. Afterwards he sent me his granny caramelized rice pudding recipe to make for my mom because I had mentioned that she too loved rice pudding. He was that sort of man. A real mensch. My heart goes out to those who loved him. Rest in peace, Oded. You will be missed.

Oded’s Kitchen is a wonderland of glass jars and bottles and bowls filled with magical concoctions, some achingly exotic, other soothingly familiar. I spoke to Oded Schwartz about heritage and loss, adventure and the most comforting alchemy of all.

I have always believed that when we leave the country of our birth, and become citizens of the world, we adapt, we pick up the mannerisms and the ways of our adopted countries. We pass as one of them. These chameleon-like attributes stand us in good stead. But our taste buds always betray us. Our taste buds remind us of our past. And if we honour these flavours we remain authentic. Oded Schwartz confirms my belief. Seeing him in the kitchen of the shop Oded’s Kitchen in Salt River, Cape Town, where he cooks and conjures, he could be mistaken for having been born and raised in South Africa. Right down to his pair of Crocs. Albeit, deliberately mismatched Crocs - a nod to his bolder, more creative side -but yes, he sports the favourite footwear of the South African male species. But then he speaks and his accent has the warm Isreali inflection of the country of his birth and the baritone elegance of the English, alongside whom he lived for most of his adult life. And now he is here, offering innovative twists to old familiar chutneys, jams, relishes and syrups, pates and puddings. But it is preserves that he is passionate about.
‘My early childhood memories of life in Israel are of preserving. My mother was a fantastic pickler and everything she pickled was delicious. Come the end of Summer, or the beginning of Autumn she would always be in the kitchen, peeling, chopping, pickling. The taste I most associate with my mother is that of pickled aubergines. They  would be steamed or boiled and stuffed with fresh celery, carrot and garlic before being pickled in a weak salt water solution, where they would begin to ferment. I loved these pickles, and I loved the juice they were pickled in even more. I would drink this naturally fermented juice in  small amounts poured ice-cold from the jar in fridge on a hot day. It has a very special sourness that you can’t get from anything else. When I left Israel as a young man and went to study and live in London I missed those things. I missed the taste of home. So I started reproducing them in my own kitchen in London. And now I reproduce them here.’
Most of Oded’s recipes are old family recipes, the food and the preserves he makes are adaptations of his mother’s recipes. I question his use of bacon in a dish, and ask if his Jewish mother would approve of such a thing. ‘Yes, in fact she would have approved,’ he tells me, ‘We’ve been secular Jews for three or four generations. And I’m very proud of it. My grandparents rejected religion. And I followed them. So I ate pork as a child. I was lucky to be born in Haifa. Haifa was always a very mixed city, you had Muslims, Jews and Christians all living together. I remember a little alley, the alley of St Jonathan. And there was an Arab butcher who made and sold the most wonderful German-style sausages like bratwurst, and my mother would buy pork from him. As secular Jews we celebrated all Jewish festivals, but instead of going to Shul or Temple, we would honour our heritage and our culture by preparing and eating traditional dishes.
While my food associations of my mother are savoury in nature, like the pickled aubergines or the small artichokes she would peel and serve with lemon juice and a bit of olive oil, my granny’s are sweet. My granny used to make a sweet caramelized rice pudding. Which she served with grated lemon rind. She would also, when she really wanted to spoil me, make semolina dumplings served with melted butter and sugar. As a family we are gluttons.’ He laughingly, approvingly tells me.
I wondered  if his interest in food was encouraged  when he was a child? If his mother and his grandmother saw his potential? If they noticed his ease  in the kitchen? Did they recognize a kindred spirit? Sadly not. While they may have influenced him, and instilled a passion for flavours in him, his encouragement came from an aunt. ‘A good Jewish boy doesn’t become a chef, he becomes a lawyer or a doctor. But I’ve been cooking since I was eight, even though I wasn’t encouraged to do so. I was always a listening child. A lonely, listening child. My aunty Yeva studied in Paris. And her food was extremely elegant. And I think that if I have any elegance in my food, it is thanks to her. She used to take care of me for short periods of time when my mom was ill. And it was she who told me the stories the stories about places and food and different cultures. She instilled in me a love of fine things. ‘
In a fragrant kitchen in Cape Town, Oded honours these women; his grandmother, his mother and his aunt. As he does the country of his birth, the country of his adult life, and the country he now calls home. He makes snoek pate and Rooibos panna cotta. And he pickles. Respectfully. With love.

Oded’s Kitchen (Do visit. I'm sure that his spirit lives on.)
The Old Biscuit Mill
Salt River

Friday 3 August 2012

Boerewors Belt now the Wyngordyn. Indeed.

Sundried tomato, goat's cheese and basil phyllo  tartlet

Not that growing up in suburban Milnerton was all that hip and edgy but at least we lived 5 minutes walk away from the beach. My cousins, on the other hand, lived in Durbanville - what we regarded as the height of suburbia. According to us, they lived in the Boerewors Belt. Called thus because it was perceived that only Afrikaans-speakers lived there and so, of course, ate boerewors. Not that we didn't speak Afrikaans at home and if my oupa had his way, we'd eat boerewors every night of the week. We'd visit them by driving the back roads from Table View over Contermanskloof, past the farmlands and wheat fields before entering suburbia again -  their suburbia being an exact replica of ours. I thought about those days as I drove to a press lunch at Nitida Wine Farm last week. The wheat fields have been replaced by vineyards as the Durbanville Wine Valley is now on the hot list of any wine lover. And it really is pretty out there and the wines don't have to stand back for the Stellenbosch or Franschhoek crowd. No more Boerewors Belt, Durbanville is firmly behind the Wyngordyn alongside the traditional winelands stalwarts. So, a lovely women-only lunch introducing Cassia's ( the restaurant on Nitida wine farm) August special lunch menu for women got me thinking of my Tannie Nettie, who still lives in Durbanville and how she doesn't have a bad bone in her body and how she is always happy to see us and how she lives for her husband and children and grandchildren and I realised that it is the Tannie Nettie's of this world who need to be acknowledged as much as the great movers and shakers, the feminists and the femme fatale's, during this month in which we are supposed to celebrate women.  Because it is their extraordinary ordinariness, their generosity in wanting only the best for those they love, in spite of the cost to themselves that forms the backbone of our society. And so I will be taking Tannie Nettie out to lunch, because she has only been good to me. And because this menu really is delicious and because we don't honour those we love nearly enough. This is a good month to start doing so.

Cassia restaurant is on the Nitida Farm, Tygervalley Road (M13) Durbanville.
Open Monday - Saturday for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Sunday for breakfast and lunch.
Telephone: 021 976 0640

The 3 course meal special for Woman's Day at R185 per person includes a glass of The Matriarch or the Matriarch in red MCC as well as a glass of Modjadji Noble Late Harvest with the fabulous chocolate fondant dessert.

Sundried tomato, goats cheese and basil tartlet with a seasonal salad
Hearty Minestrone soup a la Cassia
Traditional coq au vin, mustard mash and green beans
Pan seared Norwegian salmon served with saffron risotto
Chocolate fondant, Modjadji and a rose petal cream

Monday 23 July 2012

Fifty Shades Of Grey. Yet Another Opinion

( Fifty Shades of Grey - The Trilogy. I bought hard copies. No furtive downloading for me.)

In polite company, I have been told, it is rude to discuss, politics, religion or sex. I say bollocks to that.
During the past few weeks, I have had enormous fun discussing sex. In polite company.
The first time I heard about the Fifty Shades of Grey (E.L James) trilogy, was at a lovely (respectable) dinner party in the Northern suburbs,where the food, wine and conversation were excellent and where I believe the book was disparagingly referred to a 'mommy porn.' I was not put off.
Last week I  sat at Clarke's in Bree Street with an old university friend and his wife, where he confessed to having appropriated her Kindle with the express purpose of of reading her downloaded copy. 'Is this what woman want' he asked. 'Who knows what women want? But clearly they want this book.' I replied. Last I'd read she was making almost $1 million a week from book sales. Which translates into an awful lot of people liking what she's written. On Saturday, I went to a friend's birthday party and what do you know?  We were drinking wonderful amounts of Pierre Jourdan and talking about Fifty Shades. We also spoke about politics and religion. But believe me, the sex was more interesting.

Twitter has been most unkind. 'For school girls and undersexed middle aged women', tweeted one. 'Badly written' tweeted many. Now those I've been chatting to (and I won't out them) are neither of school going age, nor judging by their appearance and conversation middle aged (unless, God forbid, the 30s and the 40s are now regarded as middle-aged)  or to my knowledge, undersexed,  and some of them are in fact highly regarded professionals. Some who even write well. Read well. But also admit to liking a bit of smut. And who doesn't? Who never furtively read books written by Jilly Cooper? Octavia? Riders? Judith Krantz? What about Princess Daisy? Shirley Conran's Lace? All those male characters were domineering and highly skilled lovers. That was the attraction. I grew up on a steady diet of romance novels and went on to get a degree in English literature. I'm no literary snob and I haven't read a romance novel in more than 20 years. But I did read two out of the three Fifty Shades books. I lost interest by the third one, but the first two did keep me happily occupied one rainy weekend. 

And yes, I'm inclined to agree with those who say it's badly written, for how many times can a girl bite her lip, how awful to have an annoying inner goddess doing the salsa or something like that. How ridiculous that in this day and age a woman with a degree in literature does not have an email address. There are a thousand annoying things about these books. But neither the author not the publishers are selling this as high-brow literature. Cliterature more likely. But that's ok. There is some great literature out there. Fifty Shades is not it.

But what I do like about these books and why I will defend them is the conversations surrounding them rather than the books themselves. Conversations are being had about what turns people on. What women want. What men want. I don't see it as anti-feminist or degrading to women. I'm not into BDSM and I most certainly don't wish to be spanked, but this is fantasy, people, and escapism, and I doubt EL James has any interest in winning the Booker prize. But if these books are responsible for women having better or more frequent sex, I say go for it. 

And so this post is about my stand against snobbism. Go ahead, have an opinion about the books, sure be witty and funny, I like that, but stop mocking those who like the whole Grey / Steele/ 50 Shades thing. It diminishes you not them. It's like being snotty about margarine. Personally I hate the stuff, being partial to butter. But I have no moral judgment on those who like Rama. I also like Spur chips with pink sauce on occasion and on road trips I drink Wimpy coffee. I dare you to judge me...