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