Tuesday 26 March 2013

The Prayer of the Passion Fruit

I once, stupidly, proclaimed 'If I shoot ever tweet, shoot me.' At the time I had no idea how wonderful Twitter was, how many friends I would find online or how much love and support I would find in cyberspace. So when I received a tweet from Jo Barrow @i_am_jobarrow asking me where she could find a column I had written for Woolworths TASTE in January / February 2011 about granadillas and gratitude, I had to smile because the request came at just the right time.  I knew then that I needed to eat a granadilla and start saying my gratitudes. So I thought I'd post the column for Jo. It appears, along with many others, in my book coming out in April (punt punt, my publishers will be happy) but for now, here it is....

The Prayer of the Passion Fruit

I married my love on the 6 January. Twelfth Night. It was a raucous, happy affair. But we celebrated our wedding with two wedding cakes. Because we couldn’t decide on one. I wanted a plain elegant marzipan white icing fruitcake on which we would put fresh flowers on the day. Jacques, showing an intense dislike for both fruitcake and marzipan, insisted on getting married with a granadilla cake, his favourite : the type with two layers and frosting in between and messily slapped on top. The type you get at church bazaars and aunties’ house. Now I like granadilla cake, my aunty Margie made an excellent one, but I certainly didn’t want that to be my wedding cake, not at our wedding. Not accompanying the live jazz band and gin and lime sorbets. My mom suggested a compromise. His and Her cakes. And so it was that on the night, my cake looked beautiful displayed on the cake stand, a perfect white square, no frills, covered only in fresh full blown roses. Jacques’s cake, on the other hand, made a grand entrance, stealing the show. My mom had bought no less that 17 of those kitschy-cool bride and groom cake toppers and placed them all on the cake along with a handful of sparklers that set the night alight. And most people ate the granadilla version. Including me. I think my cake went home almost untouched and my family ate fruitcake for a year. But it is the granadilla cake we most remember. The flavour Jacques insisted on.

Before Jacques, I never much cared for granadillas. As I child the closest I would come to them was eating the granadilla lollies, sold at corner cafes and on beaches in the summer, but even then, I, disapprovingly picked out the tiny black seeds. Older, I grew to like their other name Passion Fruit, mistakenly thinking it to be of sensual origin rather the spiritual one it in fact is. And I have always thought their flowers to be incredibly beautiful. I once visited friends in the Italian Lake District and their garden wall was covered in a creeper laden with blooming passion fruit flowers. I spent a lot of time admiring the intricate floral patterns and delicate markings while contemplating the lost-cause-love who had accompanied me on the trip. Perhaps the granadilla, mysterious in its more exotic setting, was a sign of things to come... A man I would love with all my heart, who I would thank God for, and who would make me love granadillas.

Granadillas also feature strongly in the lives of my parents, who have been married for 43 years. My mom tells me that when she and my dad were courting, she would seduce him with desert of granadilla pulp folded into thick double cream. These days, she makes a less luscious version for them, using low fat Bulgarian yoghurt instead. A case of, cholesterolly speaking, the spirit being willing, but the flesh being weak.

My mother-in-law gave me a recipe for the most divinely decadent use of granadilla. One part fresh granadilla pulp, one can of condensed milk and a tub of thick cream are all folded in together and frozen.

I made this desert for Jacques the night we made the commitment to one another that we would do everything in our power, no matter what it took, to ensure that we had a baby. The night we acknowledged there was space in our relationship for a child and that not having a baby of our own was making us intensely unhappy. On this night the sweetness of the condensed milk granadilla comforted us. On the night I bargained with God…

I also made this desert the night my parents came to dinner, the night I was told that my mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer. On this night not even the sweetness of the condensed milk granadilla could comfort me. On the night I bargained with God…

My dad has this thing he does, which he has passed on to me. He starts every morning with an endless list of the things that he is grateful for. It is part prayer, part thanks. I call it The Gratitudes. It is a litany of things to remind us of our blessings; a loving partner, parents, family, a warm bed at night, clean sheets, good food, wonderful friends, a beautiful home filled with laughter, movies, books, medicine, therapy, lemons, salt-seawater, star jasmine, lemon verbena, crushed mint, being able to brush teeth with toothpaste and running water…
The granadilla reminds me of My Gratitudes. There are so many seeds it’s almost impossible to count them. Now as I eat granadillas, each seed symbolizes a blessing. The granadilla has, for me, become a meditative fruit. And so while I eat my morning yogurt with the pulp and a smidgen of honey, I eat the seeds and count my blessings. That way I eat mindfully. So that food does not become my escape, but rather becomes my comfort. And, sometimes, I bite into the seeds. To remind myself. To be sure.

A 2013 Update:
My parents have now been married for 45 years. My mom is still battling her cancer - bravely and stylishly. She is determined that she will live so that she may one day teach our child to dance. We are still battling to become a family. Bravely but not always stylishly. Yet we know, with absolute certainty, that our baby will find his or her way to us. Eventually.

Monday 25 March 2013

Chocolate + Pedicure = Happy Feet

Almost two years ago I wrote a post on Bastien Gonzales pedicures at the One & Only Cape Town . I reread is this morning.  And I'll post if for you, in case you want to read it as well. And perhaps you should because when I read it I was quite pleased with myself. I liked what I wrote. And believe me after the week I've had in which I panicked, obsessed and hated myself for struggling so much with a piece of writing, I need a little reassurance. And there it was, a funny light-hearted recommendation. Clever me.
(What I wrote two years ago)
Now, I have had many pedicures at beauty salons, and quite a few podiatrist/ chiropodist appointments as well. But have always found that the one was aesthetic (beauty salons and spas) and the other medicinal (podiatrist/ chiropodists). And that there is seldom an overlap. Until my Bastien Gonzalez experience. These treatments, developed by an ex competitive skier and podiatrist to the stars (Don't you just love that expression? Imagine the conversations...'Tell Halle Berry to wait, I'm busy with Eta Carinae now and she's flown in from far.') are curative and aesthetic as well as incredibly luxurious. Therapist, Area Manager and Bastien Gonzalez devotee, Kim Milton took charge of my feet. While Celeste Osbourne managed my hands.
There were a few things that immediately told me that this pedicure and manicure would be unlike any other I had ever experienced. Firstly I was offered chocolate once I was snugly ensconced in my electric-blanket-already-on-reclining-chair. I knew I was off to a great start.
Surprisingly no water was used during either treatment, as wet skin can hide problems that need to be evaluated.
Cuticles are not pushed back, or cut as in other treatments.
No foot file, or pumice stone came near my feet, as this apparently promotes and encourages the growth of hard, thicker skin, causing ugly cracked heels. Instead, a blade is used to remove excess skin, and the use of powder is recommended to prevent friction when wearing closed shoes or high heels. Feet should be moisturized at night. Nail varnish should be removed, allowing nails to breathe etc, etc
I know all of this is hardly appropriate for a mostly-food blog. But wait, the results are amazing, butter-soft heels, and shiny buffed nails. And the experience was really relaxing and luxurious. Once all the work had been done, the lights in the treatment room were dimmed and the chair moved even further back until I was almost lying down. And then I smelt it... the sweet, beautiful scent of chocolate. This was the vitamin-E enriched, cocoa and paraffin wax treatment which was used to massage my hands and feet in tandem. A heavenly 75 minutes later, it was still raining outside, but I was walking on sunshine. Havaianas might not be in the same league as Jimmy Choo, but my feet sure as hell didn't know the difference. They had developed a personality all of their own. It may have been the sugar rush, it may have been the massage, but they felt goooood. And they wanted to be shown off. They wanted to party...

So there you have it; another guilt-free chocolate pleasure.
Sure the treatment is pricey, but so is liposuction! 
(The end)

So why, you may ask, would I now write about something I'd written about before? Because it was a gift? Partly. But not necessarily. It's because it's a wonderful treat/ treatment and a really good deal. Last year I bruised my credit card by taking out a Bastien mani /pedi package, consisting of three glorious sessions. Which was terribly lavish / 'hey big spender-ish' of me considering that I'm a freelancer with an irregular income but the thrill of languishing at the One & Only Spa was just too tempting. I like the place. I like the place so very much... So imagine my delight when I saw that Bastien Studio at the One & Only  are running a special at the moment. And the best of it is that while your feet and hands are being pampered, you get to eat chocolate. As much as you like. And while you're not going to make a piglet of yourself, there is a delicious decadence to scoffing chocolate while in a spa. But the really good news is that this is not only an  Easter Bunny Special. While the man or woman in your life may well like this more than yet another Easter egg (and let's face it we all much prefer the cheap marshmallow one that we nick from the kids, anyway), this is a much more luxurious gift, if you can't afford FabergĂ©. This promotion runs till the end of May. And you really shouldn't miss it. And if you're spoiling yourself or someone else, do try the Bastien Le Baume Sensitive Feet Balm.  Silky soft and non-greasy and works like a charm on horrible heels. You'll never want to use good old Eulactol ever again.

So herewith the details:
Pedi:Mani:Cure Studio by Bastien Gonzales
Reservations: Tel: 021 4315810
Email: spa.reservations@oneandonlycapetown.com

Chocoholic Delight Special offer: The special runs until 31 May 2013 and  offers a Pedicure for R750 (instead of R945) and a Manicure for R450 (instead of R525). This includes having your limbs massaged with fabulous cocoa-fragranced and Vitamin E enriched paraffin wax. And eating as many delicious chocolates as you can decently manage.

Tuesday 5 March 2013

Take A Look At The Book!

( Judging a book by its cover? I can live (happily) with this one. )

(Talented book designer and lovely friend Beverley Dodd who brought me the unbound copy a couple of weeks ago. We celebrated with strong gins and huge grins.)

I went to pick up my advance copy yesterday afternoon. And then I spent a large part of the evening looking at it and looking at it again. I wanted to share the exciting news but I was also quite hesitant. There's a lot of me on and in this book. Why this should bother me, I'm not quite sure, I earn my living wearing my heart on my sleeve (and on my hips). 
But here it is; the book I am incredibly proud of. So very pleased with. The book that has made me happy. The book that is proof that I actually managed to  achieve something during the past year filled with such loss. A book filled with memories, food, friendships and recipes. It should be on the shelves by the end of the month and I hope you like it and /or buy it.
Ooh yes. Have to tell you that the title of the book is flocked! Which means you can, should you be so inclined, frottage the words all you like. If you're into that sort of thing...

(The bit below is what the clever marketing people from Struik Lifestyle / Random House Struik sent out)