Saturday, December 29, 2012

Binding Spells.

 Paul Theroux writes about the soundtrack of Africa - it is not the trumpeting of elephants nor the roar of lions... it is the coo-cooing of the turtle dove. This soundtrack has followed me my whole life long, wherever I have lived. Lucky.

We laugh at the turtle doves flirting on the ridge of the roof. We don't wear shoes and sultry air sashays over bare skin.
There are no mirrors here - only the eyes of another.
We are building a secret vocabulary.

While I was away, the lilies died and the jacaranda burst into green.
Tonight we'll build a fire under the cooking moon.
I will make ice cream with mangoes and mint.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Eva's broken hearted chicken.

As I cooked, I realized with a pang that I was making something very similar to one of my grandmother's signature dishes. She would send me to the garden to pick the parsley and to pull a bunch of shallots. And I would watch...

You skin the chicken pieces and chop some of the fatty bits finely, along with a couple of rashers of bacon, also finely chopped. Fry in a skillet until nicely browned - the fat rendered. Remove with a slotted spoon. Dredge the chicken pieces in seasoned flour, brown in the same skillet. Return the bacon and skins, shallots, some slivers of garlic, plenty of chopped parsley, a cup of chicken stock and half a cup of dry sherry. Bake at 180C/350F for about forty minutes, basting a couple of times.

 My grandmother never served this dish hot - as it cools, the gravy turns into a delicious jelly, wonderful with a few slices of chicken, on a fresh bread roll.
We ate it warm, with basmati and a salad of chopped heritage tomatoes, charred red pepper and parsley. I made a dressing of balsamic - the one thickened with figs, Mission olive oil from the Karoo and Turkish chili flakes. The vinegar settled into a fat question mark and I could almost feel her there next to me.

I learnt so much in my grandmother's kitchen. I wish I could cook her a meal. I wish I could take her shopping and introduce her to this new wealth of ingredients. She is the one who came to our "Grease" party dressed as a Greek peasant. The one whose ring I now own. A sweet-smelling rose called Aurora. Crumbs for the birds on the lawn. Freshly baked brown bread and apricot jam.

If I had to condense my grandmother into one word, it would be kindness.

Happy Birthday Ouma.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Dog days.

Overtaken by great fatigue, I nap at odd times of the day and sleep for hours, hours every night. The fan whirrs and brings forth dreams of flying contraptions, lemonade stands by the seaside, trickery and deceit.

Finally, tomorrow, this job is over as well. Storms large and small dismissed to a hazy past. The broken axles, the car stuck on the tree stump, the Teutonic alarm clocks... 
Man down on one of the final shoot days: we lost our strapping truck driver to a tummy ache. He disdained the on-set medic and insisted on traditional herbs. Perhaps an offering to Mami Wata, as one does in Cameroon. You try explaining that to a Cranky German Director.

Said CGD left South Africa in a huff, never to return. I was happy to see the back of him and his horses, his temper tantrums and stories of sexual prowess between takes having worn thin particularly fast.

So here's to the return of normality, to cooking, to spending time with the ones I love.

To peace.