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What I Miss About South Africa - Part I

“Cooking is like love: it should be entered into with total abandon or not at all,” is what a lady called Harriet von Horne once said. She probably understood something about both. People often ask us what we miss the most about South African food. I will give you a list shortly, but my angel summarised it perfectly: “We miss having our own kitchen.” You see, we have been living in guest houses, hostel rooms and guest rooms for almost 2 years now. We love cooking and spending time with friends around a dinner table. Sometimes we go over the top a bit, but it is very difficult to cook with total abandon in someone else’s kitchen or when you have no kitchen at all.

I could write a long list of all the foods we miss having around, but nowadays you can find some of them in the strangest places. For Example, the Nepali people don’t have the same over-the-top craving for sugar we have, so their pastries are not always what we are used to, but we found some coffee shops that serve the nicest baked cheesecake, one of our favourites.

My favourite favourite is something that’s not loved by all, but it’s an annual Christmas treat in many homes: Trifle. Some people just don’t enjoy the mixing of all the ingredients. I remember a Christmas many years ago when my sister just started crying because she did not like her pudding "deurmekaar" (mixed together). My mother-in-law once made a trifle with an amazingly generous amount of "caramel sauce" at the bottom. People kept coming back for seconds and thirds and even fourth helpings. Only later did we realise the secret behind the caramel sauce not to be caramel at all, but a hand that slipped to the delight of many. To make a good trifle is a process. You can’t just throw a few ingredients together and, “Voila! Trifle!” Maybe this concept of "deurmekaar" pudding has led me to another of my favourites: bazaar pudding. I can’t remember many instances when we passed a bazaar and didn’t stop immediately to fill up on this dessert; in fact, it’s probably one of the two reasons I attend a bazaar in the first place.

The second reason for attending a bazaar is to sample some “sosaties” (kebabs). I really love these skewered creations. Every sosatie recipe is as unique as the person creating it. Of course, some people skimp on the quality of the meat, or the marinade might not be to your taste, or it might be over-cooked, but each time I risk it, just in case I get to taste one of the nicer sosaties. I don’t enjoy large amounts of fat in my sosaties, but a thin slice between the meat is not altogether evil. I also love basting my sosaties while they’re on the braai grill to add extra flavour.

Which leads me to the next few things we miss abroad: a good old South African braai, or a visit to the Spur, or a nice piece of not so dry biltong. In the end I suppose most of these things only help us to remember what we miss most: our family and friends, our sometimes very loud, self-assured fellow South Africans. I truly thank the Lord for our very beautiful country with its unique variety in both nature and people.

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