Things South African: food and humour

As I mentioned in my previous post, my website is undergoing a make-over as I’m consolidating my writing workload.  I’m working on populating my web pages with interesting material for my readers and followers. Like this video I posted on my media page by South African comedian, Trevor Noah:

Noah’s humour ties into what I’ve written in my memoir, An Immoral Proposal. It’s only now, post-apartheid that the racial playing field in South Africa is level, we can laugh at how diabolical apartheid was.  As stand-up comedy is relatively new to South Africa’s young democracy, Noah, the product of a white father and Xhosa mother, has gained international fame drawing on his experiences growing up under apartheid.  In January, 2012,  Noah became the first South African stand-up comedian to appear on The Tonight Show and a year later on the Late Show with David Letterman. Click on my media page to see more videos. http://www.jenniferbgraham.com/media/

In my book,  An Immoral Proposal, I write about my grandmother’s culinary prowess. Raised by her,  I’ve inherited the knack of cooking by instinct. Like many talented Capetonian cooks, I blend my herbs and spices very much like paint on an artist’s palette when marrying them up to tantalize the taste buds. I’m in the process of putting together an e-recipe book featuring favourite traditional recipes of Cape Town. The “Mother City’s” culinary history dates back to the 17th century when Malaysian prisoners under the watch of their white colonial masters set foot on South Africa’s shores from European colonized Java and neighbouring Indonesian spice islands.

These talented slaves made a huge cultural contribution to Cape Town, especially in the food area. They introduced exciting blends of spices, tastes and textures to the bland fare of their European masters. Dishes like bobotie (a fusion of curried, sweet and sour, ground lamb topped with a savoury egg custard layer) is today a national favourite.

South African bobotie

South African bobotie

Any self-respecting South African cook knows virtually by heart how to make bobotie – each one putting his/her own spin on it.  Other favourites like bredie and sosatie derived from the Malay-Portugese cookery vocabulary.  While most of these recipes were ostensibly handed down orally, I do remember my grandmother’s Croxley hardcover exercise book with favourite recipes scribbled down in pencil. The Malay slaves passed down that inherent knowledge of subtly spice-infused food cooked by “feel.”  It’s the knowing instinctively, for instance, to add the tiniest pinch of  ground cloves to your meatloaf that sets apart Capetonian cooks from others.

Every month I offer the Recipe of the Month.  This month’s recipe is the “smoortjie.”  To find out about this dish please subscribe to the Recipe of the Month box on the right and let me know when you’ve made it and how you liked it.

July, Month of Celebration

“You are heroes, and a book should be written about each one of you,” said Windsor businessman, Bill Tepperman addressing the newly inducted group of immigrants from various corners of the globe. The year was 1985, the occasion our citizenship ceremony as we stood among other immigrants in our final step to Canadian citizenship. Mr. Tepperman’s words certainly rang true for me, foreshadowing the release of my memoir, An Immoral Proposal, last November.Canadian Citizenship Ceremony

After we left South Africa in 1975, there was no turning back. Even though we got married in England, the South African apartheid government didn’t recognize our marriage. With South African passports we couldn’t return to our birthplace – we were virtually stateless.
July 1, Canada Day, is the equivalent of America’s 4th July. I treasure my Canadian citizenship as Canada accepted me unconditionally. When I became a Canadian citizen, I was required to turn in my South African passport and surrender my nationality, which I was more than happy to do. South Africa, under apartheid, had denied me the most basic human rights and freedoms – freedom of speech, freedom of movement and the right to vote.

Addressing us new citizens with passion, Judge Kasurak, herself an immigrant, said words to the effect, “You are all Canadian citizens and have the same rights as Canadian-born citizens. You are not not second-class because you were born elsewhere, or because of your skin colour or religious beliefs. What a ceremony it was. Dignitaries right from the Ontario Lieutenant Governor-General down to the Windsor, mayor and council representatives graced the occasion with their presence. Judge Kasurak, at the end of the application interviewing process, chose my very own Dearly Beloved to deliver the address on behalf of the immigrant inductees. He really did me proud that day.

Here in North America, July is about barbeques, strawberries and patriotism. It was my honour and joy to host my ladies social group, The Zoomerangs, for our Canada Day celebration. My big, languid willow nested thirty of us donned in red and white in its shade like a hen with her chicks. After a hearty potluck feast, we spent the day in fun and games including a scavenger hunt till it was tea and dessert time for my pièce de résistance, my patriotic maple leaf flag cake.Canada Cake (1024x734)

This is my segue into my featured recipe, Strawberry Fool. I used to call it strawberry mousse till someone pointed out that a mousse is technically a savoury or sweet dish into which whipped cream is folded resulting in a light and fluffy texture. Well, because mine has jelly in it, I call it a fool – fooling people thinking it’s a mousse! Many North Americans would probably regard it as a Jell-O salad much to the perplexity and consternation of us schooled in the far-flung British colonies. Sorry, I couldn’t find a Strawberry Fool photo in my food file mainly because the dessert was so good and had been gobbled up by the time I thought to take the photo. I’ve got one of this exact recipe but made with raspberries and equally yummy.

Speaking about food (am I making your mouth water?) I am working on an e-recipe book featuring some of the recipes I’ve posted in the newsletters over these past months as well as some other made-from-scratch creations. I hope to have it published hopefully by end of October. So watch this space!