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.

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.

Revamped Website and Other Exciting Stuff

Me at workIf I thought writing a book was a mammoth undertaking, publishing, promoting and marketing is another story entirely.

Being my own mini “Random House Publishing Company” is doing my head in! It’s been an incredible learning curve, notwithstanding heaps of frustration and lots of grey hair (but poof that’s taken care of by my magic wand!)

Happily, hope springs as I catch a glimmer of everything coming together while my website is in the process of being revamped.

I’ll no longer be sending out a monthly newsletter. My news and recipe of the month will now be available on my website

My new website will incorporate my WordPress blog as well as other exciting stuff like contests and giveaways, my pending e-recipe book and updates about the sequel to An Immoral Proposal.Memoir Photo1 (2)

Watch this space!

Jennifer Reads an Excerpt from An Immoral Proposal

Lights, camera, action! Technology today is just marvellous. That being as it may, creating a video on Movie Maker was still a great challenge for me. The process gave me a tiny glimpse as to the skill, rehearsals and many other factors involved in the film business. While the quality of this video and the reading is far from perfect, I nevertheless invite you to sit back and enjoy!

Our Motto: Do It Anyway

Oumi and Grandpa - CopyIn my previous post I wrote about the transient existence my Dearly Beloved (DB) and I have lived after we left South Africa in 1975. We didn’t particularly plot our lives to becoming global nomads. It’s just that circumstances led and we followed.

We’ve made more moves than pawns on a chessboard. The upside is the adventure of experiencing different geographical locations as well as cultures and cuisines… and I get to decorate a house approximately every five years! The downside is that a rolling stone…can give you a hell of a bruise! I borrowed that line from an episode of an All in the Family rerun. Yes, it’s emotionally unsettling not having the longevity and history of one particular place, especially in light of my fragmented upbringing of which I write in my memoir, An Immoral Proposal.

Most of our moves were work related, when DB’s engineering jobs led to three moves in Ontario, Canada and the fourth to the southern United States. We lived in some not-so-nice places and some wonderful scenic places – the house with the most stunning view being Clifton Hill,  in Christchurch, New Zealand.

We spent nine years living in New Zealand that I’ve always viewed as a nine-year vacation. During our time there, we moved three times! From a million dollar view rental house, to the house we bought on Clifton Hill to the quaint cottage at the bottom of the Red Cliffs.PICT0716

We regard our home ownerships in different parts of the world as being custodians of them especially with DB’s enjoyment of doing home-improvements.  We’ve remodeled and renovated all the homes in which we lived, bar the one in Alabama, we had built. Whenever we moved to a new place, we’ve never taken the attitude that we’d just be there for a short time and we’d therefore not bother. We’ve chosen homes and remodeled them to our liking. With my love of cooking, the kitchen was always the first target for remodeling.

The kitchen in the half-a-million-dollar view house pictured above (the million dollar homes were on Scarborough Hill in the first photo) faced away from that fantastic view and was simply ill-designed. After DB got his hammer and tongs on it, it was brilliant. And that’s the view I had from my stove whenever I was cooking. DB is extraordinarily talented in home renovations. Wherever we’ve lived all over the world, he’s literally made the world a better place. At our present abode, he’s turned the old country kitchen into a beautiful functional one.After  (1024x768)

We never let the inevitability of moving hinder us from making home improvements or, for that matter, improvements in our own lives.  As our motto to live by, we’ve adopted the poem Do It Anyway by Dr. Kent M. Keith. Even though we might probably move yet again in a few years, in terms of making home improvements for someone else to benefit, we’re doing it anyway.View from kitchen window (1024x768)





Do It Anyway

Do It Anyway

by Kent M. Keith

When people are unreasonable, illogical and self-centred,

Love them anyway.

When you do good and people accuse you of selfish ulterior motives,

Do good anyway.

It often seems the good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow,

Do your best anyway.

When the biggest people with the biggest ideas are shot down by the smallest people with the smallest minds,

Think big anyway.

When people favour underdogs, but follow only top dogs,

Fight for the underdogs anyway.

When what you’ve spent years building up, is destroyed overnight,

Build anyway.

When people really need help, but attack you when you help them,

Help them anyway.

When you give the world the best you have and you only receive criticism,

Give the world the best you have anyway.

What I Have in Common with Winston Churchill and Laura Hillenbrand

Tortoise2From time to time, I wake up with a feeling of dread, confusion and foreboding.  A glance at my “to do” list – write my April newsletter which is way overdue, write my blog post, promote my book on social media, keep up with emails, plan my July event, clean and cook, tidy my chaotic clothes drawers, organize my summer closet, plant the herbs and spring plants, paint the porch railings, paint the towel rack…and the list goes on – throws me into a tailspin, making me want to withdraw deep into my shell like a tortoise.

Unless they thrive on stress, most people would probably want to pull the bed covers over their heads at the very thought of such a list and not ever surface.  However, people with healthy brains can usually handle such tasks without undue duress, but when one suffers from clinical depression and chronic fatigue, perspective can be ones undoing.  The good news is that I’m not doomed. In fact, I consider myself in great company with the likes of notables who suffer or who have suffered from clinical depression. To name a few: war-time British prime minister, Winston Churchill, who used to refer to his depression as “The Black Dog”,  the great Charles Dickens, Laura Hillenbrand, author of Seabiscuit and the late Mike Wallace of “60 Minutes.”black dog

Among other factors, notwithstanding a drawn-out sinus cold, looking at my “to do” list with dread caused my brain to overload and freeze which certainly didn’t help my productivity.  The brain is often likened to a computer. You get out of it what you program into it.  So to undo my sense of dread, I had to ostensibly ‘reboot’ my brain, as it were, through proactive thinking. I’ve learned that the brain is a marvelous organ that can be taught to change.

Researcher and consultant, Dr. Martin L. Rossman, terms it neuroplasticity [or malleability.] He says imagery is a powerful skill that can bring to bear positive outcomes and behaviour in the parts of the brain (the cerebral cortex, amygdala, thalamus and hippocampus) that control emotions, behaviour and processing memory, and recollection. One can determine positive results in self-directed neuroplasticity – in other words, self-talk.brain

How I dealt with the negative feelings with which I awoke over the past few days was to replace negative visualization and self-talk with positive imagery and actions. Firstly, I put on energetic, mood-uplifting music, I pampered myself with a cup of gourmet coffee, sat on my lovely porch and had a nice little chat with myself!

“Did the world come to a cataclysmic end because I missed my April newsletter deadline?”

“Am I a bad person because I have low energy and can’t perform like some kind of superwoman?”

“Do I wish to spiral down into the abyss with stress-inducing runaway thoughts that are energy-sapping and counter-productive to my well-being?”

My answer was “no” to all the above. Bad thoughts place one on a treadmill of worry, self-doubt, anxiety, fear and a downward spiral to one’s nadir. I chose to feed my cortex with images of peaceful and happy thoughts that travel to those parts of my brain where the neurotransmitters can create healthy senses, intelligence, movement and mood.

The outcome was pretty darn good – I got the newsletter written and turned it into this blog!

An Immoral Proposal: A Memoir

Book CoverI was born under South Africa’s apartheid regime – a system where a white minority government (only white people had a vote) held absolute sway, and segregation based on the colour of one’s skin was the policed order of the day. Under this political climate coupled with a fragmented childhood, my sense of belonging – where I fitted in – was a constant emotional battle.

My birth certificate classifies me as “Cape Coloured” (`Coloured` as in mixed race). The ‘Cape’ part is easy to understand, that’s the region where I started life – Cape Town, Cape Province. But what did Coloured mean?  The apartheid government legally defined us as a group of people who “fail to pass for White.” How do you ‘find’ yourself, being both Non-White and Non-Black, while you’re forever wandering about in a no-man’s land in terms of your societal worth?

To compound my problem, at age nineteen, I found myself embroiled in a situation that I knew was illegal and meant up to seven years imprisonment if caught and found guilty, but how can you tell your heart to stop loving. The Immorality Act, legislated in 1950 banning sexual relations and marriage between Whites and any Non-white ethnic groups is one of many apartheid laws that caused untold heartache and tragedy for couples who contravened that law.

Falling in love with a white man and vice versa, against all odds, was a disaster waiting to happen. Read all about it on  This is book is also available on Kindle.