The case of the Pumpkin Soup and the problem with British politeness

“It was time to take the pumpkin out of the pot and eat it. In the final analysis, that was what solved these big problems of life. You could think and think and get nowhere, but you still had to eat your pumpkin. That brought you down to earth. That gave you a reason for going on. Pumpkin.”

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

soup Guest: “What exactly is in this soup?”
Me: “It’s pumpkin soup.”
Hubby (encouraging): “It’s an early spicy pumpkin soup.”
Guest: “Unusual taste.”
Me: “Yes. I’m afraid something went wrong. You don’t have to eat it.”

It was almost a case of ‘Nyamazela-at-the-Church-do-with-the-pumpkin-soup’.

I pride myself on being a better than average soup maker. But as the old adage goes, and Hubby pointed out rightly when we were destroying the evidence later that night, pride comes before a fall. Continue reading The case of the Pumpkin Soup and the problem with British politeness

Billingsgate Market, City of London

“Fish,” he said, “I love you and respect you very much. But I will kill you dead before this day ends.”

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

One of the enduring memories of my childhood is lying on the back seat of our family car, in the still cool dark hours of pre-dawn, still in my pyjamas, toe to head with my brother, and wrapped in a blanket, listening to my parents quietly chatting to one another, as I dosed and they drove.

It’s a peaceful memory, filled with potential and promise. Early morning. Pad kos. The open road.

Note: I don’t do early mornings. I love my sleep. To this day, I’m only really prepared to get up early for a road trip. .. and the promise of tea.

In the second to last week of August, Hubby woke us up at some ‘unGodly’ hour – me and Mama – to drive to Billingsgate fish market. Continue reading Billingsgate Market, City of London

Not mushroom picking in Latvia & Sightseeing in Portugal

Concerning truffles – “During the season, from November until March, they can be tracked down by nose, providing you have sensitive enough equipment. The supreme truffle detector is the pig, who is born with a fondness for the taste, and whose sense of smell in this case is superior to the dog’s. But there is a snag: the pig is not content to wag his tail and point when he has discovered a truffle. He wants to eat it. In fact, he is desperate to eat it. And as Ramon said, you cannot reason with a pig on the brink of gastronomic ecstasy.”

A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle

Mushroom pickingHubby: We are going mushroom picking this Autumn.
Me: We don’t have any spare weekends.
Hubby: We are going!
Me: But…
Hubby: Show me our calendar.
Me: The only open weekend left is the end of September and I need to pack for South Africa.
Hubby: That weekend is perfect!

There are no half measures in my husband. Continue reading Not mushroom picking in Latvia & Sightseeing in Portugal

Russia part 2: Saint Petersburg

“Red wine with fish. Well that should have told me something.

From Russia with Love by Ian Fleming

Our first view of Saint Petersburg (pronounced Sankt Pyterborrg or just Pyterborrg by Russians) was from the window of the Meteor (hydrofoil vessel) from Peterhof. A cheerful, high pitched woman’s voice shrieked and crackled over the loudspeaker in Russian – no doubt telling us the mysteries and wonders of Saint Petersburg. However, the Meteor was packed full of Chinese tourists and we three auspicious caucasians squished like sardines in among them.

Nobody had any idea what she was saying. Continue reading Russia part 2: Saint Petersburg

Memories

“Memory, my dear Cecily, is the diary that we all carry about with us.”

Says Miss Prism in The Importance of Being Ernest by Oscar Wilde

Dr Zeuss

My father-in-law is writing his memoirs and I can’t wait to read them!

“How do you remember all the places and names and details?” I asked him.

“You’d be surprised what comes to mind when you start digging around in the past. You open a drawer, look through a photo album, talk to an old friend, read a letter…” he replied.

Now I know what he means. Continue reading Memories

Eating with your fingers

“Natalie was nervous because I had explained that she would be treated differently because she was white, that she would have to work harder than other girls to gain my parents’ trust. And so they devised a plan: We agreed that on the first meeting my wife would not accept tea, she would instead make tea in the home of my parents. With that gesture, she showed that she did not have a superiority complex, that she was willing to make a gesture, however small, to gain acceptance.”

MMUSI MAIMANE Prophet or Puppet? by S’Thembiso Msomi

Ethiopian restaurantThere is a story that I’ve not been able to verify unequivocally, but which seems to be accepted as a fact:

On a visit to America some time in the 1800’s, Queen Victoria changed etiquette rules forevermore, by picking up a chicken wing with her fingers and eating it thus. Whether she saw this as a more efficient way to handle a chicken wing, or that it was preferable in the name of diplomacy to do as the Americans did, we will never know. Continue reading Eating with your fingers

Umngqusho: the taste of South African winter

samp and beans
Traditional umngqusho – yummy and simple.

“Recipe for Murder:
1 stocky man who abuses his wife, 1 small tender wife, 1 medium-sized tough woman in love with the wife, 1 double-barrelled shotgun, 1 small Karoo town marinated in secrets, 3 bottles of Klipdrift brandy, 3 little ducks, 1 bottle of pomegranate juice, 1 handful of chilli peppers, 1 mild gardener, 1 fire poker, 1 red-hot New Yorker, 7 Seventh-day Adventists (prepared for The End of the World), 1 hard-boiled investigative journalist, 1 soft amateur detective, 2 cool policemen, 1 lamb, 1 handful of red herrings and suspects mixed together, Pinch of greed.

Throw all the ingredients into a big pot and simmer slowly, stirring with a wooden spoon for a few years. Add the ducks, chillies and brandy towards the end and turn up the heat.”

Recipes for Love and Murder: A Tannie Maria Mystery by Sally Andrew

While visiting my parents in South Africa I asked a local Xhosa lady in the village to give me a masterclass in making real South African umngqusho. It’s a South African staple among the Xhosa people – extending in its varieties to all the other Bantu tribes. It was said to be Nelson Mandela’s favourite dish. I grew up on my nanny’s umngqusho, also called ‘samp and beans’, and it’s a meal I often long for – so let’s just say it’s a recipe that warms not just the tummy, but the heart. Continue reading Umngqusho: the taste of South African winter