Thursday, April 1, 2010
Of cheesely delights, Diski dancing and Scottish scams
This week I decided to indulge my inner foodie, as parties were scarce and the food markets beckoned. Robyn Higgins invited me to the party to celebrate the Codfather Food Market in Rivonia. We were all very worried about Robyn as all her friends received a message about her being stranded in Scotland and please, please could we send off a Western Union order to help her with her hotel bill and flight as she had lost everything. The odd thing was that the bank account was based in Cambridge, which wouldn't have been much help. It turned out to be one of those M19 scams that the Nigerians are getting so good at. Robyn is one of those people who would have travel insurance, but I felt quite awful I couldn't help her, until the scam was revealed.
Robyn was safe and sound however and getting ready for the CODFATHER FOOD MARKET in Joburg, the only Saturday market which has a selection of meat, fish, vegs, breads, jams, delicatessen stuff and herbs under a covered roof. I love the food markets in Joburg and visit them as often as my budget will allow, so this was a new treat. First person I saw was Mirella who makes the best pizza in town, just a simple thin crust pizza with a tomato base. So I got two of her closed pizzas with artichoke and salami, pronto. Then it was time to visit Rosemary, the herb lady (what else would a herb lady be called? A man would obviously be Basil!), and grab a big pot of healthy thyme to replace my one that died.
I popped upstairs to see Andy Green who used to run The Chocolate Room in Lanseria. He and his wife Marlize are running SI SI, upstairs from The Codfather (and there is a Cowfather, too, by the way for those who love their steak). Si Si was participating in a promotion whereby you can pay for a visit to the four restaurants in the block and get great value for money). Si Si is a lovely space, very simple and white with a few black and white illustrations (of a Vespa and an Italian scene) on the walls and a splash of colour over the bar. Andy is still doing his gourmet pizzas and cheese platters, this time with an Italian twist. And they are opening a new outside bar called The Office. Thank heavens the hot chocolate is still as hot and chocolatey as ever, so I had the coconut flavour. Their staff are all the same too, friendly and helpful.
Mid-week I decided to pop in to Jo Dick's cheese shop, THE CHEESE GOURMET in Linden (apologies to Jo, but her name always conjures up a secret South African joke for me, as in "jou ma"!). It's been something I have meaning to do for some time now and when Easter is upon you you need to do all those little indulgent things that time would not otherwise allow. Apparently Jo is one of the award winners in the 2010 Eat In, but the problem is that the publication of the magazine keeps being put off and put off. Remember I couldn't get hold of a copy in January? That's because there weren't any. And still we wait ...
Jo is an advocate of note for great South African cheeses. Her shop carries some of the finest examples of local cheeses, which have raised the bar for the cheese world and giving cheeses worldwide stiff competition. We chatted about local hotels and boutiques, and why they should be choosing local produce rather than lavishing cash on imported stuff. The Saxon used to be a very good client, she told me, but there is always a turnover of chefs in big hotels and new brooms sweep clean. I think they now offer platters of (pricey) French cheeses (which, I hasten to add, I am sure are world class).
Philippe Wagenfuhrer of Roots has also contacted Jo's cheese emporium; he's the one who told me about The Teak Place in the Cradle of Mankind where you can pick your own veggies and stagger off with R50's worth of seasonal goodness in a basket (I love their green tomatoes). Philippe loves good home-produced foodstuffs, and that's what South Africa does best. Even though the Cape is very snooty about their food, they can't touch us Highvelders in the good taste department. It's something about the big sky, the big rains, the electricity in the air, the endless sunshine and the mineral-laden soil. If you go out to the Magaliesberg, you could put a stick in the ground and it would grow, the soil is so good. Or is that just me being partisan?
I spotted a jar of homemade mulberry jam, which my Australian based sister would adore if I could manage to smuggle past the dreaded Tasmanian sniffer dogs, and asked Jo what would go best with it. She shaved off a sliver of Hester Hoogendijk's pecorino and offered it to me on the point of a cheese knife. "It's slightly salty," she ventured, and would go admirably with the dark-purple, seed stuffed mulberry jam, which carried the label "Homemade on Zondagskraal" and was decorated with a blue gingham frilled lid tied with raffia. Pure goodness in a jar. I had written about Hester's Hijke cheeses last year when I did a story on Joburg markets for Good Taste magazine and had intended very hard to get to her farm Doornkraal, outside Bapsfontein, for a taste but Jo's shop was clearly much closer. Hester won third place at the World Cheese Show in Dublin for her Gouda Light, and her cheeses are outstanding.
It's bloody hard to choose one cheese in Jo's shop. It's kind of like eating one peanut. The next taste she offered me was an "Oud Gouda", which was much sweeter and crumbly when she sliced it with an enormous mezzaluna knife. I had to have both and how satisfying it was to walk out with my squares of cheese wrapped up close in greaseproof paper. I am trying to give up plastic but it like being on diet in a world full of sugar. It requires the utmost willpower. Inside the paper the cheese was wrapped in plastic - and it seems so natural, as that is how cheese has always been wrapped my whole life.
I said goodbye to the bead and wire goat in the window which food reporter Hillary Biller had donated to the shop. It was all done up in a tiny Bafana Bafana jersey with a green cap stretched over its horns. Jo likes to dress it up in different outfits every week. On the subject of soccer, Jo's husband said that he wanted to try his hand at Diski dancing - I know if I tried it with my luck it would be Slipped Diski dancing.
Outside the Kia Piccanto which had been following me around all morning was waiting. Apparently Julius Malema (who to my delight no one has heard of outside this country) has decided that it is in the public's interests that journalists be followed and their private lives chronicled, as he feel that the boot should be on the other foot and he is (poor dear) the victim of a political conspiracy. It had, had, had to be the ANC Youth League, who was following me! Who else would take the trouble? What amazed me was not that fact, but the ineptitude of their technique. Same car, same numberplate, no attempt at disguise. Whatever happened to the art of surveillance? Was it because I joined the Facebook page, Helen Zille for President? Perhaps this could explain my missing number plates?
Anyway my life must have been ultra boring - no visits to brothels, no coke scores or visits to Nigerian drug lords in Hillbrow, no bribing of police officers (although this is probably the only country where you get locked up for not bribing the cops). No fun of any kind, not even a movie. The Kia Piccanto was gone by mid-afternoon. Obviously I need to do something much more scandalous with my life than go to markets and cheese shops. A tenderpreneurship or two? A fake driver's licence? A little porn?