Category Archives: DAILY LIFE IN CAPE TOWN

WINTER COMFORT FOOD


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Cold winter weather always drives my Inner Cook into action. Chiefly because I’m constantly hungry, as opposed to hot summer weather, when I wilt, along with the salad leaves. So its time to make Chai tea – Ceylon tea with a mixture of spices. I’ve grown lazy and buy the tea bags instead of making my own, but its hot and warming; all that ginger, no doubt.
At a recent Village function the good ladies of our Village Catering team produced Sago pudding, which was to die for. I thought: the hell with it, and had seconds! My, it was good. Two of my fellow diners screeched: Urrrggghhh – NOT SAGO! And flatly refused to have anything to do with it. Turns out they were the victims of Boarding School cooks, and I know exactly where their phobia originated. I also have grisly memories of leathery rice puddings, slimy tapioca, and worst of all, baked egg custard. Shudder.
However, moving on to happier times and rosier memories. I managed to find a copy of a much-wanted cookbook ‘Retreat’ by Daniel Jardim, a noted South African vegetarian cook. And within its pages I found a recipe for Boeboer. I can hear you saying “Huh? What’s that?”

 
It’s a Malay dessert, made by the local Muslim community, on special occasions. Cape Town has a rich cultural heritage stemming from the early days of its history, when the Dutch East India Company imported slaves from Indonesia and Java. Their descendants form an essential part of our city’s mixed community, and their cuisine reflects their traditional Asian heritage.
Here’s a Boeber recipe from the web:http://boekatreats.com/recipe/boeber . If you decide to try the recipe, please note the cup measurements are British standard cup measures, (250 ml) not American.  I can never remember whether the US version is bigger or smaller; the point is, there’s a difference!  And, by the way, the mixture needs to be stirred constantly.
Enjoy!

 

 

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CREOSOTE


 

 

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My garage smells of creosote. The clean, tarry odour is wafting off the bundle of five metal fencing posts I bought this afternoon at my local Builders’ Warehouse. I need the posts to stake up my collapsing Cup of Gold creeper. It’s grown too heavy for the original wooden trellis that provided support when I originally planted the creeper.
Finding the fencing posts in the cavernous warehouse was a mission, and fitting them into my small car was another challenge. I know, with certainty, that the creosote has rubbed off onto the floor mats in the back, but you know what? creosote is black and so are the floor mats. Isn’t that fortunate? And I’m no petrol-head so I won’t be diligently scrubbing the mats to remove the traces of creosote, always assuming I could actually find the stained bits on the black flooring. I love the smell of creosote, so if I’m now driving a creosote-scented car, I shall sit back and enjoy the odour.

 
Just in case you’re puzzled by the red and white tape wrapped round the posts, that was the bright idea of the young man who carried the posts from the vast warehouse to my car. Understandably, he wasn’t keen to be covered in sticky creosote. And as a bonus point, the red and white provides a nice visual contrast to the black metal.
I suppose the manufacturers coat the posts with creosote to deter rusting. Fat chance, living three kms away from the coast. The salty air is not kind to metal or paintwork.
The smell of creosote manages to be both clean and slightly antiseptic, as well as tarry and aromatic. In bygone days wooden poles were always creosoted to prevent the termites from chomping through the timber. I remember from my Central African childhood how determined those hungry little ants can be. Seemingly solid door frames would suddenly crumble and disappear, the interior long since devoured by the white ants. So creosote was liberally applied.

 
Today’s creosote reminds me of another tarry odour : that of Lapsang Souchong tea. I enjoy Lapsang Souchong, with its smoky, tarry flavour. Not everyone’s favourite , for sure, but I like it. I was introduced to Lapsang Souchong years ago by a very exotic lady, who’d grown up in the Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean. Quite why or how she’d come across it I’m not sure, but perhaps it was a 1920’s fad? Or maybe her mother enjoyed it? I shall never know, but the sticky metal poles in my garage certainly have evoked memories for me.

 

 

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DESERTED SHOPPING MALLS


 

 

 

 

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Have you ever visited your local mall, and found it almost deserted, and very dimly lit? This was my experience today and it was distinctly eerie.
Shop doors locked, and in many cases, steel shuttered. Subdued lighting. Very little sound. I’m sure we can all agree that shopping malls are always bright and loud– very noisy, a combo of voices, music, public announcements, clacking heels, shopping trolleys rattling wheels, wailing kids, people yelling into their cell phones because of the noisy surroundings.
But not today. I approached the Help Desk at the entrance and asked the young lady: What’s going on? Where is everybody?

To her credit she managed a small smile, and told me Eskom was load-shedding in their area today. I pointed up at the ceiling lights and said: And these?

Our Generators, she crisply replied. She waved a typed list at me and announced that the businesses on the list would be operational today, despite lack of power. To my relief, I saw the name of my Bank on the list. My primary reason for visiting the mall was to withdraw money. So much for the secondary idea of a leisurely coffee and maybe a sinful slice of cake.

 

But relief died rapidly when I approached the escalator to reach my First Floor bank. Blocked off. Stationary. No service today due to load shedding. There is no staircase linking ground floor and the banking hall. Okay – so that meant I had to join the crowd of people patiently waiting for the one and only lift. Ummmmm. What if the generator ran out of diesel and marooned us between floors? What if/what if/what if ????

 

Get a grip, woman! barks my mental sergeant-major. I shuffle into the lift and sardine myself into the last tiny space. Good thing I’m small, hey?

 
The banking hall was in low light gloom, and almost empty, barring for the two security guards having a happy chat at the other end, oblivious to all else. So absorbed were they, I don’t think a herd of elephants trooping past would have registered.

 
The bank doors were firmly shut – chained actually, never mind shut! But two ATMs beamed out beacons of light. I nervously inserted my card and went through the cash removal routine, praying that the machine wouldn’t eat my card – I’m due to leave on a three week trip in two days’ time, so this is no time to go ten rounds with the Bank to extract my vanished card. But for once, disaster decided to leave me alone and swooped down on some other hapless person.

 
I scuttled out of the cavernous, dystopian gloom at speed. I noted, grimly, that despite there being no interior power, the external power was still operating the flippen’ parking ticket machines, exit booms and so on – free parking on a power-down day? Nah. In our dreams.

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I WANT ONE OF THOSE !


 

 

 

20180503_150433-2.jpgDon’t ask me why, but South Africa is obsessed with white cars. I would go so far as to say that seven out of ten cars that pass you on the roads will be white.

 

So when I saw the wonderfully bright pink sporty little number at Seaside Village, I was amazed. Isn’t it a zooty little number? Don’t you love that bright pink? Is it petunia pink? Or maybe bubblegum pink? Either way: its great. I prowled round it, phone at the ready to catch a few pics, and expected to find a commercial branding logo plastered on the side, but no. Glorious pink all round. I’d love to know who drives it.

 

And, P.S. I’d love a bright pink little roadster!

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THE ORAL BIOGRAPHER


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I was in the copy shop, waiting for the copier to spit out my papers, when I became aware of a persistent monologue to my right. The backview of the speaker showed a short woman, dark blonde hair in a ponytail, long sleeved white sweatshirt, blue & red floral leggings . Probably middle-aged, judging from the backview and timbre of her voice. Visually, nothing extraordinary. But the soundtrack? Golly-gosh-wow! Delivered in a normal speaking voice, not overly loud, but perfectly audible from the one metre between us. She was addressing the hapless young clerk behind the counter, whose face I could see. The clerk’s face  showed polite attention.
The monologue went this way – snatches of it, anyway:
He murdered her, but its still not come to court …. High court ….I don’t know why it takes such a long time …. I had to wait … fifteen years before my divorce, we were separated …. I had him deported … the police caught him at the airport … he never paid any maintenance, you know – only two months! I was married in Canada …. fifteen years ….
I am fascinated and astounded that people will cheerfully relate their life stories to complete strangers, over shop counters. And in queues, to strangers. Maybe this is the point? That the listener IS a stranger, and in no position to deny or challenge the storyteller?

 
I knew a young woman who was obsessed with a websites called SECRETS (or something similar; I now don’t exactly recall). She kept urging me to visit the website and look at the contents: anonymous people’s revelations. Clearly the idea intrigued her. Not me! Do I really want to be peering and poking through dark, shadowy corners of other peoples’ lives? Even for research purposes for my writing? No thanks!
Would I ever do my True Confessions recital, in public, or over a shop counter ? Never in a million years. How about you?

 
I’m born under the Chinese astrological sign of the Snake, which is classified as being secretive. A very good idea, indeed, in my view!

 

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EVERYTHING CHANGES


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Its well known that older people are often resistant to change, and find it difficult to deal with. Intellectually I’ve always known, and understood , that change is the one constant in life. An elegant paradox if you will, and one of the central teachings of the Buddha.
Yesterday I had change shoved right up into my face, by – of all people – my hairdresser. I’ve driven up to Melkbos for years, to my home hairdresser who gives me a perfect haircut for a modest charge. Wonderful! She understands my hair and is prepared to do a dry cut. In other words, I don’t have to go through the rigmarole of a wash and shampoo prior to the haircut. Fortunately I have very manageable hair, that falls into place easily and behaves itself.

 
She started to snip away and announced she and her husband were moving to a small town 97 kms up the West Coast, and  she was retiring. I nearly fell out of the chair. Bam! Out of the blue.

 

I managed not to burst into tears, which was what I felt like doing. I wished her well and thanked her for years of beautiful haircuts, not to mention the plant cuttings she had given me over the years. We share an interest in gardening, you see. Apart from the excellent hair-cutting skills and the gardening, I like the woman: a no-nonsense middle aged Afrikaans vrou*. We’d chat about our families, and local neighbourhood events. She always alerted me to the date of the next mammoth pre-Christmas Church Fete held by the NGK in Melkbos.

 
You knew where you were with her. You might not always agree, but hey! I only saw her at seven or eight week intervals, so it wasn’t crucial.
I’ll miss my hairdresser. And the worst thing is, I now need to find another home hairdresser in my area. Sigh. This older lady is not enjoying this particular change in her life.

*vrou = wife, woman

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TREE THERAPY


 

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Readers of my blog will have seen from recent posts, Cape Town is struggling through the worst drought of 100 years. To add to our woes, we’re experiencing a very hot summer. For example, today’s temp is 36 degrees Celsius. Way too hot for me. I positively drool over blogs from the Northern Hemisphere showing snow pics.
Anyway. On Sunday I managed to spend a wonderful five hours in my favourite place, Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. KBG have their own water supply from high up on Table Mountain, so the gardens are watered and present a restful oasis of green. There are benches placed under shady trees and shrubs, little secret leafy bowers, wood-chip paved windy paths leading to yet another cool, green shady spot.

 

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And of course, the trees. Magnificent tall trees, in avenues, clumps, groups, pairs, scattered throughout the grounds of the garden, which is large – ‎528 hectares (1,300 acres). Because I live up the coast in a very windy coastal area, trees do not do well up here. Those that do grow are generally stunted and warped by the wind. Consequently, I suffer from tree deprivation. For me, one of the chief attractions of the Garden are the variety and number of trees.

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After soaking my weary body, mind and spirit in Kirstenbosch’s green balm, I drove home relaxed and smiling, healed from my hectic week. If you’re hot and frazzled, I heartily recommend the Kirstenbosch Cure.

 

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THE MIRACLE OF MY HEROIC TOMATO PLANT


 

 

 

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Look at my daily tomato crop ! Amazing! Steady, too. I pick a handful of ripe or nearly ripe little tomatoes every morning. They’re tangy, sweet and flavourful. All this from one heroic tomato plant growing in my bathroom drain. See my previous post on the topic.

The Universe is truly amazing – Thanks, I’m appreciative and grateful.
Whatever your circumstances, why don’t you plant a tomato plant today, whether in a small pot on your windowsill, or in garden soil, and watch what happens. My plant has thrived in a hot, sunny corner which affords it some shelter from our buffeting summer South-Easter wind. So if my plant has performed so splendidly in less than ideal circumstances, I’m sure you’ll be able to grow your own.
Let me know how your garden grows?

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MY HEROIC TOMATO PLANT


 

 

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The drought is frizzling up our gardens, and the pounding South Easter summer winds are finishing off the job. Anything green and leafy is having a very tough time of it. So imagine my surprise on returning home from my Christmas family visit, to discover I have a flourishing tomato plant growing in the bathroom drain. Clearly it is a volunteer plant, and who knows how a tomato seed arrived in the drain. If it had sprung up in the kitchen drain, this would be less remarkable. Waste water exiting my bathroom is minimal because bathing is not happening in my life, only the briefest 2 minute shower every other day. And that waste water is recycled into my lavatory cistern, but somehow there’s enough water leaving my drain to sustain a brave tomato plant.
So there it is, yellow flowers and all, visibly expanding.
The inexplicable growing power of a stray tomato seed reminds me of something I heard from a wise old man, forty years ago. At that time in my life, I was privileged to hear the teachings of Swami Nisreyesananda of the Ramakrishna Mission, based on the island of Mauritius.

Swami was a scholar, a jnana yogi. He was a tall imposing figure, with a magnificent white beard, and very few teeth. His dark brown skin glowed, and his bald head positively shone. Swami spoke a quaint , old-fashioned heavily Indian-accented English, and made frequent reference to notable philosophers of the early 20th Century, like Bertrand Russell , for example.
I’m including a photo which I took of Swami. I had to take a photo of an old photo, so the quality is bad, but you will at least get an idea of the man.

 

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Swami was educated in India, and had a comprehensive knowledge of classical Indian philosophy, in addition to his fascination with Western scientific ideas. He would recite long passages from the Upanishads, in Sanskrit, and then comment at length on the meaning. Listening to him was like being enrolled in a graduate programme on Indian philosophy. I have no idea how old he was, but he was definitely in his 70s, if not older; his mind was a vast, crystal ocean of sublime knowledge, which he loved to share.
One day he pointed to a small weed determinedly pushing up between the paving stones and said, “Mankind with all his cleverness cannot make even one seed grow. That growing power comes only from the One.”
In that moment I realised I’d heard a cosmic truth. His simple statement made a deep impression on me, which I’ve never forgotten.

 

Note: compiled from various sites:
It may not be out of place to tell here of the continuous preaching of Vedanta through classes and lectures for quite a few years now, being carried on by Swami Nihsreyasananda in South Africa, with Salisbury , Rhodesia (35, Rhodes Avenue) as his centre.
From 1959 Swami Nihshreyasananda, stayed in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) moving about the neighbouring countries.

 

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ELECTRONIC BANKING


 

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You are looking at the remains of my Amex credit card. Have I snipped it up because of a New Year Resolution not to use it again? No. On bank instruction, I wielded my scissors. Why? Because some so-and-so hacked into it & fraudulently used it in Pretoria 2 000 kms away from Cape Town.

 
Thank goodness for Nedbank’s SMS warning system that tells you when sales are registered against your card. No sooner did I read the text than I was on the phone to report a fraudulent transaction. Whizz- bang-splat: they blocked my card. So much good it did to the hackers. A curse upon the lot of them!

 
I had to fill out paperwork (the plague of the modern world) but in three working days I fetched my shiny new Amex card, from the nearest branch of the bank. The service up to this point was excellent, but why, oh why, in this digital age do you have to wait a very long time while the bank clerk patiently waits for their lumbering computer system to process your collection? What’s with the PCs in banks? Invariably the clerk apologises “for our slow system” or – even worse – the dreaded words: “sorry, we’re off-line. You’ll have to come back.” I’ve encountered this often in the bank. And, to be fair, elsewhere.

 
Perhaps, in view of South Africa’s staggering crime rate, the clerks have to navigate an obstacle course of security checks before they can process your request. I don’t know. I remain baffled.

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