A girl, a boy, a box and two thickening waistlines
Would you let your waistline determine where you live?
It’s quiet. Really still of the night stuff. Mainly because it is past some ungodly hour at night. Also I’m alone downstairs, the aching strains of a classical music piece I can’t identify (I never can), is sifting softly through the speakers. Husband tucked snugly in our bed, and so my nocturnal life begins.
Tap tap tapity tap go the keys.
Followed by furious deleting.
And lengthy sighs.
Kind of fitting that I’m sitting in the kitchen, the place where this madness started in September last year when I took the leap from tweeting pics of the food I was preparing to actually tap tap tapity tap writing about it.
Next to me lies the contents of a 17 kilogram box that we shipped two weeks ago from Barcelona. Actually, it was sent upon arriving in Frankfurt, but that’s a whole other story and let’s save that one for the soon to created tab called Tales of a Traveller Scorned.
Scattered around are bottles of pestos, garlic marinated in chilli oil, crackers, smoked salt, olives, anchovies, tapenades, preserves, a jar of spreadable nougat and chocolate. So very many bars of chocolate, because Lord knows we have none available in South Africa. That’s the accusatory message in my husband’s glarey stares every time I hover close to another bar…’Oh, look the Valrhona is so cheap here’, my eyelids bat. And I’m not a girly eye lid batter on any other account. ‘Oh, what’s this? Ginger. Oh, I do love ginger. A cooking Lindt 70% cacao!’. Swoon. Bat bat.
Names on the labels that my tongue struggles to play with. In the safety of the still night I attempt a few, knowing full well that the Spanish course I ordered over the Internet is lying on the top shelf, next to the Dutch one in my office gathering dust and mocking me. Sheepishly,I whisper:
Pimientos del Piquillo
Ajos con guindilla
Allioli…oh wait, I know that one.
I’m distracted by a pile of arborio rice. The box of rice opened during what must have been a merciless journey through torturous conveyor belts, rough seas and the Customs gauntlet. Two bottles of jam popped opened (no spillage) but for the rest my little hoarde is intact.
What is it about travel that turns me into Nigella Lawson’s gluttonous twin? In front of me I see the first two weeks of our food adventures in May (we were away for just under a month). I’m transported back to vivid scenes- the sharp wind that makes me draw my cardigan tighter as we share another croquette in Sneek, in the North of Holland, just the two of us stealing a moment between the visits to friends and family. Shrieks and laughter as our boisterous nephews play football in the backyard and my brother-in-law marches, long legs and coy smiles, from the BBQ to our party of 15 adults with yet another platter of grilled satay skewers (the Dutch are indeed fond of Indonesian flavours). The sun has come out after days of rain. We’re awe-struck that our youngest nephew has turned seven! Mind you, my husband and I share the same fascination every year as each of our nephews or nieces gather another year.
I break off a small piece of turron sitting on the counter (tad late for sweeties, but we all have our vices I guess). It is hard and golden coloured, the honeyed sweetness dissolves slowly in my mouth, it’s scent a subtle caramel transporting me to the next adventure.
I visualise the La Boqueria market with it’s bustle of tourists, wide eyed and wielding cameras with lenses more suited to game drives than market browsing and locals moving purposefully between the narrow alleys, stalls glistening with piles of perfect fruit and vegetables, the jewel-like colours eliciting appreciative sighs from passers by.
The Barcelona coast- toned bodies in bikinis and trunks made for showing off, effortlessly they toss a ball over the volleyball net. We admire them shyly. I’m patting my tummy and catch myself- it has become the collection point for this life of excess. I make a mental note to get back to the taebo DVDs when we return home. Even so, we enjoy patatas bravas (spicy fried potatoes) and grilled prawns for brunch overlooking warm waves and sea shore.
Now my husband, apron draping his slim frame, is standing in front of a class of 10 strangers under the guidance of a dark haired doey eyed Catalan Chef, cleaning asparagus for a Spanish tortilla. Two weeks later, he will stand with me and an older Canadian gentleman in the Venetian kitchen belonging to a worldly modern day Countess, shelling peas, cleaning artichokes and stuffing a sea bream. I relive the pride I feel knowing how much it takes out of him to relax completely in front of strangers, listening to him crack small jokes, knowing he is enjoying the day as much as I am.
We haven’t just spent the month eating beautiful food. We’ve spent the month learning about the people who’s food we’ve enjoyed, making friends over meals shared (the plate2page gang will agree), loving each other over bread and wine and I think loving ourselves too (thickened waists, muffined tummies and all).
When I considered the topic for the current Cold Coffee Club project ” Would you let your waistline determine where you live”, I thought I had firm ideas of how I’d answer the question. But, as this piece of tourron still lingers in my mouth, the feeling I get tells me that I do allow my waist (my mouth, my senses, my greed and desire) to determine what I value as pleasure. There are culinary destinations (Spain, Italy, France, India, Thailand, Vietnam, Turkey) far more glamourous, far more enticing to many than Cape Town.
To us, Cape Town with all her flaws and third world problems is culinary mecca. Think of New York and London, subtract the masses, the buzz, the celebrities and shopping opportunities and you have Cape Town. Fewer restaurants, but virtually every type of cuisine is represented and done so well, at incredible value. We could eat out every night if we wanted; the cost compares well to cooking good meals at home. We have some foods too that you won’t find far out of Southern Africa like phutu (a stiff maize meal eaten as a starch) or morogo (a dish made using wild spinach), ostrich, kudu and springbok (both buck).
Capetonians smile, a lot. They’re happy and helpful. Guess it makes the food taste better too!
Living in this city has put me in touch with the realities of the world and granted me the open eyes and opportunity to change things in tangible ways.
Also, there’s this amazing piece of rock that we love so much we often worship at her feet. Almost.
My kitchen, full of amazing jars and bottles and ideas from our travels is here and where the heart is, the mind (and waist) will flourish. A little too much, at that.
And for all the things we don’t have in Cape Town, we have eager eyes and hearts, a willingness to juggle six suitcases between the two of us (not for a while though!) and the knowledge that we can always ship a box of the the things that make the waist happy to our home in Cape Town. If the rice spills, it’s a small price to pay.
Dark Chocolate Mille Feuille with raspberries and lime zest brittle
The dark chocolate creme mille feuille with raspberries and lime zest brittle you see here, is my entry to Paper Chef the list of ingredients given being chocolate, berries, bread and lime (and I will discuss it in that post), but I thought you should know that I am not a baker by any stretch of the imagination. I’ve never entered any cooking or baking challenge before, so this is pretty daunting. I blame the fiddliness of this creation on having eaten at some of the world’s best restaurants in the last month and having met Ferran Adria (also, that for another post. I’m still trying to gather my wits about me). I understand that even suggesting that what I made is fancy, in comparison to their works of art that shift the earth (really) is incredibly insulting. I wouldn’t dare! Just for me, it took a little bit of effort and planning. I must say, I quite enjoyed making it though- thanks for the opportunity!
Please read the beautiful entries by the other Cold Coffee Club members on this topic:
Would you let your waistline determine where you live?