A girl, a boy, a box and two thickening waistlines

Would you let your waistline determine where you live?

 
 

 

Dark Choc creme Mille Feuille with raspberries and lime zest brittle

 

 

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.

pack it up for me, will you?

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.

 
 

 

a girl, a boy and a box

 

 

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.

husband on far right, gearing up

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.

courtesy of Robert Miller

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!

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Please read the beautiful entries by the other Cold Coffee Club members on this topic:

Would you let your waistline determine where you live?

Mona of WiseWordsSimone of Junglefrog Cooking, Jamie of Life’s A Feast, Astrid of Paulchen’s Food blogJenn of Jenn Cuisine , Ilva of Lucullian Delights, Arti of SoulCurry

 

table mountain from lions head – courtesy of Robert Miller


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17 Comments

  1. Móna Wise on 09 June 2011

    Hello gorgeous lady,
    I can picture you tap tap tapping away and then delete delete delete edit edit edit……..no need with this blog post Ishay. It is lovely and so real.
    Looking forward to reading lots more from your lovely kitchen.
    Móna xxxxx

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  2. Ishay on 10 June 2011

    Thank you Mona. First one back since return…naturally I have those plate2page nerves. Easier without the pink post-its and read-out-to-the-class NOW sessions. hehe. Thank you for reading and your support.

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  4. Skye on 10 June 2011

    What a delight to read this blog. Welcome home Ishay and husband.. to both of you as well as the girl and boy boxes..

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  5. [...] of Junglefrog Cooking, Jamie of Life’s A Feast, Astrid of Paulchen’s Food blog, , Ishay of Food and the Fabulous, myself and Ilva of Lucullian Delights.  A little discussion turned into a coordinated writing [...]

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  6. Jenn on 10 June 2011

    Haha about the furious deleting – my backspace key actually broke this week amidst furious deleting! Now I just have this little plastic knob… makes me much more conscious of making typos :)
    Loved this post, and seeing a bit about your trip as well!

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  7. Meeta on 10 June 2011

    This made me smile – your words linger like the most sensuous dark chocolate ;o) I’ve been to many of the places you’ve mentioned here and found myself nodding my head and having a -a-ha moment as I remembered my own food experiences in the cities! I do miss you so much!

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  8. Jamie on 10 June 2011

    Your words are a treat, both sweet and savory, and I can let them roll over my tongue and linger for hours. Just beautiful! And I love the way you bring home all the fabulous food of your voyages – and what a fabulous trip! – but are happiest enjoying it all in that wonderful city you love. Bring the food to you, bring the food home. Perfect!

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  9. Jeanne @ CookSister! on 10 June 2011

    Oh the saga of the six suitcases ;o) I’d do that if I though for a second Nick would let me get away with it :)) I am also a huge fan of bringing edible things back form my travels – tasting them later is like taking a little mini-trip back to the place in question. Beutiful words about a beautiful place so close to my heart (and ja, that chunk of rock is OK, isn’t it?? ;o)) Miss you, doll! Wish we could go for a cup of coffee and a skinder, maybe at the Cape Quarter :)

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  10. Hila on 10 June 2011

    Beautiful! I think for all that you could write about your trip this will most likely be my favourite, I could almost taste it all with you. As Heston said the secret to great flavour is more than just taste. I still remember these little milk chocolate blocks we used to get in DutyFree shops. They were just average milk chocolate if you thought to hard about it but for us they tasted like holidays.

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  11. Marisa on 10 June 2011

    What a lovely post! I love how you weave the memories, tastes and smells effortlessly into your story – thanks for taking me with you on a virtual tour to Europe and back.

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  12. Astrid on 10 June 2011

    Lovely written. :o) I am glad the girl the boy and the box made it home safe and sound. You rpost makes me want to visit Cape Town! Maybe some day in future I will!
    6 (!) suitcases? No way Sweetheart would let me get away with this!! but I love the idea of sending home a box of goods. wilol do next time I am away. :)
    xoxo miss u!

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  13. Sam Woulidge on 10 June 2011

    Beautiful writing. And what a magical box you have to dip into. Welcome home.

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  14. Ishay on 10 June 2011

    @Skye- thank you and for keeping me company with tweets from home while we were away.

    @Jenn- I know! And the plate2page instructors voices in my head- eeep. Delete, delete, delete Haha

    @Meeta- is so amazing how going to far off places brings you closer to people, just with the communal sharing, the nodding of heads in recognition of flavours and sounds. Thank you for all you’ve done!

    @Jamie- means so much that you’ve read and enjoyed the post. You are an inspiration. Thank you!

    @Jeanne- my dear lil Cookie. If you knew the sighs, grunts and eye rolling I encountered by the man in the apron and guilt I’ve felt at all the extra luggage costs! Not for a looong while I’m sure. I’d love to head off for skinner and tea- for now we have twitter!

    @Hila- thank you for your kind words. I think happy events, like travel or a picnic with friends almost makes food taste better.

    @Marisa- thank you for joining me on that journey. These things, like food are meant for sharing.

    @Astrid- my friend. Come visit! you may just need a few extra suitcases though ;-)

    @Sam- elated you’ve read my post. May I adopt you as a mentor? :)

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  15. Jane-Anne Hobbs on 10 June 2011

    A lovely post, Princess Push. I so enjoyed reading it. What a talent you are! x

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  16. Ming-Cheau Lin on 13 June 2011

    Glad to see you enjoyed your trip, will see you soon to chat about all your foodie adventures :)

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  17. Simone on 19 June 2011

    How did I totally miss your entry on the waistline subject?? I have no idea honestly and I apologize for taking so long to read it but I do totally love it. You have such a way with words Ishay; you manage to paint a complete picture in my head of the two of you (ofcourse it helps that I have actually met you both..lol) I can’t wait to hear all your other travel stories of the trip you had!

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  18. [...] charcoal crackers (yes, they contain a very small percentage of charcoal), that I brought from Barcelona. They have the same satisfying creaminess that salticrax do, and provide the perfect canvas for [...]

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