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Last night we went to dinner with good friends, their house up on the ridge above Auckland Park, a sprawling view of the sparkling lights of the northern suburbs visible from the table. We toasted to another year of knowing one another: she lives in South Africa half of each year, and then flies off to Germany where she has another, less minimalistic: more shabby chic/rustic home: they have been together for 30 years like this. He is an architect: minimalist, austere: their house a testament to an African aesthetic: succulents in the garden, indigenous trees: but no clichés in the interior style. Her porcelain vessels and paintings prevail, his design surprises in an unexpected curvy wall: in the dining room, the sculptural skeleton of a kayak he has constructed out of maple wood this summer serves as a temporary interior design feature. In the kitchen, saffron soaks in a handmade bowl: I see all of this while I open a five-year old sparkling wine with a practiced pop in my palm… and I remind myself how much I love to be had over for dinner.

As much as I like cooking for others, I really like being cooked for: especially by someone who loves cooking. I have known this couple for about 18 years, and I have without fail, had exquisite meals cooked in that kitchen, and served on plates and in bowls hand-fired by her in her basement kiln where she turns out beautiful vessels, each year that she is here.

Last night was no exception: an antipasto  platter of brinjal, sliced and perfectly browned with a garlicky dressing, oven roasted baby romano tomatoes, and red peppers roasted, on a bed of rocket from the garden, and a goats-milk cream cheese to spread on pan fried rye and sliced ciabatta.

The main meal: pan seared salmon in a saffron-and-oven-dried-tomato-with-cream dressing, buttery green beans, and baby potatoes just cooked. To finish the meal, a flourless chocolate cake with freshly brewed coffee.

What bliss, to sit down to a meal someone else has cooked, and know how much thought and preparation and planning and sheer love has gone into it! We have a handful of friends, all of whom take real pleasure and pride in cooking, which is why we very seldom decline a dinner invite, and why we have steady rotation of dinner party invitees.

We all make an effort to offer a plate of delicious, good food: good ingredients, well prepared and presented.  Maybe in the beginning there was for me an element of competitiveness, but for a long while there’s been nothing like that: just  an easy, friendly recognition of a certain shared cooking aesthetic, and a deep appreciation (because I know what it takes ) of the effort and time put in.

Last night was particularly nice: my first dinner out after major surgery 4 weeks ago. I had a sense of everything being back to how it was before: my appetite for good food and good sparkling wine(which truthfully had not changed: there was a period of two weeks or so only where my palate for pleasure seemed a little compromised) returned to their normal levels of extravagance.

And this afternoon I made an old favourite vegetarian dish: Algerian chickpeas and couscous stew and a simple chopped salad for a celebratory lunch with my beloved and his son: my sons both elsewhere. The celebration: today it’s one year since we moved into this house, since I got the dream kitchen that I wrote about here.

I am looking forward to many more dinners here with family and friends, all the while loving the anticipation of another dinner invitation from fond foodie friends.

And here is a glimpse into my once and future kitchen, one year in..

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