I don’t work on Fridays. I reserve this day of the week for sleeping in and staying at home and shopping and generally mooching about. I have just returned from just such a little grocery shop, to find that I had forgotten a central ingredient for the fish dish, a variation on the bouillabaisse theme, which I plan to make tonight: a tin of Italian chopped tomatoes. So I have no choice really but to get into my car again and go and stock up on this staple, which I usually have a constant supply of at the back of one of my kitchen cupboards.
Last night was the first night in more than a month that I have cooked for me and my beloved only. My youngest son had been staying with us while his soon-to-be-ex wife was finalising her new accommodation. Despite the very saddening, and challenging even, circumstances, I loved having him here and cooking for him too every night.
Almost every night. On Wednesday evening my husband and I went for a Rosh Hashanah dinner at a cousin of his, an evening of good food in an opulent setting. I met them first three years ago at this same Jewish holiday supper which she hosted in their very impressive home in a very privileged Johannesburg suburb. I’m not usually class conscious, but I could not help coming back from there and feeling somewhat poor. Our house would go into theirs about ten times! Maybe I’m exaggerating a little, but not much. Theirs has a vast entrance hall, gleaming marble floors, two huge lounges, a kitchen with no fewer than 5 ovens, a walk in fridge and cool room. A cook’s dream. And an enormous dining room adjacent with a 12 setting table and views onto yet another huge outdoor entertainment area overlooking a big pool and lush green garden.
And yet I love my pretty white shaker style kitchen with a central work station and 5 plate gas stove, and wooden floors and pressed ceilings, and fresh flowers and a big bowl of lemons always on some table or countertop.Certainly the nicest kitchen I have ever had, and nicer than either of my grandmothers’ or my mother’s. Since we moved in here in April last year, we have steadily made this more of a home. We’ve changed the back garden and put in a pool, taken out a wall between the kitchen and dining room, and added bespoke wardrobes in the main bedroom. I’m slowly getting a decorating theme together based on my love of green: from the palest sage-green upholstery on my couches to the bright grass-green enamelled lamp shades in the kitchen above the island. I do love this little house. But I really did come away from that dinner in a not-so-pale shade of my favourite colour!
I have rationalised my envy: by reminding myself that I have cooked many memorable meals in this (comparatively) modest space, and how one does not need all those ovens and a cool room as big as my main bedroom in order to enjoy cooking and entertaining. And that I have three kinds of olive oil, and Maldon salt and saffron and truffle oil and orange blossom water and sumac as staples in my kitchen. And currently frozen quail and duck breasts in my freezer. And usually a stack of the more common Italian tinned tomato. Not today though. So let me go and buy my usual brand at my favourite deli. And stick a bottle of good sparkling wine into the fridge. And count my blessings.