A little more than a week ago, I was standing in a modest kitchen in a 70’s block of flats in a modest suburb behind Table mountain, where my youngest son has been living since December last year. I flipped over lamb chops, checked the cauliflower roasting in the oven for which I had made a white sauce, bubbling away slowly on the smallest plate of the stovetop; crushed the potatoes which I had boiled earlier in the only pot I could find: the bottom half of a pressure cooker which was a wedding present to me and his father 32 years ago. I was cooking for him and I and a friend from Johannesburg who had popped in to say hello. I stood there in this unfamiliar kitchen, sipping a glass of goodish red wine, hearing the murmuring of conversation between him and her in the lounge, feeling a strange mix of solitude and connectedness to an almost familiar (having imagined it before being there) experience of cooking a nice meal for my son who lives by himself and does not have a woman to share his kitchen with. Yet. He has women in his life. But they don’t so much share his kitchen. No touch of another female hand in the lounge and kitchen But a left behind, empty bottle of expensive perfume in his bathroom cabinet, and a collection of toothbrushes. Well, yes.
Earlier I had looked around for utensils: knives, cutting boards, pots and pans, finding, unsurprisingly many familiar items. Over the years I had given him many things from clearing out my kitchen as well as a couple of newly bought gifts to help him set up his first kitchen, years before, just after he turned 21 and had moved into a similar 70s style flat across from the restaurant he waitered at.
This was a first for me: cooking in a son’s kitchen. During the days we drove around, having lazy, boozy lunches out, a wine tasting or two, watching the sun set over Camps Bay and getting almost lost driving back without my GPS, but in the evenings I cooked, except the last evening when we had the most dreadful Thai take-away.
But really, what stays with me now, is how we sat at the dining room table which I grew up with, how I set that table with crockery first given to me by my parents as part of my trousseau and which I used until I got divorced from his and his older brother’s father. It was in storage before I gave it to him when he packed up his cottage to move to Cape Town to manage a brasserie his father bought, at the end of last year. It is strangely comforting that he now is surrounded by things which connect us, since we are no longer close in proximity: a dining room suite, a rug in the lounge, crockery, utensils, a ragged but still useful pot or two, an old cutting board, a duvet cover from his teenage bed.
Still in the restaurant business, he is brimming with new ideas, asking me for input on their new menu, sharing anecdotes and some lessons already learnt in business. I was sad to leave, but so glad that he is finding some of the joy and satisfaction of being in the food business, but mostly in his own life, away from his mother and father, creating his own memories even as he is surrounded by that which connects him to a long lost past.