Just this morning I read a wonderful article by Nigel Slater, actually an excerpt from his Kitchen Diaries III. I have the first one, a signed copy, bought in London about 10 years ago, when I was there over Christmas. I remember walking down Charing Cross street, cold and intensely lonely even though I was there with my then partner. The relationship was unravelling, and we both knew it. We had fought over what to do on that particular day: so I went off on my own, buying hot chestnuts in a paper cone at the bottom of the street and wandering in and out of all the many bookstores, picking up books and putting them down again, having to choose carefully what to spend my pounds on. Already the exchange rate for SA rands was prohibitive. But I could not resist Kitchen Diaries. The style of the book resonated with me, having once started a diary with entries of every meal I cooked for almost a year. I still have it. I had not started to blog though. Fan of Mr Slater’s writing as I am, I did not know that he had written two more. It’s now on my Christmas wish-list. I think for the last three years I have gotten cookbooks for xmas!
The article reminded me of why I love writing about food: not about pitching a perfect recipe or photograph, but simply tracking my life through the meals I cook and eat and share with whomever is in my life at that moment. Also to simply recognise how food connects us to ourselves, directly nourishing our bodies. And it connects us to people we share it with: even simple meals sometimes eaten in front of a TV, watching an interesting documentary or a mindless movie with my husband; or more elaborate dinner party meals shared with friends. And it connects us to our pasts: the memories of meals shared, of mothers and grandmothers cooking and baking specific meals. And it connects us to our culture, our heritage, even though for me it becomes increasingly difficult to identify with my Afrikaans roots in this gloriously diverse country. My two sons grew up with a mother who did not bake rusks, or make koeksisters and milk tart, or vegetables cooked into mush, or boerewors and pap, or potjiekos. Their father and his wife were far more likely to have kept those traditional foods on the menu in their home.
It’s Heritage Day in South Africa on Thursday. I will not be braaiing: or barbecuing as we are urged to do in the quest of finding that which unites us in our eating habits. I will probably not even cook meat, since my stepson who may be here, is vegetarian. Something simple, tasty and nourishing: no fanfare, no photos, nothing foody-ish. Probably something with South-East Asian flavours, which is my latest discovery. Since my oldest son and his wife had moved to China a year ago, I have developed a renewed interest in Oriental recipes.
The legacy, the heritage that I hope to leave, is not to have fetishised food, but to have celebrated being alive and having food to eat and exploring different ingredients and recipes from all over the world and feeding people I love and thinking and writing about how food connects us all.