It’s been a strange couple of months since my last blogpost: where I just could not muster up the energy to write, even to cook with my usual enthusiasm, though of course there’s been some celebratory meals: my 54th birthday in October, a Christmas lunch and dinner: occasions I have always eagerly written about, but not this past while. I have been wrought with worry about a son, seeing his depression deepen from far away, feeling helpless even as I flew down to Cape Town a couple of times to support and help a little as he went through a huge personal crisis. So my attention has been elsewhere, but I’m happy to recognise that the simple act of writing these words, means that I am back from the worried-parent zone. Partly because my son has come out of the dark depths of depression that he is prone to and decided that he is returning to Johannesburg to be closer to family and friends, and partly because I have just come back from a ten day breakaway spent in the Overberg and Cape West Coast.
I took my journal with me, and camera, and a small set of watercolours: intending to write every day, and make little paintings. I took many photographs, made one painting and wrote a couple of pages in my journal, but mostly I cooked or thought about cooking and eating, and I knew: I have some of my mojo back.
It’s almost impossible to not think about food in beautiful places. Maybe because it deepens the sensory experience of a place in time, or maybe it’s about making a moment even more memorable. Food does that: it connects us to our environment, to people we share it with, even to neglected parts of ourselves. So when I found myself making grape jam on a wine farm of a friend’s in Napier on the second day of our holiday, I knew I had at last allowed myself to acknowledge my yearning to live a simpler life, in a beautiful if modest place, growing, harvesting, processing what the land offers. And later in the holiday, harvesting mussels from rocks in the Atlantic low-tide for moules mariniere, and buying fresh rock lobster from insistent fishermen at a nearby fishing village, I felt a quiet resolve taking shape inside of me. I want to cook more often what I can harvest myself.
So maybe it was sweet serendipity that this morning I could harvest ten eggplant fruits from two of the four bushes growing in my backyard vegetable garden. In the ten days we were away, they quietly grew and grew: dark and heavy with dense flesh. As I picked them, the bushes recovered somewhat from being bent over with the weight of ripe fruit, and now they’re lying here, in my biggest bowl, shiny and plump with promise. I’m thinking: baba-ghanoush, moussaka, melanzane, ratatouille… and I’m thinking, as soon as I’ve posted this, that I need to find new recipes for eggplant.
I think I’m back! Back to thinking about food, thinking about what I love doing: growing things, writing about things, cooking for people I love. Back to this blog too. Home again. At last.