South African Adventures

This time last year, I had just made the move to South Africa and didn’t know if I’d be coming back to the States or not.  It’s hard to believe how much has changed in one short year; I’ve moved back to the US, set up house in a new city, started graduate school and met more amazing new friends than anyone should have the right to.  It’s gone by incredibly fast, but when I was in South Africa two weeks ago it almost felt as though I’d never left.  My favorite places like Bird’s, &Union and the Biscuit Mill are still thriving, and new places like the Power and the Glory have opened up too.  The fresh food available (if you can afford it, as so many people can’t), is simply amazing.  It’s almost silly to put ‘organic’ or ‘grass-fed’ on food packaging, because that’s kind of the status quo there.  Chemicals are expensive, land isn’t in short supply and agribusiness doesn’t reign supreme as it does in the US.  You can taste this in the food; the lettuce is sweet, the avo is creamy, and the dairy, eggs and meat are far more flavorful than anything I’ve tasted in the US.  There is also no shortage of culinary talent, so when you have these spectacular ingredients combined with the creativity and skills of the chefs, your meal is quite often unforgettable.  I enjoyed many wonderful meals cooking with my family, and also out at a number of lovely restaurants in the Cape Winelands.  It’s hot this time of year–it was 110F for several days– but it’s dry, so there are very few bugs.  The outdoors becomes an extension of the indoors– you leave your windows open, you eat outside.  The Western Cape remains one of the most beautiful places I’ve been, with craggy mountains, green expanses of grape vines and olive trees, dusty purple lavender fields, the indigenous fynbos (including my favorite, proteas), and a vividly, richly blue ocean.

Franschhoek, in the heart of the Cape Winelands

Now, for the food.  We celebrated Christmas (belatedly) with my little niece Maya, so we had to make cookies for Santa.  I made a simple snickerdoodle for Maya to decorate (along with cream cheese icing that was on flavor-wise but very off in terms of texture).

decorating santa's cookies

I also made a South African version of Momofuku Milk Bar’s infamous compost cookie, using a Black Cat Peanut Brittle Bar, Otees cereal, pretzel sticks from Pick n’ Pay, Cadbury Whispers, and Lay’s Crisps.

the ingredients

I also made sure to drink Windhoek, a favorite Namibian beer:

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and Savanna, my favorite not-too-sweet cider that is beyond delicious with a slice of lemon.

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I also had enough granadilla (passionfruit) to feed a small army.  In addition to being perfectly tangy, their color combination is, to use a South African expression, stunning:

 

delicious.

We had some delicious meals in:

 

onion, peppers, baby fennel and baby corn fresh off the braai

peri-peri prawns and coconut corn on the braai

rocket and prosciutto pizza

And some exceptional meals out:

 

chicken salad with mango and coconut cream

seared beef with wasabi cream, micro-greens and rice noodles

perfect udon, so delicious that I ordered them for dessert.

malva pudding, a traditional South African dessert

It’s hard not to fall in love with the place– it’s people, culture, food, and breathtaking beauty (not to mention wonderful friends and family) keep drawing me back.  Yes, the country has problems, problems that I dealt with and experienced firsthand while living there, and that I’m studying how to remedy in graduate school.  But most of what I see is positive, and I’ll return as soon, and as often, as I can.

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