Wednesday, October 18, 2017

First, pack your box


Before you can go on a self catering roadtrip you have to pack. That's the fun part.

The Frenchman and I did not have much time to prepare, so it's fair to say I winged it, with food. But we know our habits well, by now, and knew we had seven days' meals to organize. We knew that we really only eat dinner, that breakfast is good espresso with hot milk and rusks to dunk, that lunch is opportunistic - a lucky dip into a large snack bag that contains an assortment of dried fruit, biltong and droewors (dried South African sausage), that wine every night is imperative and that I will die if I do not have fresh fruit and Green Things.

Into our big plastic container went two smaller ones: one stuffed with fruit that could travel well or ripen en route: kiwis that began rock hard but which were tender and sweet on Day 5, tamarillos, perfuming the whole box, a small papaya, passionfruit from the vine at home, a pineapple. Lemons. Because who can travel without lemons? In the other small container went potatoes - sweet, and regular; a huge head of garlic, onions, avocadoes and tomatoes.

In the loose part of the large box went the dry goods: long life milk and Illy coffee for breakfast, flour and yeast for the bread rolls that I made en route (with foraged sweet white clover) and cooked over coals, a small bottle of olive oil, ditto white wine vinegar, a small jar of salt, a larger one of sugar (we used the very last spoonful on the very last day), a baby pepper mill, canned tomatoes, tomato paste, crackers, custard for the Frenchman and tonic for our sundowners.

And nothing could rattle while we drove over rough roads. I hate rattling.

In a small coolbag with some dry ice went the fresh lettuce - an iceberg hybrid that looks like romaine, an excellent traveller. Rosemary and marjoram from the garden in a ziplock bag with a damp paper towel, red cabbage (indestructible), tiny cucumbers, hearty brown bread, butter and cheese.

One serious cooler held our main course supplies, frozen, with dry ice - and kept frozen overnight at every stop (we stayed in SANParks - South African National Parks - bungalows all the way, except for our last night). Lamb, lamb, and lamb. In various forms.

Almost every meal was cooked over the red coals of a fire, to the tune of a thundering Indian Ocean surf, rumbling, browsing elephants, the evening song of fiery necked nightjars in Eastern Cape thickets, and the caterwauling of jackals, high in the dryness and red dust of the Northern Cape.

South Africa is a country of magnificent landscapes and wild geographical and climactic contrasts, and we packed a kaleidoscope into a week and just under 3,000 kilometers.

I no longer take the ability to remember anything for granted. But while we have them, these memories will be sustenance. Ballast for bad times where the noise from upstairs makes Brooklyn nights impossible to sleep through. Antidotes for days when barking dogs and blaring horns and entitled white folk (at least where we live) believe their world is the only one.

Something to savor when we talk about what life can really be like.

14 comments:

  1. No one, if still in possession of all faculties, can travel without lemons.

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  2. You could have left out the 'white' comment. What was a lovely article turned a bit sour. Why did you ruin it with such a specific unpleasant and unrelated broad-brush statement? The rest was endearing. Too bad.

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    1. Your closing was what really made this post for me. I enjoyed all the rest, of course, and indulged in some strong pangs of envy at your listening to the sounds of the night. But the contrast of what you were experiencing v. your everyday life deepened the meaning.

      Can't helping thinking, too, that the contrast can work both ways. This time it was the natural beauty of where you were, more fulfilling than a big city rat race (which in my case is mostly mostly white as well; not sure why that comment would turn a whole post 'sour,' but glad it didn't for me). On another day, deprived territory would elicit very different emotions. To me, the bottom line is what you said: keep in mind that our worlds are not the only ones.

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    2. I thought the comment was fine especially considering Marie is white and there is greater leeway to talk broadly about the racial group one belongs to, that's just reality. If you sub in a minority group for 'white' it becomes a dicier statement because now it is less clear whether Marie is just relaying facts or potentially indulging in some casual racism. You also can't say it's unrelated because she told you why it was relevant - her trip is a treasured experience in contrast to the realities of her everyday life in New York.

      As always I thoroughly enjoyed the post especially since its a SA one, my faves! Your travels there are always so beautiful.

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    3. Garden Cat - We live in an unusually homogeneous neighborhood. It is very, very white. Which, for New York City, is very unusual. And since I am white, and presumably entitled, I have no problem in calling it out. It is not unrelated in terms of the contrast I am calling to mind - privileged Brooklyn can be deeply solipsistic. The self is at the centre of everything.

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  3. Do you perhaps have a photo of the "foraged sweet white clover"? I looked on IG, but don't see it. Photos of things to forage (outside of what is in the Western Cape) seem rare... Here's hoping that it was foraged outside the Western Cape!
    Thanks also for the packing list. I either take too much or too little when on a road trip. Yours is just right :-)
    Korien

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    1. Thank you for asking! Because a quick Google told me that one of its common names is honey clover, at least in SA. And I think it smells like honey, of course (except bees like it, so maybe that is the reason for the common name). I found it growing in the Eastern Cape, in an agricultural area. Botanically it is Melilotus albus (for Googling purposes), and I have not seen it (yet) in the Western Cape. Typically it blooms in early summer. It's flavor is increased by exposure to heat (in cooking/baking). I am guessing it may be widespread...

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    2. Thanks Marie! I will also consult with prof Google and be on the lookout for it.

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  4. First sentence, next to last paragraph. Oh how I appreciate memory now!

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    1. ...it is interesting to experience its loss. And then of course we forget about remembering.

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  5. What a lovely post as usual. Fellow readers take note: we read Marie's blog precisely because and due to her observations about everything: gardens, plants, nature, people, neighborhoods, travel, etc. So thank you for the post!

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  6. What a lovely post! I always love traveling vicariously to South Africa. I agree on lemons...even though I can't always take them with me. I take packets of lemon juice or grab some fresh ones in a street market.

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  7. Making comments on posts is getting to be "dangerous" but I wanted to say--I love reading your trip details when you are back home in SA. the love your words express is clear and deeply felt by your readers. To pack, to see, to live as you do-----would be a delight.

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