Friday, November 30, 2012

The Cape Town garden

Three quick pictures from this morning's garden at No. 9. I woke in the night to the smell of jasmine. At 6am I was in the garden with coffee and camera, thanks to jetlag.

The garden is stunning and almost overwhelmingly scented. We usually visit later in December and the three weeks jump we have on that season is remarkable. Roses still in full flight and the agapanthus just starting. And that jasmine.

As I type, I hear the sound of tent poles being erected in the garden for this weekend's party. There will not be much time for blogging, so forgive me if posting is sporadic for a while. It is good to be home, and there is much to do. I cried when I saw the city spread out in twinkling lights last night as our giant aircraft coasted in to land, its nose pointing into the raging headwind, summer's herald in the Cape.

Vince is already out, hunting Cape dwarf chameleons. Lunch will be on False Bay, fish and chips with Tipsy as a late birthday present for her. Tomorrow we go early to Chart Farm to hand pick more roses for the party.

And the jasmine is blowing in through the window, and the garden is full of floating rose petals loosened by the wind which sounds like the sea in the trees.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Homeward bound

We are headed to Cape Town, but will blog from the road as time allows. There won't be much time. We are only in town for a week. And yesterday's triple water main break, with eight men and an excavator in the middle of one of my mother's flowerbeds might mean that we hit the ground with gumboots on and shovels at the ready. 

Sunday is the Big Bash - on my mother's birthday, but all the bells and whistles are to celebrate my father's 80th birthday, actually on the 29th, the day we land. 

We will stay close to home with the exception of a quick trip up to Paternoster where I want to introduce Vince to Oep ve Koep, the restaurant I fell in love with earlier in the year, and where we'll meet our Koringberg friends for lunch. We'll spend the night in town, so that my husband, who is part fish, can wake to the sound of the sea. 'Wake' being the operative word: the last time we slept in Paternoster I slept while Vince stayed awake - I heard noises all night and had a bad feeling (presumably all in my head) and in the end he gave up and stood and sat guard the whole night long. The next day dawned beautifully. Vince passed out. 

This time, our night at The Oyster Catcher will be a little different.

Such a brief visit is bittersweet. But we will squeeze out every drop we can get. Next year, we mean business.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The last rose

The November rose.

It bloomed for two weeks. 

The oak trees across the road shed their brown leaves.

And last night the November rose gave up the ghost.

Monday, November 26, 2012

November strawberries

Still making strawberries. They may even ripen. And a rare, welcome honey bee. I really like bees. Someone asked whether these late strawberries are sweet, and the answer, so far, has been, yes. As long as they are picked before they turn soft. Very, very sweet. They take weeks to turn red.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


The prospect of our upcoming trip to South Africa, 36 hours of travel, each way, and eight days on the ground, has left me homesick for landscape. Here is spring, a phenomenon I miss especially, along the West Coast, traveling north from Cape Town. If you are free next September, book now. Go. It is unforgettable.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Kitchen math, post Thanksgiving

1 leftover roasted goose + 2 heads garlic + terrace parsley + tomato paste + bay leaves + peppercorns

+ 2 cups white wine + water to cover

=  basic stock.

(Simmer for 2 hours, then strain.)

Reduce at a gentle boil by 1/3.

Pour off one cup of broth into a saucepan:

Add 3 Tbsps miso + 1/3 cup bonito flakes + 2 strips kombu (kelp).

Cook udon noodles in remaining, boiling goose stock.

Meanhwhile cook shitakes with soy, lime juice and 2 Tbsps goose stock, till brown. 

Add strained miso/broth mixture to mushrooms.

Cut leftover goose meat into slivers.

Chop leftover collard greens.

Add both to mushrooms.

Add 1 Tbsp Hoisin sauce.


Keep warm.

Lift cooked noodles into bowls. 

Add two ladlefuls of hot broth to each bowl.

Top with goose, shitakes and collards.

Pour any leftover miso mixture over noodles.

Top with raw, sliced scallions.

Permission to slurp, granted,

[Save the stock in which the noodles cooked. It is liquid gold. Freeze.]

Friday, November 23, 2012


Happy birthday to one of our favourite people in the world: Tipsy Titoti. Mine mnandi kuwe...!

This was the day we got married. Tipsy was Guest No. 3, Ma and Pa being 1 and 2. That was it. 

Before we were married by the marriage officer (a friendly Muslim lady) Tipsy went off on her own with our rings and blessed them. They came back full of good stuff.

And it seems to have stuck.

Baie geluk, Tipsy, ons het jou baie lief.

Dinner, in increments

Thanksgiving: All parties were very pleased by the goose.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

We, three

Dunyazade lilies on the terrace

We are having a small Thanksgiving dinner tonight: a man, a woman, and a cat. Life in this part of the world has been strange for the last few weeks, and stranger still, coming up, with our truncated, one week trip to South Africa, which feels all wrong, somehow. But so it has to be. We just don't feel like party central.

We will be eating goose for weeks. We love roast chicken and turkey is really a giant chicken, so not much different, and a goose seemed like a good idea. There are perks: goose fat to keep in the freezer for all those potatoes to come, goose stock to reduce for later use in sauces and soups, and goose meat to be shredded and layered in Bevan Christie's incredibly sinful cake-thing of paper thin crepes. I must dig out his recipe.

The goose. I think, too, that I have changed my mind about how to cook it. We're going Asian. Some soy, some scallions, some sake, some citrus. So I lied about that stuffing. Perhaps I'll tweak it  - I can see quinces and wild rice working with ginger...A cranberry chutney, thanks to my Edible editor Gabrielle, who gave me the idea.

Thing is, I need to go out. Now. We need bubbly for our traditional (at least for us) Thanksgiving cocktails - and Vince is...working - albeit from home. In exchange for more time off when we really need it. And we don't eat our Thanksgiving dinner at 4pm. We can't. We never learned how. So it really is dinner, at the usual time, and going out around lunch time on this day feels furtive, somehow. As though one is doing something wrong. Because EVERYONE is inside cooking, or eating.

Maybe I'll wear a balaclava. No one will know it is me, Doing the Wrong Thing.

Just how recognizable are my hips, anyway?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The objective view

Look familiar?

Backwards, maybe?

66 Square Feet and New York Harbor, from across the road.

A little while ago I left an enveloped note on the doorstep of our across-the-road neighbours, whom I'd never met, to ask if, maybe, they'd let me up onto their roof to see what the terrace loos like from there.

(As it turns out, small! And look, Danielle's terrace next door was painted to match.)

Kindly, they emailed back. They had just moved in, are still busy gut-renovating their top floor apartment, and today I was invited over to take a quick look for future reference, as Thanksgiving's culinary preparations took place in amongst the builders in their apartment.

I thought it might be interesting to sneak one picture from this angle into the book, before it goes to the printers (it is being designed, as we speak). Spring would be prettier, of course: roses. But I'm about to put up holiday lights for the first time, and perhaps a sepia glow as the sun goes down, with twinkly lights, might be nice.

Or pathetic. Hard to say.

And that strip of beige around the tiny window is really annoying, now. I never see it. That's the colour the whole thing used to be.

Man. It's small.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Macy's Thanksgiving

 Atlantic Avenue with New York Harbor, walking home

I found myself in the bowels of Macy's today. And not just any Macy's. The white elephant Macy's in Brooklyn's Fulton Mall. A massive, throw-back era department store, the black sheep of Macy's Manhattan, the Macy's that time forgot, where the clock and its inventory seem to have stopped somewhere in the last century.

But I was on a mission and I was not allowed out until I had accomplished it. In short: jeans, and cashmere. Simple, really, and not subject to Fashion.

That's another story.

Waiting to pay the cashier who looked like she wasn't about to give a damn -  a very buxom girl, pierced in tongue and nose, head shaved on one side, dressed in Macy's black - I was talking to Vince in my head, imagining myself on the phone, trying to explain just where in the store I was in case we were trapped by fire. Ever since dating a carpenter obsessed by egress I tend to look for exits when I'm in any large building, and let's just say: Macy's must never burn down. Because no one will get out.

The cashier turned out to be very friendly. Very polite. Also funny. And hates shopping with fellow humans about as much as I do. I'm waiting for Cyber Monday, she said. See you there, I replied. She belly laughed.

The opposite of the indifferent and studiously ironic service you will receive in your pick of hipster merchants on the fashionable drag.

On my way out,  in Handbags, I screeched to a halt. I felt, suddenly, the horrible void where my Canon camera should be, hanging over my left shoulder. Half way up the first escalator I knew I had forgotten it on a chair (leaking foam stuffing) in the shoe department at the very beginning of my two hour shop. After assessing the potential loss - older camera body, very nice lens, memory stick...I decided that everything would probably be OK. Because it usually it is.

And thirty minutes later I left triumphantly, camera swinging.

It had been spotted and collected by a girl named Yvonne, who has been working for Macy's for three weeks. She sent me to the top floor, where all the staff offices are, and I waited there while they traced it and brought it to me. At every step of the way, from reception, to supervisors, to managers, to floor staff, everyone was kind, helpful and genuinely concerned. And then they gave me a couple of postcards for more deep discounts.

I have inherited my father's absent-mindedness. Case in point, the laptop, passports and money left behind at JFK a year ago. Returned, every crisp dollar counted, noted and left unmolested.

Most people are good...

So. I'd like to go back and give Yvonne a thank you gift. She'll be working tomorrow. First, I thought a bunch of flowers. Then I thought an Amex gift card. I'd kind of prefer the flowers but you can't spend flowers. Then again, you don't receive a bouquet of flowers every day.


What do you think?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Hot artichoke dip

Currently underway, hot artichoke dip. Not peppery-hot, but bubbling-and-melty-with-strings-of-cheese-hot. And really bad for you and also really good for you, because it makes you happy, and reminds you of the cold, cold night on Grouse Mountain outside Vancouver, British Columbia, after a walk in the snow, and a quick, chilly question asked, and happy answer given, upon which we headed inside into the suitably wood paneled lodge and ate this dip and drank cold beer, with the city and its bays and inlets and hills sparkling in the black of the night far below us.

Fast forward to Rivington Street, below Houston: This is also still Freeman Alley-inspired. Their dip is wonderful. I don't know their recipe, but this one comes pretty darn close.

Details tomorrow.

Cherries in fall

This is the cherry esplanade at the BBG, where in May frilled Kanzan petals swirl and people stand and sit and sometimes skip and point a hundred cameras.

Quite nice with just leaves.

And the late afternoon dark dropping over the tall trees.

So many trees have fallen, including a row of 80 year old tilias (lindens). All keeled over to the west, giant trunks lying flat like skittles.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Pale November

Abraham Darby - perhaps the last rose of 2012. 

And tenacious anemones - made it through the hurricane and quite a lot of accumulated snow. Soon, I will have to tidy the terrace.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Strawberries, of an evening

I'm not used to the November light, yet. Dark - black-dark - at 5 o'clock.

The strawberries have slowed down.

They ripen in increments, against the glow of the reddening oaks across the road.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Home melted camembert on brown toast for lunch on a cold day.

A light at the end of the tunnel.

A drink and a snack with a friend. Martini, left, cider, right.

And, no, that is not spam.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Cape Town Open Gardens

Open Garden. Photo: Marianne Alexander

Calling all Cape Town readers:

This weekend, on November 16th and 17th,  four private gardens in Bishopscourt and Constantia will be open to ticket-holding members of the public, in order to benefit some very different gardens on the Cape Flats.

My mother, Maureen Viljoen, is the chairperson for the 2012 Open Gardens. Go, Mommy! Ahem... As an outside insider I know that an extraordinary amount of effort goes into preparing these gardens for viewing, starting months, if not years before the date. Plants need to grow, you know.

The Constantia Valley Garden Club holds this Open Gardens event biennially to benefit two stellar organizations that rely on donations to function: Abalimi bezekhaya, and Soil for Life.

Two neighbouring gardens clubs have joined the effort this year - the Constantiaberg Garden Club and Flourish.

Open Garden

The last Open Gardens, in 2010 (where my mom's garden was open for visits) netted almost R100, 000.00 (about $8,000.00) in ticket sales. This is a significant source of revenue for organizations that provide education and ongoing support for disadvantaged people who grow food to feed their families and also to profit from larger scale organic food production.

Kayelitsha school garden, Cape Flats

Food gardens in the impoverished parts of the Cape Flats need a great deal of support in terms of materials, knowledge and infrastructure. The more visitors attending the Open Gardens, the greater the size of the cheques that can be handed over to nurture gardens that perform an essential, grassroots role: growing food for those who are hungry, and providing occupation and income for those who have no employment.

100% of the earnings from the weekend is donated. You can't say that about a lot of charitable giving.

Abalimi bezekhaya food gardens on the Cape Flats

Tea and cake will be served in one open garden and at another you may buy locally grown, organic produce from Abalimi bezekhaya.

12 Nahoon Ave, Constantia:
A rose and shrub garden bursting with colour leads into a sunny north-facing main garden of mixed borders and tranquil corners and pretty, productive vegetable garden where the rabbit and chicken enclosures give a rural touch.

21 Canterbury Drive, Bishopscourt
A steep ascent to floral formality giving way to a woodland ramble. The terraces in this garden, which has be revitalised with a new design, include a formal garden with tumbling English borders, lavender and a gazebo, a shaded informal shrubbery and a wooded meander. Tall trees frame secluded mountain views.

9 Romany Walk, Constantia Hills
Under the shade of established trees this first-time gardener has created a tranquil, green front garden with a cool water feature which is graced by an elegant fountain, around the back of the house is a herb and vegetable-filled courtyard.

6 Ave Beauvais, Constantia
Stately trees surround this large established garden with its masses of roses, inspiring focal points and vistas, clipped hedges and several recently revamped areas, both formal and informal. An orchard and walled potager complete the picture.

Photo: Marianne Alexander

Tickets are R50 and include tea (and cake, don't forget the cake!).

Friday, November 16th:  2pm – 5.30pm
Saturday, 17th November: 10am – 5pm

For a map of the Open Gardens, here is link to a pdf. Street addresses are also printed on the tickets.

For tickets call Gail: 021-712-5668

...or buy them at these local merchants: Ferndale Nursery, Brommersvlei Road / Sherwood Hardware, Bergvliet/ Peter Gilder Jewellers, Constantia Village/ Montebello, Newlands /Vierlanden Nursery, Durbanville.

For more info email Glenda: glendab (at) acenet (dot) co (dot) za

William Monami, Nyanga

If you live in the States or in the UK and would like to donate to Abalimi bezekhaya, you may do so at Global Giving. An anonymous donor is matching donations, so this is a good to to contribute.

This is what your money will do:

$14 Supports one micro-farmer with all necessary essential services, to develop his/her micro-farm sustain-ably for one month.
$20 Plants one tree in a disadvantaged township, and includes training and follow-up.
$42 Establishes one new township vegetable garden, and includes training, resources and follow-up.

Click here for the UK link.

Here is a story I wrote for Soiled and Seeded about Abalimi's work. I know some of the people involved, and trust me, these are not fat cats getting cushy jobs from a not-for-profit. The money goes where it is needed: straight to the microfarmers and their support network.

The Cape Flats are dry, sandy, barren, windswept. Growing vegetables in these conditions is difficult. Water is needed, via irrigation, netting to protect young plants from flying sand, tunnels, in some cases, fertilizer, compost, seedlings (Abalimi has its own nursery) and a distribution network for the crops.

Here are some pictures I've taken over the last two years of Abalimi's microfarms.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Aging Halloween

This is the block - down which I have not walked since it happened - where a man died this summer, in a bad night storm, struck by stones that tumbled from the steeple, in its turn struck by the bolt of pale blue lighting like a ball of barbed wire that made me hide my head in my hands as I sat at dinner with Vince, several blocks to the northwest.

There is no more steeple, now. They worked day and night, seven days a week for months to remove it. I should post all the pictures I took of its unbuilding.

I miss the steeple.

Better days ahead. And worse, too, right?


At the beach

Do you know what this space is? Or used to be? Visit the Frenchman to find out.


I never liked locust trees, much, starting with the name.

I suppose it's better than cockroach trees.

But I appreciated them this year, their early, thick yellow a perfect match for cabs, whose drivers believe they are invisible when parked beneath such a tree; their layered and mosaic-ed carpets on the concrete and bluestone sidewalks.

And if I remember to look up, in June, there will be bunches of white flowers. Fragrant, and edible.