Sunday, October 30, 2011

Memories - food we used to cook.....

The clocks went back today. That means the dark will start at 5pm tonight, and get gradually worse. Why oh why can't we stay on summer time?? Apparently there is a move to see if we can do a trial - I think of a few years, from 2013. it can't come soon enough for me.

To me, winter starts when the clocks go back. It is a state of mind.

But, I have just been out in the garden and there are still roses all in bloom and more buds appearing for what has to be the 7th or 8th flowering, and the dahlias are still flowering too - no sign of them stopping yet. A weird anomaly. Me in winter gloom mode and the garden thinks it is spring. Or something. It is not going to sleep just yet.

There is a cinnamon cake baking in the oven at the moment, and as I was making it, I started thinking about how the way we eat and what we eat has changed. Not only for all of us, with the advent of season-less food availability, but also with hemispherical changes. Cultural changes. (I may just have invented a few words. They are perfectly understandable.)

Down south, we ate beef sausages, or boerewors, or lamb sausages or chicken sausages. Never pork. Sausages were coarser, more chewy and more like meat, not so finely minced. They were in fact 90% meat.  Here in the UK, 99.9% of sausages are pork. There is lots of variety within the pork spectrum, of course, including pork and apple, pork and caramelised red onion - two of our favourites. But they are not like the ones I grew up with at all. Sausages came in long pieces, wound round and round in circles. You cooked it all together, and then cut up pieces for everyone. This made braai-ing (BBQ) very easy. I never lost any rolling sausages to the fire that way!

Fruit salad is another very different thing here. I still tend to make mine the old South African way. Pawpaw (papaya) as a base, with oranges, and guavas. And the guavas always had their pips in. That is how you eat them. Lots of other fruit added if it is around, of course, but that was the basic fruit salad. The first time I served it here, I had all my guests trying surreptitiously to remove the guava pips. One can't very well sit there and tell them to eat them, now can you. I ignored it. But didn't serve it again.

photo of South African crayfish courtesy of Google images
Fish. Fish was readily available and so wonderful. Speaking of fishy things, these are what crayfish look like. BIG. Well, I think these are very big and ours may have been a little smaller, but not that much. I bought fresh fish or got it from friends who went fishing, and cooked it open on a BBQ on a sheet of foil, with a little lemon juice and brushed with butter. We had smoked snoek. That reminds me of snoek pate - delicious. Calamari....oh, my love of calamari is legendary, especially the ones you get at the Quay 4 restaurant at the Waterfront. And eating out, I always had fish. The Ocean Basket restaurant is still a huge favourite, and their plates of crayfish, prawns and calamari send me into raptures. I loved sole too. Yellowtail. Pickled fish.

I would not be eating this here, believe me. I am more likely to be eating a pizza here. We also often steamed stock fish or hake and flaked it into salads, but I don't remember ever frying fish at all. In fact, apart from eggs and bacon, frying was not really on the menu. Strange how differently people cook! I don't put stir frying into that category - I am talking about batter-y sort of frying.

We ate very little pork. More beef and lamb and lots of chicken and fish. The chicken and fish remain on the menu today. But I have never roasted beef in my life, which is just as bad as a woman from New Zealand saying she had never made a pavlova (I have) and tantamount to treason. I once attempted Yorkshire puddings, and set fire to the oven, so that was never repeated either.

But ask me to make Bobotie, and I am a star. Brandy tart?? Butternut soup? Oh yes. I have passed my recipes on to many and both are firm favourites here now. My brother-in-law got me to make a mega big Bobotie for the World Cup menu last year, and Switzerland decided that it liked it too. I have never made anything like that kind of quantity of Bobotie in my life.

I used to order beef fillets from the Karoo, and would go and meet the train with all the meat packed in chilled containers. I ordered hind quarters of beef. That was then, and this is now. Toss a whole fillet onto the braai with a slit down the side, stuffed with cheese. Wonderful.

When I was growing up, there were no convenience foods. Well, a few tins of things. I particularly remember Silver Leaf tins of peas. But no "ready meals". Mum cooked from scratch and that largely is what I did too. Stews in winter - a piece of shin and loads of vegetables. The crockpot had not been invented then either. Mince, the way my Granny taught me, padded out with a handful of oats, which also makes the consistency creamy. Cottage pies. Meatloaf. Sosaties - skewers of meat and veg grilled.

Do you know, I had never come face to face with a brussel sprout until I married Geoff? A fresh one. My mother-in-law showed me how to cut crosses in the base. Well, I never do that any more, but it was a learning process.

But, in the 21 years we have lived here, there has been a huge change in the way people eat, what they eat, and the availability of foods all year round. And just the simple cup of coffee has been revolutionised. 21 years ago, no-one knew what a latte or cappuccino was never mind macchiato. Now? Every old Granny orders lattes with aplomb. And, of course, cooking is making a comeback, after decades of ready made meals, and the rise of awareness re additives, GM food, and organic alternatives. Not to mention the rise in cultivation of homegrown vegetables and fruit.

And we can thank the Internet for providing information to us all at the click of a button. Progress - absolutely. The memories are great, though, especially for people of my generation who still have the recipes our grandparents used long ago. And we still remember how to cook the way we used to once upon a time.....


Angie said...

Ocean Basket is one of my favorite restaurants in S.A.!!!

Needled Mom said...

First of all...those crawfish are HUGE!!!!! OMGoodness. What is the difference between a lobster and a crayfish that size?

We can definitely thank the internet for the progress being made with peoples interest in cooking. I often find myself going to it for recipes in spite of the fact that I litterally have a library of cookbooks.

I am soooo with you and the time change. I just hate this change. Ours was moved back a bit last year so we have not changed yet. Guess that means you are only seven hours ahead of us right now.

Colleen formerly of South Africa said...

Oh, I miss the Kingklip fish from SA the most...and the fresh made samosas the Indian ladies sold by the mall. Ocean Basket was one of our favorite places for fresh fish too. Hoping to save enough to go to SA next May.... holding thumbs!!!!

Colleen formerly of South Africa said...

I also miss the rusks... I have a rusk pan...but not the perfect recipe that has been adapted for me here in the US. I don't suppose you have one. I also miss the chutney...and our friends would make potke.... stew in the big black cast iron kettles.

Linds said...

Yes I have the rusk recipe - I will get it to you in the next day or two! We can get Mrs Ball's Chutney here, so we are really lucky. I use it with the bobotie! Samosas - Mr Bahatkah's once on Newlands Ave in Cape Town were the best!

Linds said...

Mr Bahatkah's ones.... I forgot to proofread!

Vee said...

I think you're speaking an entirely different language. I can barely understand you. ☺ All I know about your former way of life AND your current way of life could be put in a thimble. Dr. Oz...whoever...said that South African women are thinner because they eat a lot of pickled foods. Can that possibly be true?

Crystal said...

When you come to visit, I will do a beef roast and you can learn how to do it :) It's fun to hear all the details about your menus in SA. I agree - there is a return to growing and cooking from scratch again. But there is a changed emphasis with less meat and more vegetables, I think. This is making me hungry!

Stripeyspots said...

I made butternut soup friday night... It reminded me of cooking on my little electric stove in Newlands!

Linds said...

Absolutely true re the red meat, Crystal - we hardly ever eat red meat any more, and often have veggie meals, simply because we love it! Tastes and times change! And with winter nearly here, it will be homemade soups all the way.