Some memorable lunches from these wintry parts. Kale caesar salad, with anchovies and oukaas from the Boeremark, that we brought back from our trip. A delicious white bean soup about which I was quite skeptical even whilst making it, thinking it was going to be very bland. So I added some homemade chicken stock, so gelatinous I had to scoop it from the mason jar, left over from chicken pie Johannes made. And I tripled the amount of fennel seeds the recipe calls for, and added a teaspoon of adobo sauce that was standing around, and it turned out pretty fantastic. It also came together quite effortlessly. I used canned beans instead of the specified dried ones, and had it simmering along after dinner while we were watching yet another documentary about fundamentalist Mormon plural families, of which I will never tire. We ate the soup with some toast topped with Italian speck, and after I tried to take a decent photograph of the soup for a few minutes I gave up, and just took a photo of the bread. Turns out taking a photo of soup without some type of fancy-ass garnish is an absolute bitch, and some days I just don’t have time for that Bon Appétit food styling shit.




Another day’s lunch consisted of some leftover roast chicken and an unorthodox tabbouleh from Michael Solomonov’s Zahav, with quinoa instead of bulgur, and peas and mint instead of the other usual suspects. Worked fabulously with frozen petit pois, and really, it’s so bloody life-affirming to eat this type of dish in the dead of winter.




I ended up cooking quite a few dishes from Zahav, including a herbed labneh which hits exactly the right balance between effort and pay-off. You make the labneh the night before (and if you’ve never made labneh, it’s really super easy – line a colander with cheese cloth, or a dish cloth if you don’t have that, add yoghurt and some salt, and leave overnight to drain – in the morning you’ll have labneh), and add a lot of chopped herbs and garlic once the yoghurt has turned to cheese. Puree the labneh with the herbs, a mixture of mint, chives, dill, parsley, and scoop that onto some oven baked cauliflower. Solomonov deep fries his cauliflower but I have to clean my own apartment and the residual film of grease that settles on everything in this kitchen if one ventures into the realm of deep frying means I never deep fry anything, and frankly, cauliflower roasted at a high temperature is something no one can complain about. Just make sure you leave it in long enough to start caramelising, and once it’s out of the oven, dollop the labneh all over. We’re pretty much sold.







There are days when our life feels thoroughly Canadian. This morning we have both been working from home as a snowstorm rages outside our windows on the 25th floor, the neighbouring buildings whited out by the tumbling flakes. This has been a very light winter in terms of snow, with not many days of trudging through sludge to buy groceries or get to campus, so today’s storm is particularly exciting.

And there’s gravlax for breakfast. I’ve made more gravlax in two years in Toronto than I did in ten years in Pretoria, but that should come as a surprise to no one. Most of our salmon comes from a Chinese grocery store in town, with a fish counter that brings J to tears. We’re especially fond of their lobsters, which has become our anniversary dinner, but mostly we’ll get a selection of shells to steam with some pasta, a piece of fish for the pan, or a crab or two for curry. And salmon, for eating raw with wasabi and pickled ginger, or for curing.




I tend to stick with one of two recipes. The first is Cyril Renaud’s recipe for citrus gravlax, via Mark Bittman at the New York Times. This is best made in winter, when you have access to grapefruit, lemons and limes for zest and juice, to which you add the obligatory dill, sugar, and salt. Renaud also includes juniper berries, gin and coriander (the spice, not the herb), and it is, without fail, delicious. The other recipe is from Diana Henry’s Salt, Sugar, Smoke, for a whiskey and brown sugar-cured gravlax. Henry keeps just the salt, sugar and dill and adds to it a lot of peaty whiskey (it has to be peaty, thus pricey, don’t try and replace it with a cheaper version) and a tart apple. This makes an amazing dinner party starter, served with some bread (although, admittedly, I once made an entire filet of salmon for a birthday party I was asked to cater for, and none of the guests wanted to eat it. So I spent an hour after the party sitting in a pool eating slivers of salmon and drinking leftover sparkling wine on a balmy October night, and just typing this sentence makes me homesick for Pretoria in the worst and most debaucherous way.)

Anyway. Mostly we eat our gravlax either on toasted bread or alongside a scrambled egg. Although I’ve wanted to try this for the longest time, but with gravlax instead of smoked salmon. Should be good if we get snowed in.



poppy seed torte

poppyseed torte(1)


Over the summer I stopped sleeping. The reasons for my sleeplessness are not prudently discussed on the internet, so I shall only say that night after night, for close to two months, I lay awake, clawing my way through the anxiety that enters the moment sleep leaves. Most of these nights I lay in the Toronto apartment and imagined walking through the house of my grandmother. She was, that same summer, moving from the town where she had spent sixty years of her life, to a different city, to an altogether different house. The sheer terror of leaving behind six decades of one’s life paralysed me. And I mourned the house. I mourned the wallpaper, I mourned the stoep, I mourned the incessant hadedas in the garden, RSG playing from a little radio in the kitchen every morning. It was the house that Annetjie built, it was what stood once her children moved out and had children of their own, once her husband died, in a town that still housed all of her friends who had suffered the same fate, all of these women in the houses they had built. I could not bear the thought of her having to leave behind the tannies who had sustained one another over the course of six decades of being a woman in a Wes-Transvaal mining town, with the utter absence of agency that one has to resign oneself to in that context. I thought of this piece by Hélène Cixous, in Osnabrück:




Years ago I surprised my grandmother by showing up for her birthday. She was hosting these tannies for tea, and I brought out a cake I had recently started baking and which I bake to this day, a German-style poppy seed torte. The cake itself consists of little but ground poppy seed, raisins, pecan nuts and sugar and eggs. No flour! the tannies exclaimed. No flour, I said. The moist cake is topped with a mixture of melted butter and chocolate, beaten together, offering a lovely rich contrast to the nutty flavour of the poppy seed. The tannies were enthralled. So was my grandmother. For the rest of the week her and I would eat slices of the cake, twice a day, with a cup of tea on the stoep outside, and she would send slices of it to all the tannies who had not been able to make it to the tea. They would always call in the evening, once they had eaten the cake, to thank us for it, and exclaim, No flour!, and my grandmother, still taken aback by this fact, would reply, No flour!





I tried to take a photograph of her every afternoon, on the stoep. As always, she rushes inside the moment she realises what I’m doing. My life is filled with photographs of my grandmother exiting the frame.



Mary Berry’s scones



As a child I would wake up on Sunday mornings and listen to my mother humming along to very loud music, baking scones in the kitchen. She had a pretty consistent playlist – it would either be the soundtrack of The Sound of Music or Evita, or Roger Whitaker. Sometimes she would be baking plaatkoekies (or flapjacks, as they’re known in South African English, akin to the North American pancake but smaller, more petite, and very very far away from the British flapjack), which we would eat with golden syrup and cheese. But mostly Sundays were for scones, with either, again, cheese, or jam and cream. My mother seemed (and still, seems), particularly happy on Sunday mornings. There are, I suppose, no children to get to school, no lunches to pack or negotiations over bathing or dressing or the brushing of teeth. She could just hang out in the kitchen and listen to Roger sing everybody talks about a new world in the morning, and bake. As a child I took my mother’s Sunday morning joie de vivre for granted – it was always thus. As an adult this quality is what has made me most envious of my mother, and is the one I am most desperate to emulate. My mother does not lie awake at 3am and worry about the meaning of her life. I want to be my mother.





So I bake. It is Sunday today, and I am sick, so we’ve spent the morning in bed, watching old British Pathé videos, with some scones in the oven. It is a recipe from Mary Berry’s Ultimate Cake Book, and although it is not the best scones you will ever make in your life, it’s an ideal scone for a Sunday morning. There’s nothing tricky or time-consuming about it, and you only need one or two bowls, which is perfect if your other bowls are dirty anyway (another example of how I am not my mother). They rise beautifully, and would be pretty impressive even if you offered them to guests for tea, topped with jam and cream, instead of just eaten in bed, like we did.



British Pathé

For this weekend, I leave you with a list of amazing videos from the British Pathé archive. They are sexist and problematic on a number of levels (Orientalism, anyone?), but fascinating nonetheless.

This is the video that led me down the rabbit hole, on wallpaper and matching fabrics.

If you’ve ever wondered how textured wallpaper is made, there’s this. Be still my beating heart.

These gorgeous colours and textures, on the manufacturing of wool.

Sexism and a paint job.

A bizarre fashion show.

Silk worms!

How sublime is this pasta harvesting?

The doll head contraption is my new favourite thing.

coconut bread



This is a slice of coconut bread, spread with Nutella. It is lying next to a pile of fabric I am about to start cutting into. I was spending the day sewing at The Workroom, a community of sewists in a lightly run-down part of Toronto named Parkdale, the part of town that most reminds me of Arcadia. I have been learning how to sew at this little shop, surrounded by women picking out fabric and piecing quilts and measuring their waists, and here is a secret I have not told anyone: that I am astounded at how comforting it is to be in such a space, to be learning a skill in the midst of all these women who have mastered it, in the midst of such strongly gendered generosity.




Back to the bread. It’s a Bill Granger recipe, originally via The Wednesday Chef (the community of women food bloggers, there’s another thing to write about; how their joy of life has made shit bearable for me, so often). It’s pretty easy to do first thing in the morning, if you feel like bringing still-warm loaves to a brunch date, and extra loaves freeze beautifully. The bread is moist, there’s just enough cinnamon to perk things up, just enough texture from the shredded coconut. I halve the sugar because I like to spread mine with Nutella while it’s still hot from the toaster, if I happen to eat it a few days after it’s been baked. This week we ate the leftovers with coffee every morning, still in bed. It felt pretty festive. That never hurts.