Tag Archives: condiments

Recession brings the future of food back to the past!

I had heard of and spoken to Sonia Cabano almost a year ago, but we had never met, until last week, and we have done so twice in a week!   Sonia has a refreshing view on many things in life, and I was interested to speak to her about her love for food, and the cookbooks that she had written to date.  She is proudly South African in her love for local foods, and sees that the food preparation of generations past will become that of the future.

Sonia (de Waal) became a well-known advertising model for Lancome, Mary Quant and Yves St Laurent after leaving Brandfort, living in Milan, Paris and London for twelve years.  She grew up in a food-loving family, with her mother being an amazing baker and cook, says Sonia, and her family ate in the way Sonia proposes we should all go back to – they had a vegetable garden at home, and meat came from a smallholding her dad owned.  They ate organically then, not giving it a name, but by its principles. Sonia was always in her mom’s kitchen, and helped her mom, and now her children do the same when she prepares food.

It was in London that she was asked to cook for clients, word having spread about her wonderful dinner parties.  She loved the supply of fur and feathered game in the city, and London’s specialist shops, something she would love to see more of in Cape Town.  Her love for shopping at food markets stems from this.   Her dream to study cooking at the Ritz Escoffier School in Paris did not materialise, but her second best option was to go to London’s top restaurants and ask for an apprenticeship, and it was Bistrot 190 and Kensington Place that gave her places in their kitchens.   When many left the country in 1994, it was the year that Sonia returned to South Africa, and to Cape Town specifically.  She started a catering company, but closed it down after five years when she had her children.

She received a call out of the blue to audition for SABC 3’s “Pampoen tot Perlemoen” food programme, was hired, and made four series with them. She added food writing to her activities, for VISI, TASTE, Sarie, Insig, and House & Garden.  To this she added writing cookbooks, and two have been published to date:

*   ‘Kombuis’ – was written in Afrikaans for Afrikaans foodlovers.  She said she found it harder to express herself in Afrikaans, as cooking terms have not evolved in this language.  The book contains traditional ‘boerekos’ recipes interpreted by Sonia, and she included a chapter on how to larder.

*   ‘Easy, Simple and Delicious’, which she says is the easy way to make fresh staples in the lazy and fast way!

Her newest book, to be called ‘Relish’, will be published in September.  It will focus on sauces, seasonings, and condiments to make at home.  It includes making preserves, as well as cheeses, such as ricotta and mascarpone.

Sonia wants to share her passion for local food, and wants to keep her readers out of supermarkets for basics, which she would like them to make, like pasta sauce, instead of buying them out of a tin, and/or containing preservatives and colourants.  She includes chef’s tips in her books too. In addition to writing, she does cooking demonstrations, and is a recipe development consultant.   She wanted to set up a Slow Food shop, but could not find the right venue for it.

She espouses the principles of Slow Food, and it ties in with her food philosophy of “Tradition is Modern”!   She feels it important that small food and wine producers be encouraged and supported, and that a small food collective be organically nurtured to become a valuable resource.   Sounding similar in her food philosophy to Neil Stemmet, Sonia talks about “Kontreikos”, which is eating seasonal food from one’s region and which the farmer has been fairly remunerated for.  Sonia is very anti-supermarket, and proudly told me that she has not stepped into a Woolworths in six months. She sees supermarkets as ‘dehumanising’, pushing their wares down consumers’ throats, and Woolworths in particular does not practice its environmentally-friendly claim it proudly advertises inside its stores.   She supports ethical production of foods, and wants us “to live in harmony with nature”.  She would love us to go back, and she wants to document, to how the ‘old country ladies’ made foods like butter, and beverages in the past.  She would love Capetonians to get out of their homes again, and to connect in the neighbourhood, not just with their neighbours but also with the local shops in these areas.  She thinks that the recession is fantastic in making us all return to basics, to discover what is essential, and to no longer be shopping-driven.

Having rejected it initially, due to the disparagement she had seen on it, Sonia has now taken to Twitter, and finds it a fantastic tool for networking, for sourcing information, for the immediacy of response, and to communicate and share one’s thoughts and feelings about anything and everything!

POSTSCRIPT 23/5:  The comment by Maria has upset Sonia, and she has been contacted by 12 persons, she says, who all claim that we wrote the comment as “Maria”. Michael Olivier of Crush! made this claim to Hetzner last year, when he tried to get our blog closed down!  Sonia sent an sms today that she felt that she ‘was being set up’ by me in having interviewed her, writing the blogpost, and then writing the ‘Maria’ comment – it is an absolutely ludicrous allegation, as we have the blog in which we can write what we like, and we do not have to resort to writing comments on our own blog, nor on anyone else’s. I would not have spent the money and time in inviting Sonia for lunch, had I not been interested in her as a person, and her writing about food.  It is sad that such nastiness goes around in Social Media, and that people talk about others without having met them.  Sonia has decided to block us on Twitter as a result, from having been in praise of us getting her starting on Twitter only three weeks ago, and being happy with our blogpost about her when it was posted on Thursday.

Sonia Cabano. Tel 071 674 0222. www.soniacabano.co.za Twitter: @SoniaCabano1

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage

Restaurant Review: De Oude Bank Bakkerij brings Ile de Pain to Stellenbosch!

A quaint and very unusual new restaurant, called De Oude Bank Bakkerij, has opened in an alley off Church Street in Stellenbosch, and challenges conventional restaurant operations.   It sells the most delicious artisanal breads baked on the property, by owner Fritz Schoon, who worked at Ile de Pain in Knysna for 18 months to learn from the best breadmaker, he says.

Fritz has Dutch roots stretching far back, and that is why he chose the Dutch name for his bakery and restaurant.  It is an unusual space, and feels like a covered courtyard to a building which opens onto the Dorp Street Gallery and a crystal glass shop, the former on Church Street and the latter on Bird Street.   The building previously was the offices of the District Bank.  Individual square tables with very uncomfortable heavy metal chairs, as well as shared long wooden tables with benches, fill the space.  One wall looks like a cosy lounge, with shelves filled with books.

As one enters, one sees the Lucas Jamon ham, from Prince Albert, hanging over the counter, with the freshly baked breads on display for sale behind it.   It has a cosy ‘untidiness’, making it homely. It is also a deli, selling the breads, wines, coffee, jams and tapenades.  The deli counter, and place to pay, is unusual, in being a piece of wood on top of stacked logs.

Fritz is cute, with beautiful eyes, a young entrepreneur who seems to be in his baking element in the shop.   He is so hands-on that his apron is full of flour dust.  He is so proud of what he is doing that he has put up photographs of all his suppliers.  He has taken special care to source wines and other supplies from suppliers who are small and artisanal too.  His wines come from mainly unfamiliar wine estates such as Berry Box, Noble Savage, Rainbow’s End, Bartinney, Marklew, Topaz, and Clouds, all from Stellenbosch, and his coffee comes from the Conti micro-roastery in Kuilsriver.  Beer on tap comes from Birkenhead in Stanford, at R20 for 330ml and R55 for 900ml. The wine-by-the-glass cost ranges from R20 – R40, and R60 – R190 per bottle.

Fritz comes from Kempton Park, studied quantity surveying, and worked on a building site, supplying food to the construction workers on the sites he worked at.  He enjoyed artisanal baking, and therefore decided to train at Ile de Pain in Knysna, regarding Markus Farbinger one of the best artisanal bakers.  He also uses stoneground flour and allows the natural fermentation of his dough to make and bake his breads, just as Ile de Pain does.   The breads made at the De Oude Bank Bakkerij are French Ciabatta, Baguette, Sourdough, Dark Rye Sourdough, as well as salted seed and rustic olive sticks.

What is even more unusual about the restaurant is that the menu is the cheapest possible to produce – a handwritten photocopied menu that itemises every item one may wish to order, on the principle that one only pays for what one gets.  Everything is priced, and the customers at each table fill in the quantity per item they wish to order, minimising order errors.   I would normally have been critical of the menu, but it is such a surprise, and in keeping with the character of the restaurant, that Fritz can get away with it – it must be the little hearts that are drawn on the menu!   He has written the following on the menu, to explain his restaurant philosophy: “Pain de vie is the bread of life. This is what I hope to create here.  The opportunity to break bread with friends and family.  I believe that this is what fuel (sic) our daily existence, our life purpose.  Sit. Talk. Laugh. Debate… and eat more BREAD!”  I love it!

Some of the “Condiments” one can order with 2 slices of bread, costing R5 – 7 for two, are farm butter (R4), schmaltz (R6), mustard glaze (R5), olive tapenade (R6), roasted black olives (R10), and a most delicious shitake mushroom pesto (R8).   Jams cost R5, and include olive marmalade, “nastergal jam”, rasberry (sic) jam, and bluegum honey (R6).   Cheese brands are specified, Ganzvlei matured cheddar costs R10, Forest Hill brie R8, and Witzenberger Kimilili R8.  On the meat side, Coppa ham costs R8, as does Smoked Pork, Beef salami and Black Forrest (sic) Ham.  Namib beef biltong is R10, and Lucas Jamon costs R30.

I ordered the ‘creamy scrambled eggs with bacon on sourdough toast’ at a mere R 25, the yellowest egg dish I have ever eaten – these must be specially sourced free-range eggs for sure.  Gourmet sandwiches can also be ordered, at R25 – R30, depending on the topping.  A slice of Butterkuchen costs R12.  Organic teas are offered at R10 and less, and a cappuccino costs R14.   Six coffee styles are offered.  My cappuccino was brought to the table in a wooden cup, on a wooden saucer, with a long wood handle spoon, which was far too long for the saucer, but just added to the natural wood feel of the restaurant.  The bread is served on wooden boards, with wood-handle cutlery – the knives are uncomfortable to use.    We saw three patrons share a wooden tray filled with a selection of bread slices and lots of little portions on the “Condiments” list, looking like a delicious tapas feast.

I loved the differentness of De Oude Bank Bakkerij, and loved the way Fritz has turned many restaurant conventions on their head, by creating a special and unusual, yet simple, restaurant.   I am definitely going back.

De Oude Bank Bakkerij, 7 Church Street, Stellenbosch.  Tel (021) 883-2187 (phone not always answered).  No website.  On Facebook.  Twitter: @OudeBankBakery  Open Tuesday – Friday 8h00 – 15h00, Saturdays from 9h00 – 15h00, and Sundays from 9h00 – 13h00.  On Wednesday and Saturday evenings pizza, beer and wine are served from 18h30 – 22h00.   On the Stellenbosch Restaurant Route.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage