On Friday New Media Publishing shared the shock news that its Eat Out Editor and head judge Abigail Donnelly is stepping down and away from Eat Out at the end of this month, to concentrate solely on her involvement with TASTE magazine, published for Woolworths, in a new enlarged role of Foods Marketing Creative Manager in addition to her role as Food Editor of the magazine! This comes after a promise made by Eat Out last year that no change in the judging panel is to take place, justifying why it had kept the judging panel anonymous for the first time! Continue reading →
* The Department of Home Affairs appears determined to destroy tourism to our country. Tourism Update reports that two groups of American tourists traveling with children have been requested to show copies of the non-traveling fathers’ passports at OR Thambo airport, never stipulated in the new Immigration Regulations!
* A Chinese-owned Australian wine company Ferngrove has developed a ‘smart‘ wine bottle, monitoring whether a bottle has been Continue reading →
We wrote recently how Woolworths has been misleading consumers with claims about its Ayrshire milk, deceiving food labelling, and how it tries to create an image of healthy produce via its ‘Hayden Quinn: South Africa‘ series on SABC3. The group Grass Consumer Food Action has been persistent in its criticism of Woolworths, and appears to have hit a raw nerve in the Good Business Journey division at Woolworths, the retailer having launched a brand new ‘Good Food News‘ 16-page insert in the Sunday Times yesterday! It looks like a Taste magazine (the Woolworths sponsored magazine published by New Media Publishing) but printed in Tabloid format on recycled paper!
While the Tabloid has ‘headlines’ on page 1, to attract one’s attention to the content, it consists of a mix of ‘advertorials’ of its award-winning wines (since when are wines a food, as per the name of the publication?) in ‘Crowned as the best‘; ‘responsibly sourced‘ fish; braai suggestions for ‘Ready Steady Braai’; and ‘Flavours of Home‘ (prepared foods with strong spices such as curries, and traditional foods such as koeksisters and milk tart); as well as editorial. It is obviously planned as a monthly insert, numbered ‘Issue 01′, and dated September 2014. The focus of the first issue is ‘lovelocal‘:
* ‘New on the shelf‘ (page 3) showcases new pack designs for wine boxes, braai tins, braai marinade, braai Continue reading →
It’s that time of the year again, and this week Eat Out will announce its shortlisted Top 20 Restaurants for the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards 2014. The judges have been furiously eating their way around the country, and top restaurants are licking their lips in the hope of cracking the Top 20 list, from which the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurants will be announced at the gala dinner in the V&A Waterfront on 10 November.
Given the turmoil in the judging of our country’s Top 10 restaurants in the past two years, Eat Out publisher New Media Publishing communicated with the industry, and invited past Top 20 chefs and some restaurant owners to chat about what they want in restaurant awards. The overwhelming majority of respondents requested a panel of South African judges (British blogger ‘judge’ Bruce Palling used last Continue reading →
We have predicted the Eat Out Top restaurants in the past few years, and this year we are presenting three Eat Out Top 10 list options, based on Eat Out editor Abigail Donnelly’s potential approaches to selecting the award-winning restaurants, which she had rubber-stamped by now ex-judge UK blogger Bruce Palling!
The judging criteria are clearly specified on the Eat Out website: the restaurant must have operated for 12 full months (this is why The Pot Luck Club had to be dropped off the Top 20 list!), and the same chef must have run the kitchen for the period; the owners and the chef should show an absolute passion for their business; they should be dedicated to uplifting the industry (an odd criterion, not being clear if this is meant to be staff upliftment, or sharing with chef colleagues?); chefs should care about sourcing quality produce; and consistency and excellence must shine through every aspect of the business. The judging score is out of 100, of which 70% goes to Food, its website says, but the figures don’t add up, in that 15 points go to menu composition and seasonality (defined as ‘choice, cooking techniques, dietary requirements, local ingredients, choice of fish, out-of-season ingredients‘), 15 points go to presentation (defined as ‘visual appeal, fits description, use of plate, garnishes’), and 25 points go to taste (defined as execution of dish, balanced, flavours complimentary, texture’), totalling 55 out of 70. The missing 15 points are not clarified, but some must be the non-food aspects, as they add up to 100! In addition, wine is evaluated out of 10 points (defined as ‘choice, other beverages offered, staff knowledge, pairing and value for money‘), Value for money scores out of 5, Service is evaluated out of 20 (defined as ‘reservation, arrival, staff attitude and knowledge, specials, wine matching, dietary requirements, extra mile, billing’), and ambiance is scored out of 10 (defined as ‘comfort level, cleanliness, cutlery, music and bathrooms‘).
To recap, the following Top 19 Restaurants are in the running for the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant list:
Cape Town: Bistrot Bizerca, The Greenhouse, La Colombe, Planet Restaurant, The Roundhouse, The Test Kitchen
Stellenbosch: Delaire Graff, Jordan Restaurant with George Jardine, Makaron Restaurant, Overture, Rust en Vrede, Terroir, Tokara
Franschhoek: Babel, Pierneef à La Motte, The Tasting Room
Other: DW Eleven-13, Hartford House, Restaurant Mosaic
We called our first Top 10 Restaurant list the Taste Monitor, doing a count of the number of times a Top 19 Eat Out restaurant has been featured in Taste magazine this year, of which Mrs Donnelly is the Food editor, to show which chefs she is partial to. It is no surprise that Chef Luke Dale-Roberts wins, having been featured in every issue, and he would be the only restaurant on the Top 10 list on this basis, all other Top 19 restaurant contenders having only been featured once or twice, if at all, in the past year. Advertising for La Motte, Delaire Graff, and Makaron restaurants has appeared in the magazine this year, as well as a promotion for Delaire Graff.
Another criterion would be the Trend to Foraging, Ethical sourcing, and Vegetable and Herb Gardening, and the following restaurants would feature on this list, in no particular order, based on our knowledge and what the restaurant websites claim: Pierneef à La Motte, Delaire Graff, Overture, Babel, The Tasting Room, The Greenhouse, Planet Restaurant, Makaron, and Hartford House.
To compile the Top 10 Restaurant List, we have had to put ourselves into Mrs Donnelly’s shoes: she will have chosen her favourites and those that she has had links to, having shown her bias in judging restaurants this year and last year. The hardest part is to decide which of her existing Top 10 favourites will have to fall off the existing Top 10 list to make way for others. No offence is meant by any exclusions, and is purely based on speculation:
* The Test Kitchen – there is no doubt that The Test Kitchen will be named Top Restaurant and Luke Dale-Roberts as Top Chef, on the basis of the monthly shoot at his restaurant for Taste magazine alone. 74th position on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Speaker at Eat Out Conference. Restaurant booked up to 3 months ahead. Oddly described as serving Tapas by Eat Out, maybe confusing it with The Pot Luck Club?
* Pierneef à La Motte – Chef Chris Erasmus showed that he strives for excellence in spending one month working at Noma, the world’s best restaurant, has the most fabulous vegetable and herb garden filled with unusual vegetables, herbs, and edible flowers, collegially sharing the produce with other restaurants in Franschhoek and Stellenbosch, has excellent wines on its winelist, and proudly focuses on local cuisine. Superb interior, reasonable value. Culinary Manager Hetta Van Deventer-Terblanche is speaking at the Eat Out Conference, and La Motte has advertised in Taste magazine. Service deficiencies would lose the restaurant some points.
* Makaron Restaurant – Chef Tanja Kruger is a member of the SA Culinary Olympic Team, spent a month working at Michelin-star L’Apèrge restaurant in Paris this year, has a vegetable and herb garden at Majeka House, and sources meat from Farmer Angus at Spier. Mrs Donnelly was a consultant to the restaurant, designing its first menu last year, and named the restaurant the inaugural winner of the Boschendal Style Award 2011, making it a model Eat Out restaurant! Sommelier Josephine Gutentoft adds to the quality offering. Good ambiance. Placed advertisement in Taste magazine this year.
* Babel at Babylonstoren – Consultant Maranda Engelbrecht has created a restaurant that is booked out two months in advance, and has created a most unusual food concept of same-colour salads, consisting of fruit, vegetables and herbs, grown in their enormous French-inspired garden. Chef Simone Rossouw worked at a Dutch restaurant for a while earlier this year. Owner Karen Roos has impeccable decor taste, very less-is-more. First wine vintage launched, and very Proudly Simonsberg wines. Good value, service strained when busy.
* Tokara – Chef Richard Carstens deserved a Top 10 place last year, but was shockingly left off the list, perhaps because there was a fear that he would not last at the restaurant. He has proven Mrs Donnelly very wrong. One of our most creative chefs, and constantly reinventing himself and his team. Seasonal focus. Exceptional presentation. Very professional service, with sommelier service. Winner of best Winelands Restaurant in Great Wine Capitals Global Network awards second year running.
* The Greenhouse – Chef Peter Tempelhoff is understated and low key, just getting on with what he does best. Own vegetable garden on the hotel estate, knowledgeable about wines, Chef Peter making wines with Adam Mason. One of only two Relais & Châteaux Grand Chefs in South Africa, awarded to Chef Peter earlier this year. Named Top Eat Out Restaurant last year. Service can be arrogant. Fun interpretation of restaurant name in dishes. Expensive. Sommelier service. Innovative 7-course Dom Perignon Tasting Menu introduced today.
* La Colombe – Chef Scot Kirton worked with Chef Luke Dale-Roberts, and has proven that he can do it with his own team too. Best winelist and sommelier in the country in Diner’s Club Winelist Awards this year.
* DW Eleven-13 – we know that Bruce Palling flew to Johannesburg to judge the restaurant.
* Delaire Graff – Chef Christiaan Campbell has strong ethical food principles, sources from Farmer Angus, his own vegetable garden, as well as from La Motte, seasonal menus, good plating, exceptional setting with its view on to the Simonsberg, outstanding service, exceptional decor with artworks by top local artists, very expensive. Placed advertisement and ran promotion in Taste magazine this year.
* The Tasting Room – Best placed South African restaurant on The World’s 50 Best Restaurant list, even though it slipped badly to 57th position this year, Chef Margot Janse sourcing herbs and vegetables from the La Motte garden, and meats from Farmer Angus at Spier. Very expensive. Service and wine list is criticised. New decor by Chef Margot’s brother. Speaker at Eat Out Conference. Loses points for banning customers.
We have excluded Bistrot Bizerca because of its move to new premises while the 2012 Eat Out edition was being printed; Terroir, Jordan Restaurant with George Jardine, and Rust en Vrede for being under the radar; The Roundhouse, for Chef PJ Vadas leaving during the course of the year, which should have disqualified the restaurant from being on the Top 20 list; Hartford House and Restaurant Mosaic, for judge Bruce Palling not having visited, as far as we can tell from his Tweets; Planet Restaurant, for not yet shaking off its hotel connection and what that entails, despite Chef Rudi’s impressive sourcing of produce and their excellent sommelier; and Overture, whose Chef Bertus Basson may have been burning the candle at both ends this year with his Amazink, Die Wors-Rol, The Ultimate Braaimaster, and consulting contracts.
We look forward to the Eat Out DStv Food Network Top 10 Restaurant Awards, to be held at The Westin hotel on Sunday evening.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
Eat Out 2012 Top Chef Luke Dale-Roberts of The Test Kitchen has developed a full Christmas lunch range for Woolworths, allowing South African families to taste the quality of his food preparation at the most special time of the year.
The Luke Dale-Roberts Woolworths Christmas range consists of a starter of Smoked Salmon, which Chef Luke cured and smoked with rooibos tea, then painted it with pomegranate molasses, and topped it with fresh dill, and grated orange and lemon rind. An alternative starter is The Sausage, which Chef Luke has made as a Christmas Toulouse, adding duck, ginger and cranberries, which should be put on a braai. Main courses are The Lamb Supreme, which he filled with Italian-style stuffing, and added cranberries, fresh herbs, and pine nuts (R164,99 per kg), as well as The Gammon- style belly, to which he added whole spice, orange peel, and fresh ginger root, smoking it, and then cooking it at 85°C for five hours. For the Christmas meal Chef Luke developed a range of relishes: cranberry, sesame and miso dressing (R24,95); summer fruit and kumquat cumberland relish (R24,95); mince pie chutney (R24,95); and truffle, walnut and fig pesto (R29,95). For dessert Chef Luke designed a red Christmas pudding made from summer berries (R169,95), which he paired with his special Christmas mess ice cream (R59,95 per litre).
In the Woolworths advertisement for his Christmas range, Chef Luke writes: “The moment I was briefed, I knew I had to create a new-age, innovative approach to Christmas lunch that would make it easy and very special for you. My main aim was to keep the traditional spiciness…the nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, and whole spice, the pomegranates, orange peel and Christmas pie filling. Keep them, but lighten them, make them South African, and above all, make them FUN!”
The Luke Dale-Roberts Christmas range is available until 25 December, at Woolworths at Cavendish Square, Canal Walk, Constantia Village, Gardens Centre, Hout Bay, Piazza St John in Sea Point, Plettenberg Bay, Somerset Mall, Tyger Valley, the V&A Waterfront, as well as at some Woolworths stores in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Port Elizabeth, and Durban. It is not easy to see the Luke Dale-Roberts Christmas product range in the Woolworths stores, as they are not displayed in one space.
Chef Luke and his family are featured in the December issue of TASTE magazine, to publicise his Christmas range.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage
Today is World Diabetes Day, celebrating the birthdate of Frederick Banting, who in 1922 discovered insulin with Charles Best. Until a year ago diabetes would have meant nothing to me, and I knew very little about this ‘disease’ which 346 million persons in the world have, it is estimated, and is known as the ‘silent killer’, as its symptoms are so subtle, and one does not feel ill.
I have drunk a lot of water out of choice for years, but did not realise that a lot of this was out of thirst, and this is one of the first signs of diabetes. It was itchy feet (and sometimes fingers) on alternate days that took me to my doctor, and he had me tested for thyroid and threw in a blood sugar test as well. The result was a surprise – no thyroid problem, but a blood sugar reading of 12,2 was unacceptably high, in that it should ideally be below 6. While I can be grateful that it is the far less threatening Type 2 Diabetes, which is treatable through eating and lifestyle changes and medication, without insulin injections, it was the horror stories that I was told that were a good incentive to take this ‘disease’ seriously and to get the blood sugar level under control.
The doctor prescribed Glucophage, the best known diabetes medication. I was also referred to Sea Point dietitian Heidi Lobel, and with Heidi’s help have lost 25 kg in the past year, and reduced the blood sugar level to 7 – 8, without suffering in any way!
Diabetes is largely rectified via weight loss, and therefore Heidi put me on a standard weight loss eating programme, and a change in the way of eating, eating six smaller meals per day instead of three bigger meals, and changing my haphazard irregular eating. Similar to Weight Watchers and Weighless style programmes, one is allowed an allocation (about a palmful) of food types per day: 6 carbohydrates, 3 fruits, 4 proteins, 2 milks, and 3 fats. It is not recommended that any of these groups are excluded. I cut out butter, margarine, white/light bread, yellow cheese, cakes, and chocolate bars immediately, and do not miss them at all. I changed my main courses choices from steak to kingklip. I have tried very hard to avoid desserts at restaurants, not always with success. Luckily wine in moderation is allowed, and dark chocolate is not ideal but healthier than milk chocolate. I enjoyed toasted rye and Low GI bread, and could not believe how good anything on this toast tastes, without a spread underneath. I received a blood sugar testing kit from my pharmacy in Bantry Bay, and test the blood sugar level every few weeks. I went to Heidi to be weighed every two weeks, and to discuss any problems with her, and this frequency has been relaxed to once a month. I enjoy eating out, but do so less often, and will ‘make up for it’ the days after. Doing exercise is another way to deal with diabetes, and is a challenge to do more often – the Green Point Urban Park is a wonderful space in which to walk. I have learnt to read pack labels, and Woolworths packs are excellent in providing a detailed breakdown of the food content. The fat and carbohydrate levels are the most valuable pieces of information on these, with maximum acceptable levels set.
In talking about diabetes, I was surprised to hear that Dear Me Foodworld Chef Vanessa Marx is diabetic, and this motivated her to design her daily menu with diabetics in mind, offering sugar-free options to some dishes, in addition to gluten-free and lactose-free dishes for those with allergies. This is the only restaurant that caters for diabetics. One would like to see more diabetes-friendly restaurants, reducing the salt and fat content of their foods, serving smaller portions, and offering rye bread. It is regular restaurant-goers that are more likely to be or become diabetic, and restaurants should be responsible in understanding this ‘disease’, and catering for it. Surprising too was to hear that Eat Out and TASTE editor Abigail Donnelly is diabetic too, a hard challenge for her, having to eat out so often in selecting the Top 10 Restaurants.
Being diagnosed with diabetes is a blessing in disguise, and has been an early warning to lead a more healthy lifestyle, and an eating pattern which is healthier, less fattening but still very enjoyable.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
One of the highlights of the Toffie Food Festival and Conference was the entertaining and informative talk by Dr Anna Trapido, author of ‘Hunger for Freedom – The Story of Food in the Life of Nelson Mandela’, which came alive for all of us through a most unusual lunch.
Inspired by Dr Trapido’s book, TASTE magazine and Woolworths had created a 19-course meal, each course individually packaged and numbered, and packed in a paper bag with a legend, referencing each item with a phase in Madiba’s life. The idea was that the delegates were to collectively eat their food from the packet as Dr Trapido talked us through each of the stages of Madiba’s life, and explained the meaning of food to him in each of these stages. It was a tremendous amount of information to comprehend in the hour, and I was very fortunate to obtain Dr Trapido’s notes after the presentation.
Dr Trapido told us that her book is not a cookbook, but rather a ‘gastro-political biography’, and demonstrated that one comes full circle to one’s beginning through the food one eats. Foods we like says who we are, she said, and food can be used to express love, dislike, wealth, poverty, protest, celebration, and reconciliation. A number of women were important in Madiba’s life in preparing food for him, but are not recognised in his biographies. Madiba’s fellow prisoners have been interviewed, and tell the same story over and over again. Telling the story of Madiba’s life via his food is unique. She quoted Madiba as saying: “I was not born with a hunger to be free. I was born free. Free in every way that I could know…. It was only when I learnt that my boyhood freedom was an illusion … that I began to hunger for it.”
Madiba’s story commenced in Mvezo, born as Rolihlahla Mandela on 18 July 1918, and here his mother Nosekeni gave him Amasi to drink, still his favourite sour milk drink. ‘Amasi is the ricotta of Southern Africa’, said Dr Trapido. Madiba wrote about amasi:“I long for amasi – the food for which I loved to sharpen my teeth and to stretch out my tummy, the act that I really enjoyed, went straight into my blood and into my heart and that produced perfect contentment.”
As a teenager Madiba’s father lost his job as headman, and he therefore sent his wives and children to their respective traditional homes. Madiba spent his teenage years in Qunu, his mother’s home, and here he met Winnie Matyolo at school, who became his first girlfriend. This was a posh family, eating with cutlery. When he went to eat at her home, they tried to discourage the courtship by preparing a half-cooked chicken and giving Madiba cutlery, which he had never previously used. The chicken went flying off the plate. The girlfriend’s sister mocked his inability to eat with cutlery, to which the girlfriend replied that she would teach him. Each delegate had a chicken wing in their lunch pack, and was challenged to eat it with the plastic knife and fork in our pack!
At the Clerksbury Boarding School Madiba often was given a scone with apricot jam by Mrs Harris, the headmaster’s wife, a ‘royal feast’ for him at the time, and a taste he did not forget. In 1938 he went to study at Fort Hare University, but was expelled the following year for supporting a strike by the kitchen staff. Madiba moved to Johannesburg, living with the Xhoma family, and through them he met Walter Sisulu, an ANC activist, and a number of later leaders of the ANC Youth League, Oliver Tambo being one of them. Through Sisulu, an estate agent who brought lots of conveyancing work to the law firm Witkin, Sidelsky & Eidelman, Madiba was employed as an articled clerk as a favour to Sisulu. Saving his money to buy candles with which to study through UNISA at night, he was often hungry at work. His colleague Nat Bregman shared his pastrami sandwich, by asking Madiba to pull it, as we did with our neighbour at the Festival, and this represented the Communist Party, which shared everything, Madiba was told. In Johannesburg he met the Naidoo family, and Manonomany Naidoo made a meal of crab curry and rice, the first time that Madiba ate curry and crabs, disliking the taste initially, but he became fond of Indian food generally, and crab curry specifically, over time.
In Johannesburg Madiba met Walter Sisulu’s cousin Evelyn in 1944, and they married a year later. They were married for twelve years and had four children. In this period he became a lawyer, father, and political activist. Evelyn was a nurse, and kept the family afloat financially initially. He loved having his own home, and inviting guests, unannounced to his wife, for dinners. He planted a peach tree in the garden, the fruit of which went into many favorite dishes. In 1952 a Defiance Campaign for the Defence of Unjust Laws was initiated by the ANC, and Madiba was its Volunteer-in-Chief. In five months after its launch, 8000 people were imprisoned for using ‘Whites only’ facilities. It led to a six-month banning order, and Madiba was not allowed to leave Johannesburg, or talk to more than one person at one time. His wife was happy to have her husband at home for dinner more often! Madiba and Oliver Tambo opened a law firm in 1953, and many cases related to food, drink and land, e.g. women brewing and selling beer in Cato Manor, and prison labourers exploited on potato farms. The ANC’s Freedom Charter was adopted in 1956, but led to the arrest of Madiba and many others, to be released on bail. It was Madiba’s political commitments and Evelyn’s religious dedication that led to the failure of the marriage, and they divorced in 1957. Madiba and the Rivonia trialists were served Besan Ladoo by Thayanagee Pillay for the five years of the trial, as were we as delegates. Black persons were not allowed to drink alcohol, so George Bizos, their lawyer, served small tots of alcohol, in case there was a police raid.
Madiba met Winnie, the first social worker in Soweto and a very attractive socialite, featured in DRUM magazine, and it was love at first sight, in that Madiba asked her to marry him at the first lunch they had at a Johannesburg restaurant, one of only two at which Black persons were allowed to eat. She was less enamoured with the lunch, as they were served curry, a dish she had never eaten before, and it made her eyes water and her nose run. They married a year later. For the wedding at Winnie’s family home in Bizana, Madiba and his friends had to obtain special permission to have the conditions of their banning order relaxed, to attend. Winnie removed the top layer of the wedding cake, and wanted to take it to Madiba’s family in Qunu, but as they only had 6 days before returning to Johannesburg, Winnie returned with the wedding cake. For the next thirty years it accompanied Winnie: For me, it became a symbol of our love. I kept it in memory of our wedding and in hopes of a life that never was. There I was, the most unmarried woman. I had never lived with him…The cake was really all I knew about marriage… I clung to the cake…”. In 1988 the cake was destroyed, when the family house burnt down in Soweto.
After the treason trial collapsed in 1961, Umkhonto weSizwe was formed, with Madiba as Commander-in-Chief, and the High Command included Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki and Joe Slovo. Madiba went into hiding at Lilliesleaf Farm in Rivonia. Winnie was smuggled in on occasion, and was very upset when her husband cooked her a lovely steak and pea, and fruit platter lunch, it looking far too perfect, and made her suspicious as to who had taught Madiba. In 1961 Madiba went on a trip through Africa, to collect monies for the ANC. On his return, he went to Durban to report back to Chief Luthuli, head of the ANC. Madiba ate at the home of the Naidoo’s, who made him a feast of chicken and mutton curry. On his return, Madiba was arrested. In 1962 Madiba was charged with inciting a strike and leaving the country without a valid travel permit. He was sentenced to five years on Robben Island. Food rations were very sparse. Prisoners went on a hunger strike, and they were punished with hard labour. A raid of Lilliesleaf Farm led to the arrest of the Umkhonto weSizwe High Command, and Madiba’s link to it was uncovered, and he returned to Pretoria to stand trial. He had lost a lot of weight, and fellow trialist Denis Goldberg passed him a piece of chocolate, which the judge saw, as it was visible in Madiba’s cheek. In 1964 the accused were sentenced to life imprisonment, and sent to Robben Island. Here food was allocated on the basis of population group. Black prisoners were given a 250g mealie, 250g vegetables, 15g fat, 1 cup of coffee, 55g phuzamandla, 15g salt, and 60g meat per day, without any bread. Coloured and Indian prisoners were served 250g bread, 250g vegetables, 30g fat, 2 cups of coffee, 15g salt, 60g sugar, and 110g meat. Only 16 years later the meals at Robben Island were ‘de-racialised’. Warders and prison gangsters stole the meat and the warders urinated at their food when they worked outside. Offences by prisoners were ‘rewarded’ with meals being taken away, and rice water only was served to prisoners in the isolation cells (we received some too in our lunch pack, but were advised not to drink it, due to its awful taste). Food was smuggled in, e.g. by a Hindu priest, who dropped some chillies on the floor, from which the prisoners used the seeds to plant on the island, to spice up their food, mixed with olive oil which they could request for ‘constipation’ from the hospital, to make their food more palatable. Dullah Omar’s wife Farida regularly tried to smuggle in food via his briefcase, but it was usually found and confiscated. She did manage to get bananas through on one occasion. Messages were transferred from studying prisoners, who had access to cellotape, and sealed messages with it at the bottom of the pots. At Christmas the prisoners earned the right to buy sugar, dried fruit and cocoa from the prison shop. Using pieces of bread, cocoa, sugar and currants soaked in phuzamandla, they made themselves a Christmas cake.
In 1982 Madiba, Walter Sisulu and some other prisoners were transferred to Pollsmoor, and here the food was much better. Dullah Omar’s smuggling of his wife’s samoosas, rotis and curries was much more successful. At this time, then-President PW Botha and Henry Kissinger argued over the release of Madiba over a malva pudding, according to Francois Ferreira, then PW Botha’s chef. A bout of TB allowed Madiba to be sent to Constantiaberg Medi-Clinic, the first Black patient in this hospital. Kind nurses smuggled in ‘real’ food, like pizzas, chocolate mousse, and even arranged a Christmas party in his room. He started learning social mores from the nurses. In 1988 Madiba was moved to Victor Verster, and lived in a prison warders’ house (now called Mandela House), kitted out with a microwave oven, fridge, stove, toaster, and a personal chef, being Warrant Officer Jack Swart, who taught Madiba to make gemmerbier. In 1989 Walter Sisulu, Ahmed Kathrada, and two more prisoners were released, in the same year that FW de Klerk became State President.
On 11 February 1990 Madiba walked his first steps to freedom out of Victor Verster with his wife Winnie, spoke to the people of South Africa from the Cape Town City Hall balcony, and spent the first night at the home of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. They didn’t know what Madiba liked to eat, so they prepared Tutu’s favourite meal. Madiba’s first meal of freedom was chicken curry with rice, and rum and raisin ice cream with custard. Returning to Johannesburg, he re-connected with Mrs Pillay and Mrs Naidoo, as well as his old colleague Nat Bregman. In 1992 Madiba and Winnie divorced, and Madiba moved to Houghton. Xoliswa Ndoyiya is his cook, and has been cooking for him for the past twenty years, making tripe, oxtail, isophu, umbhakho, dombolo and umxhaxha. Madiba won the Nobel Peace Price with FW de Klerk in 1993. In May 1994 Madiba was inaugurated as the new Present of South Africa. His inauguration dinner was organised by the National Party, and the meal consisted of some non-South African dishes, such as Mexican chicken and Spanish rice, but potjiekos and bobotie were included on the menu, as was the only traditional dish umngqusho. The meal was served with Graham Beck sparkling wine.
Madiba used food as reconciliation, and invited all former First Ladies to a dinner. Betsie Verwoerd declined, but invited Madiba to come for tea in Orania, a White-only community. He accepted, being the first Black person to visit Orania, and she served koeksisters. Mrs Verwoerd commented afterwards that Madiba was a ‘real gentleman’. We laughed when Dr Trapido told a story about a trip by Madiba to the United Kingdon, staying at the Dorchester Hotel, where he missed his traditional food. He demanded that umphokoqo be flown in from home, the container wrapped up to look like a present, so that it could get through Customs. Madiba’s PA Zelda la Grange was on standby to contact then-Prime Minister Tony Blair to intervene, should the important package not find its way to the Dorchester Hotel!
Madiba met Graça Machel in 1990, and she visited the family home in Qunu with Madiba in 1996 for the first time, making a traditional Mozambican Christmas meal, with prawns, crabs and other seafood. The family had never eaten such foods, and craved meat, but over the years they have come to love ‘Aunty Graça’s’ seafood. Since his third marriage, Madiba has been encouraged to breakfast later, and to eat what he enjoys, e.g. Frosties with warm milk, double toffee ice cream, and ribs. Madiba moved to Qunu recently, and is expected to stay there, having gone back full circle to where he started his love for traditional Xhosa food.
‘Hunger for Freedom – The Story of Food in the Life of Nelson Mandela’, Anna Trapido.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage