Fairlady - - CONTENTS - Ed­i­tor Suzy Brokensha

The first time I heard about a vine­gar mother was about 20 years ago in Paris. I was stay­ing with my aunt, and for din­ner she made one of those tiny sal­ads of chicory, wal­nuts and red wine vine­gar the French are fa­mous for. I had been trav­el­ling for what felt like a mil­lion years; I was tired, dirty, starv­ing and South African, and that salad was just not go­ing to cut it for me. The minute I saw it I started plan­ning to ‘go for a sight­see­ing walk’ straight af­ter din­ner – to the near­est café for some real food.

But it was one of the most de­li­cious things I’ve ever tasted – crisp, salty, crunchy, slightly bit­ter and sub­tly sweet... to­tally sat­is­fy­ing. And there was some­thing re­ally amaz­ing about the vine­gar. When I asked her about it, my aunt took what looked like a piece of raw liver in a jar out of a dark cup­board and in­tro­duced me to her vine­gar mother. It had been in the fam­ily for years, she said. All she did was feed it the odd left­over glass of wine, and in re­turn it pro­duced the soft­est, sweet­est vine­gar you can imag­ine.

When I left Paris, my aunt smug­gled a piece of her vine­gar mother into my lug­gage, which looked (and sounds) a bit Si­lence of the Lambs. It was like a blood­bath in there. I don’t know how I man­aged to get though cus­toms with­out be­ing ar­rested for ma­t­ri­cide.

Even so, I man­aged to kill that mother very quickly, ‘left­over wine’ be­ing some­thing of an un­known con­cept in our house­hold at that stage. But the taste of that vine­gar has lived with me, and I’ve been try­ing to grow my own mother ever since. It’s harder than I thought.

But this Mother’s Day (aside from my own funny, strong, smart and lov­ing real-life mother, of course – love you, Ma!), I’ll also be cel­e­brat­ing the vine­gar mother fi­nally grow­ing in a dark cup­board in my kitchen, qui­etly get­ting soz­zled on our left­over wine. We all grow up even­tu­ally.

The vine­gar it­self will take an­other two months or so to be ready – I’ll let you know how it works out. I have high hopes. In the mean­time, I hope you all have an ab­so­lutely won­der­ful month, and happy Mother’s Day!

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