The taste of gen­eros­ity

go! Platteland - - CHITCHAT - Ma­dine Swart, STRAND

My friend bought a house in Raw­sonville that has an orchard, which the pre­vi­ous owner had lov­ingly tended for decades. It was the height of sum­mer when I vis­ited her for the first time, and when the time came to re­turn to the city, mesh orange bags filled with quinces, hanepoot grapes, beans and al­monds were loaded into the car.

Near Du Toit­skloof Tun­nel I was sud­denly over­whelmed by a thought: I don’t have an orchard or a veg­etable gar­den… What would I take along to give her on my next visit?

My un­easi­ness grew as I con­tem­plated the con­tents of the bags in my boot. I won­dered about the pre­vi­ous owner who had taken care of his orchard with such ded­i­ca­tion and I thought of his neigh­bours and friends who also would have re­ceived gifts like mine. In ex­change for his gen­eros­ity, he would have re­ceived things in re­turn. Grate­ful res­i­dents of Bredas­dorp might have given him fish, sour figs and wild­flow­ers; and from Lo­eries­fontein he might have re­ceived fresh meat, pre­serves and skuin­skoek.

In the Strand­veld, where I grew up, these sorts of gifts would sim­ply ap­pear on the stoep in a box or mesh orange bag. Af­ter a suc­cess­ful mul­let catch in the vlei, our neigh­bours were given a few shiny fish. Dur­ing wa­terblom­metjie or sour-fig sea­son, an ex­tra bag was al­ways dropped off, and wa­ter­mel­ons from Baardskeerder­s­bos were ex­changed for sweet pota­toes from Napier. Green figs, abalone, alikreukel, and aand­blom and sug­ar­bush flow­ers were all part of this ex­change of gifts in the com­mu­nity. It says a lot about grat­i­tude for what Mother Na­ture has pro­vided – about friend­ship, car­ing, and how peo­ple look af­ter one an­other.

The spirit of shar­ing also tells a story about the rhythm of the sea­sons and tra­di­tions. Kuku­makranka pre­served in brandy in au­tumn for stom­ach up­sets are a wel­come an­ti­dote to a gall at­tack af­ter you’ve eaten a rich mul­let.

Aand­blom time in the Over­berg win­ter is when you use the cap­ti­vat­ing fra­grance of these flow­ers to re­mind a friend of the place where she grew up. Sum­mer’s green figs and pomegranates, picked and gifted with love, do taste dif­fer­ent to those bought at a shop. Hanepoot, apri­cots, peaches and veg­eta­bles from Robert­son taste just as gen­eros­ity should taste.

The orchard in Raw­sonville also re­minded me of fam­ily to­geth­er­ness and the tra­di­tions in­volved in mak­ing these gifts. Cut­ting beans around a kitchen ta­ble, minc­ing alikreukel, steam­ing apri­cots and sour figs on the Aga… It’s a con­nec­tion with my an­ces­tors and the sense of se­cu­rity and ground­ed­ness those rit­u­als per­formed around the ta­ble must have brought. My fore­moth­ers would have known ex­actly what to do with those quinces I re­ceived, whereas I have never even made jam with my daugh­ter.

The un­writ­ten rules of liv­ing and swap­ping in a plat­te­land com­mu­nity also ex­plain my con­cern when I am in­vited to visit at a time when noth­ing flow­ers in my gar­den and I don’t have a sin­gle jar of jam in the pantry to take with me. I could, of course, buy some­thing at the shop, but at the back of my mind I know there’s an­other way of do­ing things that does not in­volve money. But it does feel as if this mind­set is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly rare, even in the plat­te­land.

Thanks to the abun­dance of pro­duce from Raw­sonville, my search for ways to bring the pre­cious gifts of the platte­land into the city and into my life has be­gun. Hope­fully, my dis­cov­er­ies will con­firm that the old way of do­ing things will never end. And that it is never too late to learn to make quince jam.

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