RECOLLECTIONS OF A GOURMET
It gets difficult to review restaurants when everyone cooks at home these days, but a glorious chiffon cake saves the day
My career as a travelling gourmet is in trouble. I blame my friends. Instead of inviting me to fancy restaurants, these “friends” are now cooking. What am I supposed to review when I am waddling from one friend’s house to the next, full to the brim after one lovely serving after the other?
When my friends are not cooking for me they are giving me books about eating. Just the other day my friend Gavin Yeats gave me an astonishingly satisfying book called Between Meals. It’s a collection of articles by the writer AJ Liebling as he chomped his way through France in the 1940s and 1950s.
Liebling loved food. He was depressed by the rise of fads that concentrated on health at the expense of pleasure. He wrote: “In the heroic age before the First World War, there were men and women who ate, in addition to a whacking lunch and a glorious dinner, a voluminous souper after the theatre or other amusements of the evening. I have known some of the survivors, octogenarians of unblemished appetite and unfailing good humour — spry, wry, and free of the ulcers that come from worrying about a balanced diet — but they have had no emulators in
France since the doctors there discovered the existence of the human liver.
“From that time on, French life has been built to an increasing extent around that organ, and a niggling caution has replaced the old recklessness; the liver was the seat of the Maginot mentality.”
Thankfully, the liver is the least of my worries when I visit my friends. Last week I was in the Cape when my friend Greg Rosenberg and his lovely wife, Palesa, asked our family to pull in. Greg spent his day working on a pork roasting. Oh, and a great whole fish.
Plus salads and other healthy things. But it was the roast pork and Greg’s specially sourced black beans I was dying for. It was so delicious it had me thinking about Liebling again. He first proposed that his book be called Recollections of a Gourmet in France. His editor objected. The man was by now a known glutton. But what if the glutton appreciated and only ate the finest food? So I had a second go at Greg’s roast pork, rice and beans.
A few days later I hopped over to my friend Roger Jardine’s house. He is the happy husband of writer Christa Kuljian. Roger had also spent the entire day slaving at the stove. Various dishes were on offer: a Basque fish dish that had people drooling, chicken — the works. But I was there for his speciality of the day, a spicy curried tripe and butter bean stew. I again had seconds.
Fortunately not all my friends cook amazing food at home, steering me away from restaurants. At Greg’s house one of our friends had gone out and bought dessert. She found a hip, young, extremely popular new-ish breakfast place called New York Bagels. She returned with an orange chiffon cake.
They should offer a lesson in chiffon cake as part of the induction for our parliamentarians. It’s a delicate matter, baking chiffon cake. You need a special pan — but you particularly need your wits about you. If you mix it too much it flops and if you don’t stir it enough it won’t rise. The pan is not greased — the cake needs to crawl up the sides. When it is ready you unscrew the bottom and turn it upside down to cool and to prevent it falling back.
It was so delicious Liebling would have gone for seconds. So I did.
The man was by now a known glutton. But what if the glutton appreciated and only ate the finest food?
New York Bagels ★★★★
44 Harrington Street Zonnebloem, Cape Town Tel: 073-577-9132
★★★★★ Thuli Madonsela ★★★★ Excellent ★★★ Good ★★ Poor ★ Supra Mahumapelo