Marlene van der Westhuizen spends three months a year in the French countryside and offers cooking classes. Her book Secrets of a French Cooking Class has just been published.
South Africans seem to love the French countryside…
There’s something that resonates with us: the way the French treat visitors as generously as we do, their lavish table culture that feels so familiar, the shared enjoyment of events and festivals. The peace.
What do you get there that’s not the same in South Africa?
You’re always conscious of the refined and very old history: beautiful buildings, cathedrals and churches; cobbled streets; ringing church bells.
When and how did you end up in the village Charroux?
Thanks to my sister’s help, I offered my first cooking class in Boussac 13 years ago and, 3 years later we bought a cottage in the centre of the 12th-century village Charroux.
The French are known for their market culture… for buying fresh ingredients for dinner daily. Why is a market visit here usually a weekend
outing and not a daily ritual?
We’re starting to get it almost right. We surely can make a plan so producers and gardeners can pitch a table twice a week in public places in and around our towns and cities to sell their products directly to the public.
What have your classes over there taught you about the way South Africans eat?
Philosopher Marthinus Versfeld’s books made me realise what a tremendous privilege it is to dish up a meal you’ve prepared with your own hands for someone else. That person literally trusts you with their life. That’s why you need to approach the food, the table and the conversation around the table with a warm heart. As I say in Secrets, put a flower in the milk jug and wear your red dress.
• Read more about 2015’s classes at goodfoodco.co.za.
• We’re giving away copies of Secrets of a French Cooking Class − turn to page 21. >