French flair

go! Platteland - - NEWS AND EVENTS -

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. >

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