THE FAMILY THAT EATS TOGETHER
Afriend I met up with recently who I haven’t seen in years said to me, “I love that you have a family now. You’ve always been good at family.” That meant a lot to me, especially as my family, the one I chose, not the one I was born into, arrived quite suddenly and I wasn’t entirely prepared.
The Salad Dodger has two sons from his first marriage. When we first met they were 13 and 17 and lived in Durban. So I was almost 20 years into my career and starting to wonder if there was a family in my future, when I found myself on a group holiday in Hermanus with the SD and two very hungry teenage boys. I remember my mother and I producing an absurd quantity of French toast one morning and thinking, “We’re going to need a bigger batch…”
Wayde and Nicholas would come to Cape Town for most of their holidays and I would spend a large part of those holidays feeding them. I did this happily – I love cooking for people, or I wouldn’t be writing this at all, and once Nicholas got over his various food “intolerances” they were both, like their father, wonderfully appreciative of every plate I put in front of them. They are still like that – the best, most grateful customers a home cook could ever wish for. I remember watching Wayde eat his first crayfish and Nicholas discover that Greek lamb youvetsi was great with yoghurt. “It doesn’t seem right,” he said, aged 14, “but it works.” And my heart swelled with pride.
Both boys ended up moving to
Cape Town permanently in their late teens, just after the SD and I moved in together, so our table was full from the start. I quickly learnt that my standard Bolognese made with 500 grams of beef mince was not going to touch sides. When I make it now, I use one kilogram of beef mince, 500 grams of pork, a whole bottle of tomato passata and two packets of tagliatelle. We seldom have leftovers.
Necessity meant that I learnt about cooking in bulk early on. Abi’s recipes (see page 53) will make it into the rotation now, but then it was huge lambknuckle bredies, chicken curries and pork ghoulash cooked in my biggest 6-litre Le Creuset pot.
This was a gift from my mother, who has one the same size. Since Holly’s birth, she has brought it over almost every week full of stew or soup or Bolognese made with two kilograms of mince. That’s what mothers do in my family. They feed you.
The problem is my “big batch” meals (and my mother’s) never really make it past the weekend. Moderation is not a tradition in our house, but big family dinners are. The Salad Dodger loves nothing more than sitting at the head of his table on a Sunday night listening to all of us talking at the same time and trying to disguise his third helping.
Earlier this year, my older stepson moved to London to find his fortune, so our Sunday family dinners are a little smaller. But appropriately, while we were working on this issue, he was visiting Cape Town, at the same time as my brother who has lived in Los Angeles for 15 years. So this past Friday night, we had the big family dinner to beat them all.
My mother arrived with her Le Creuset pot full of braised shortribs and a giant bowl of mashed potato, I made yellowtail ceviche to have with corn tacos, and everyone tried to keep Holly away from the red wine while playing 30 Seconds. And then a family that was only half as big six years ago, and now lives across three continents, sat down to a meal that was 20 years in the making.
It was worth the wait.
“MY ‘BIG BATCH’ MEALS NEVER MAKE IT PAST THE WEEKEND. MODERATION IS NOT A TRADITIONIN OUR HOUSE, BUT BIG FAMILY DINNERS ARE”