THE FAM­ILY THAT EATS TO­GETHER

Woolworths TASTE - - Editor's Letter -

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”

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