The last time I wrote to you it was a touch warmer than this, it feels like eons since I last wrote, most especially now that I meet you in a different season.
It’s that crisp time to turn inward for comfort and introspection – time really to make home cosy, warm and intimate. It’s the time when fires, soft lamps and candles need to be lit and kitchens need to have something slow cooking at leisure – as much to heat up the home with warmth as it is to nourish us. Yet we’re still not all that good with cooking in that way and making kitchens – those types of places in Jozi.
I’m going to suggest here today that a whole host of problems can be soothed if we relate differently to our kitchens. If we make them the hubs of comfort in uncertain times, that they have always been throughout history.
Up until industrialisation that is, when we focused more on outsourcing our pantries to food corporates and the health of everything deteriorated as volumes and quantity became valued over quality.
The promise at the time was that woman especially would have more ‘time’ on their hands to accomplish more and to work if they let big food feed their families ‘conveniently’. So women got to spend less time cooking, kitchens got smaller and woman got out – to do more.
Convenient food was marketed as the answer to how woman could have more time for pursuing anything outside of the home and food was sold to us off conveyor belts. It was a rather lucrative turn of history for food manufacturing and utterly devastating to the health of everything else, soil, water, air, human and animal health and also largely, the death of the communal dinner table.
That vital place of connection for a family returning from daily different worlds.
We entered into an era of microwave and tv dinners. The culture of how we eat changed as our health declined and we became accustomed to outsourcing our nutrition to others.
We are currently trying to carve out an alternative path to something different where food is returned to the sacred place it was meant to take as the cornerstone of connection, nourishment and community.
With the caliber of produce we have, I personally find it really difficult to justify eating out to eat anonymous food or having to rely on another establishment to entertain my senses in a way that is fulfilling. I’m only going to bother nowadays if the food and experience is exceptional, otherwise I can create something way better at a third of the price at home using the best ingredients from these special farms.
Spending a lot of money to have someone else prepare food for you that costs a lot for the experience and generally isn’t going to be food that comes from a great source seems to be an experience we put ourselves through – a lot.
More worryingly – it has become a marker of success.
The question is why and is there any reason to change that?
Well, that all depends on the reasons you’re choosing to go out. What it is meant to medicate I suppose.
I found myself wanting to understand what motivates other people to want to rather go out and eat somebody else’s food on somebody else’s chairs, in somebody else’s atmosphere – more than creating it themselves when they can then be in charge of the quality of nourishment – and taste – better than anyone else? I think it has a lot to do with the disconnect between our own relationship to food and our kitchens as much as too that there is a general unspoken rule in society that the more you earn, the more you should be going out.
Yet, are you really getting great food most of the time you do?
It’s something I wanted to look into more deeply at a time when things are tight and people are watching their grocery spend more closely.
Eating out and alcohol spend does decline in tough times and there can be no doubt right now that we are in one of those and that few are not affected by this. Yet it does not decline to the same degree as spend on whole ingredients to cook does. With our downgrade to junk status, it’s not looking like this is going to be easing up any time soon and it’s a cautious tentative gaze we cast on the South African future at the moment.
For everybody. No matter your financial status, it is there. Most people are feeling under pressure.
Why am I venturing here when I’m the lady that talks about organic food issues – because this is very topical to food and well-being.
When people are strained economically – they go out more to eat and cook at home – less.
The moment there is political uncertainty, most certainly every time our President does something outlandish (every 3 hours) and right now with the country on a knife edge of tension as a whole host of unspoken toxins rise into focus, people are insecure – and everybody is feeling the financial squeeze.
We’re arguing about politics, we’re arguing about race, we’re arguing about religion, we’re arguing about who is privileged and who isn’t, whose fault this was and whose fault that was and wow, it’s like a mass yelling match of issues and differences that need to be resolved in society all up in the air for one large fight and debate.
We’re all trying to work out where we fit, what we are and what we aren’t, what we believe in and what we don’t. These are defining, turbulent and healing times. The boil must explode before it can heal.
We all behave differently in times like these and our priorities adjust. These are times when we are forced to reevaluate all our priorities, most especially as it relates to what we spend our money on.
When economic times are harder – people cook with whole ingredients – less. Alcohol sales go up, spend on entertainment gets prioritized over buying whole ingredients to cook at home.
This seems unexpected but actually when you look more deeply into it – it makes a whole lot of sense – though it isn’t all that – sensible – which is different.
So I ask myself – why aren’t people inviting friends and family over more and focusing on buying beautiful ingredients and entertaining at home rather than spending constrained budgets out eating mostly sub-standard food?
The answers always revolve around a few key facts quite particular perhaps to Jozi living. People are time impoverished in this fast-paced town of ours.
The idea of shopping, the traffic and parking that comes with that, prepping and cooking makes us feel overwhelmed and we want a relief from ‘overwhelmed’ so we go out to eat and too often end up ‘underwhelmed’. Yet it beats the idea of worrying at home and dealing with the latest mess your kids made really and who did or didn’t replace the toilet roll or stack the dishwasher.
I think we invest more in escape as a priority when times are tough.
Yet, in times of strain, we need deep nourishment the most as our immune systems are more vulnerable.
When you eat out, you for the most are not going to be eating produce from organic farms.
You’re going to be eating mostly produce from factory farms.
No matter how well it is presented, you probably aren’t going to be feeling great afterwards. You most certainly, in most places, are not going to be able to see the farmer behind your food – the food is anonymous.
The point is – unless you are going to get a really good eating out experience, that is comforting, nourishing and entertaining and that really provides you with a great escape that helps – you could get just as much out of spending that money on good food from great farmers of great quality and preparing something delicious at home.
Then spend your entertainment money out rather at good restaurants where there is a focus on the quality of ingredients. That might mean only going out once in a month to a really good restaurant and spending the rest of your time cooking and entertaining at home, but rather that from a nourishment point of view than eating out four times a month at places that are going to serve you food from industrial farming that isn’t going to give you much more than a headache, a bloated stomach or inflammatory pains for many.
I know that if you take that spend and rather choose to buy good ingredients and entertain at home, you can have a far more rewarding time for less of the price while eating the tastiest and healthiest food.
To get everybody to feel that though, I need to entice you back into the kitchen and hope to pass on just how nourishing an experience it can be to be in the kitchen making beautiful food.
Because of farmers of this calibre and the quality of the produce we have – you do not need to be an amazing cook to produce the most delicious, satisfying food at home.
The farmer has done all the work for you. Every time I get accused of being a good cook, I correct people. It’s really not me – it’s just that I am blessed to have the best ingredients on hand because of the farmers that we stand for. This food is so tasty – all on its own – it just needs love and attention and little else from you and a place to celebrate it in really.
Slow cooking – is convenient cooking. Slow cooking – means giving that thing that is our first luxury in Jozi – time – to the ingredients. That does not mean hours in front of a stove.
Quite the contrary – slow cooking means hours between the evolvement of a great dish for you to do something else in.
You cannot produce anything other than incredibly tasty food with these two ingredients – produce from good organic farmers and time. That’s all you need.
You need your kitchen to be a place that is soothing for you. Put candles in it – get a speaker into that kitchen so that you are surrounded with your favourite music – invite people whose company you adore to join you with a glass of their favourite wine while you cook. Honour every ingredient and just relax and experience that comfort of the creative process that nourishes.
Get other people involved, get your children involved, make it just great connection time.
A home with a kitchen with noise, chatter, laughter and happiness set amidst the most incredible smells of something cooking is a home where people can survive everything really, through connection.
My recipe this week has been such a delight, I’ve made it twice now because it was not only such a rewarding cook but the comfort it brought my family and friends was just such a pleasure.
I hope you enjoy the recipe. If you make it in the morning, you can get out and leave it to do its thing all day and come home to a pot of unctuousness and a kitchen that smells like heaven.
If you do make this curry featuring Jan’s heritage chickens – think about making a salsa to go with it from the African Horned Cucumbers – they compliment this curry as a sambal of sort but better – incredibly! There are also organic mangoes as well at the moment – also an exceptional salsa addition to this uber spicy chicken curry.
Get ready for Winter, go out only to good restaurants that really make it worth it and that focus on using responsibly sourced ingredients, feed your immune system.
We need extra nourishment as Winter approaches and while life is slightly more stressful and our landscape turbulent.
I remember last Winter noting how people ate out more and cooked at home less. Spend on eating out in Jozi goes up in Winter and spend on buying whole good ingredients went down. When I looked into that and spoke to people I learnt that it had a lot to do with the fact that people don’t know how to cook deep, slow cooked winter recipes, found their houses cold and were out looking for warmth atmosphere and warm food that had been cooked for them.
I hope to help with this by focusing on recipes for Winter and helping you connect with the pleasure of cooking hearty stews, spicy curries and food that deeply warms and nourishes so that you can warm the kitchen and fill it with people you love and not have an immune system put under further strain by needing to eat factory farmed food out.
This curry is a great start, I think.
We will be open on the public holidays until 1pm.
Stay warm, stay nourished and thank you for supporting Jan’s farm especially. For being patient with needing to put your name down on waiting lists for his produce, for being patient with the evolvement of this new farm and understanding our reluctance to push him to increase volumes.
Slowly but surely he is able to bring us more, and in between, Cassandra is endlessly running to the black book as the phone rings and putting your names down on the waiting list. It might not be convenient that much of this new produce like the heritage chickens, lamb and chicken sausages and the Friesian clotted cream can’t be available in volumes, consistently but I feel rushes of love and appreciation for the fact that you accept the limitation and value this farmer enough to grow slowly with him and put your name with Cassandra on the waiting lists.
The support of these farmers means the world to them and allows us to help them grow, slowly and in the right way without having to alter their philosophy to meet a need for volume. We never want that, we want this slow evolvement, it’s vital.