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Bits and bobs about my life in my lovely home, Thatchwick Cottage, Pretoria, South Africa.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Wednesday, 27 May: Do I really have to?

Do I really have to play bridge to stay young? Remember a trick to remain sharp when I am an octogenarian?

A recent article in the New York Times Online cites some of the latest in aging research. Longitudinal studies of the elderly in a Californian-based retirement settlement suggest that bridge players over 90 show lower incidence of age-related dementia. Bridge players, the researchers say, regularly exercise their short term memory and remain mentally alert. Now I know that's good news for the genteel ladies portrayed above (and all my dear bridge-playing friends) but anything short of Snap played with my granddaughters just bores me to tears. Shuffle the cards and a hundred conversation topics come to my mind: "Have you read...? Have you seen...? Have you tasted...? What do you think of...? " And card players do not take kindly to chatty interruptions.

After bridge, the researchers discuss the merits of crossword puzzles and Sudoka's. Equally good for you; equally boring to me. I love to untangle a metaphor; to muse on theological mysteries; to hold a quilt pattern upside down to figure out how to join the blocks but a series of problem-solving riddles for fun? Never! I couldn't even manage multiple choice questions at school.

However, if you can't play bridge or do Sudokas, the experts continue, to miss the effects of Alzheimers and the like, you require a certain anti-aging gene carried by members of the Ashkenanzi Jewish community. Oh dear! I lose out again. Big time.

So what is left? Ah - quoth the experts - they are not really sure if it's just the gene or the bridge. It may be the social interaction that takes place at the bridge table that prevents the brain deteriorating prior to one's hundredth birthday. Respite at last! I shall nuture my many friends and keep up my social interaction to the end. And I shall recall the promise in Psalm 91: "With long life I shall satisfy him and show him My salvation."

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Wednesday, 20 may '09: Bobotie and yellow rice

I am just about to take a lunch break and cook bobotie (pronounced boo-boo-tee) which will do for my supper and freeze well for the rest of the week. Bobotie is lekker! And about as South African as you can get. It is a Malay (Indonesian) dish which was introduced in, I suppose, the 17th century during the administration of the Cape of Good Hope by the East India Company. My definition is a sort of baked curried mince with a egg custard topping.

Here is my favourite recipe, although I hardly glance at exact quantities:

2 slices of day old bread (white or brown)
375 ml milk
25 ml cooking oil
10 ml butter
2 chopped onions
2 cloves of garlic
100 ml sultanas or raisins
25 ml curry powder
25 ml cumin seeds
10 ml salt
25 ml chutney (Mrs Ball's chutney is best)
15 ml apricot jam
5 ml borrie (tumeric)
25 ml vinegar
15 ml Worcester sauce
1 kg minced beef or lamb
3 eggs
Bay leaves


1 Soak bread in milk.
2 Heat oil and butter. Brown onion and garlic. Add cumin seeds (don't burn), curry powder, salt, chutney, jam, Worcester sauce, borrie and vingar. Stir fry spices gently.
3 Add mince and brown.
4 Pour milk off bread. Set milk aside.
5 Add bread to meat mixture. Add sultanas. Mix and stir till just cooked.
6 Add beaten egg. Mix well.
7 Place mixture into greased baking dish.
8 Beat other 2 eggs with milk (add some more milk if necessary). Pour over meat. Place bay leaves on top.
9 Bake for 45 to 60 minutes at 180 C degrees.

Serve with yellow rice, coconut, chopped bananas and chopped tomatoes and onions.

PS Cath always throws in a handful of chopped nuts - macadamians, almonds, whatver you have. I find leftover bobotie is great wrapped in the rotis I buy freshly made at Little Durban on Bronkhorst Street, Brooklyn (ie Pretoria not New York).

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sunday, 17 May: True love

I wonder by my troth, what thou, and I
Did, till we lov'd? Were we not wean'd till then?

But suck'd on country pleasures, childlishly?
Or snorted we in the seven sleepers den?
Twas so: But this, all pleasures fancies bee.

If ever any beauty I did see,
which I desir'd, and got, t'was but a dreame of thee.
(First stanza of' "The good morrow" - John Donne)

Friday, May 15, 2009

Friday, 15 May '09: Celebrating Friday nights

Was it Friday night fever a week or two ago? Hardly. Just an old-fashioned evening at home with three tried and trusted friends, a pot of hot homemade soup, crusty bread laced with garlic butter and some Andre Rieu DVD's. Fortunately I am not a purist when it comes to music so I can just enjoy the talent of this popular Dutch violinist who is bringing music, classical and otherwise, to the masses. In the end I had to beg everyone to leave with promises that Thatchwick would host another Andre Rieu concert some other Friday. Genet's parting comment summed it up, "These are just the best kind of get-togethers!"

How do you celebrate the end of the week?

Tonight best friend (all my friends are best) Leone, and I are off to Ocean Basket for that sizzling pan of chips and fresh hake. The Ocean Basket is an item on my list of 5 00 reasons to live in South Africa. Now when you finally do make that trip to visit me at Thatchwick and I am tired of doing dishes, we'll just hop into the car and dash off to Brooklyn Square for a calamari salad.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Friday, 8 May '09: Pointsettias bloom in winter

Pointesettias bloom at the back of Thatchwick. Bees busy themselves with collecting nectar for pointsettia honey. Winter creeps closer.

A strange sight for those who live in the Northern Hemisphere, where pointsettias form part of everyone's Christmas decorations? Ah, but that is what our international friendships are all about. Sometimes my world surprises you and yours surprises me.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Tuesday, 5 May '09: Die Blik Plek/The Tin Place

Winding our way home, we visited Ficksburg, cherry capital of the Free State, in search of cherry jam, preserves and schnapps. Here we just happened on a unique little country store, Die Blik Plek, roughly translated, The Tin Place. Housed in a restored Victorian beauty, adorned by broekie-lace ironwork, the store is the brainchild of the petite and dynamic, Ansie Fourie.

Ansie must have bought up every bit of scrap iron for miles around; the rustier, the better. Together with her staff, she is hammering, cutting, welding and painting one man's junk into every woman's treasure.

The area behind the shop is filled with the whimsical and the witty, the nostalgic and the unexpected. Welcome signs, chimes made of old kettles and teapots, bric a brac, tin roses, mirrors in battered wash tubs, bicycles and bumpers, old gates, old prams. This was a treat.

"Jou plek is wonderlik!" (Your place is stunning!)

"Ek is so-o-o-o bly jy geniet dit! Ek is so-o-o-o bly dit is vir jou mooi!" (I'm thrilled you are enjoying it! I am so pleased you find it attractive!"

Fancy an oranate frame to hang, with or without content, on your verandah wall? That was my choice but a little to bulky to tuck under the seat of SA Espress, the intercity jet. I opted for a tin angel instead.

Or fancy a dented teapot in a weathered frame?

Ansie has planted a garden in old school satchels...

and an easy-growing rosette succulent in every boot.

A tongue-in-the-cheek tin sign: Man gelos, hond gehou. Do you really want a translation? Ok, then. Left husband; kept the dog!

Driving through Ficksburg? Want to make a turn at Die Blik Plek? Just keep a look out for the battered wreck on the lawn. You're there!

PS For more interesting places on the globe, visit My World.