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Snaps and Capers

Jaunts to sample food and photograph it!

Snaps and Capers

I love to take photos of food.

It is that moment when I first see the different textures and colours that draw me to preserve the image. I first started taking pictures of food in earnest when we visited Italy a couple of years ago. The way the food was presented to us, with passion and flair, struck a chord in me and I had the urge to capture the emotion and experience. When I look back at the photos, I relive the moment and remember the people and occasion. A prime example is this picture taken in Siena in Tuscany, Italy. It was my son’s 16th birthday, and we were sitting in the Piazza del Campo, drinking wine and having platters of antipasti. It was so relaxing, and everything seemed uncomplicated.

Food has a way of bringing people together, and that is really the purpose of this blog. I want to celebrate the people in my life by remembering the places and experiences through images of the food we shared. So in essence, I want to snap the capers I go on with family and friends!

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Foodie Family

It has often been said that food tastes better with family and I have found this to be true.  Shared experience with food always makes the moment memorable.  We all love to celebrate, and so often it is done around the dinner table.  Special meals, cakes and restaurants all have stories to tell and of course, if there is a picture we will remember it easier and in more detail.  In the words of Luciano Pavarotti, “One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.”  Even a regular meal can turn into a celebration if the right people and food are involved.

My family know my love for taking snaps of anything edible, so when the food arrives at the table, they automatically sit back and let me click away.  This hobby is now a way of life, something I do automatically, and I love that my family have embraced it.

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We recently went to a special restaurant, Zest, just outside of Nelspruit, to celebrate a couple of family birthdays.  The Chef always does beautiful plating, so it was such a pleasure to snap away at the dishes.

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I am of Italian descent, and huge dinners around the table at my Gran’s house were a common occurrence when I was growing up.  The meals were always the backdrop for heated discussions, announcements, festivities and laughter.

My Aunt tells the story of how my Grandfather was explaining something one day while eating and as he was gesturing wildly, some grapes flew out his hand and landed in my Gran’s soup.  She was so angry with him, but the incident has been a favourite story of mine ever since I heard it because even though I was too young to remember,  it depicted exactly what family meals are all about.  Talking, laughing, arguing and sharing life with real emotion.  The meals brought us together.  They were the reason we got to communicate, bond and make memories.  Some of our favourite family photo’s are group ones taken after a meal at my Gran’s house.

As Oscar Wilde said, “After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relatives.”

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Food of Love

I always love weddings.  When I think of wedding food, the first thing that comes to mind is the cake….”Let them eat cake” I say, and lots of it… The type of cake and the way it’s iced or decorated always speaks to me.  It is special because it’s been thought about, dreamed of and discussed at length.

I had the pleasure recently of attending a family wedding, and of course, I took my camera.  I enjoyed snapping the bride and groom, but I really loved taking pictures of the wedding cake and other food over the weekend.

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The cake is always an important part of any wedding.  Julia Child said, “a party without a cake is just a meeting”.  I remember reading once that Princess Diana had two replicas of her cake made to act as ‘stunt doubles’ in case of mishap!  Imagine the expense!  Brides now choose different types of cakes with a variety of flavours and toppings.  This last cake I sampled had layers of granadilla and nougat.

When I was a little girl (in the… um… 70’s and 80’s) the wedding cakes were mainly fruit cakes, and there were always cakes baked before the time, cut up into small pieces and individually wrapped to be handed out at the reception.  We took these pieces home (with the, then popular, spray-painted chicken wish-bones) to place under our pillows.  The tradition was that whoever you dreamt of when you had the cake under your pillow, would be your future husband!  It caused great excitement and speculation.

Watching the happy couple made me reflect on love and commitment.  One of the greatest commandments Jesus gave was to love; yourself as well as your fellow man.  What a wonderful world it would be if we could all just love each other as we were instructed to do.

img_0833Between the ceremony and the reception, we had lunch at the Tin Roof Cafe in Pretoria. Photographed here is pan seared tuna with chilli and a tomato jam.

Bush Food

Driving in the Kruger Park is an experience unlike any other motoring holiday.  The thrill is due to the unexpectedness of what is around the next bend.  Anticipation hangs in the air.  Absolutely anything is possible.

Over the years we have seen a vast variety of sightings from giraffes with their long eyelashes, a leopard with its kill on the branch of a tree and elephants frolicking in mud pools to a bloody fight between hyena males and even lions ripping the carcase of a springbuck.  No day is the same as we hunt for the big 5 and more.

And throughout it all, the Kruger officials tell us not to get out of our vehicles or even to hang out the car windows.  To do so could result in a fine, or worse still, we could be attacked by a predator.  So we remain in our cars at all costs; that is of course until we arrive at a rest camp.  The rest camps along the roads are areas marked off for picnics, and they have toilet facilities.  Many of them have little shops and one of our favourite ones, Afsaal, has a restaurant.  Suddenly it is not only okay to get out our vehicle, but it is encouraged!

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The restaurant is called Tindlovu and has an open area with thatched roofs and basic wooden tables and benches. Half the area has bush and trees growing right up to the edges of the camp.  It offers, among other things, real South African bush fare, served in metal plates and on wooden boards.  It is authentic food and the menu (written up on a big chalk board), offers things like Bobotie Rosterkoeke (sandwiches), venison pie and pork chops with ‘pap en sous’. Pap is a thick mielie meal porridge, and the sous is a tomato and onion gravy.

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Something has to be said about sitting in the open in the middle of the Kruger, no fences, eating a chicken salad while glancing over and seeing an elephant pulling bark off a tree.  It is deliciously dangerous to be possibly close to wild animals, not knowing what is looking through the leaves at us. We laugh at the tourists who are angling themselves so they can take selfies with the elephant in the background when suddenly out of nowhere a small grey arm shoots out and grabs the sugar sachets off the table.  The small vervet monkey runs away sucking to get the sweetness of the sugar, and we realise he has done this before!  He probably does it every day.  At regular intervals, the waiters have to chase the monkeys away.  There are signs everywhere asking patrons not to feed the wildlife, but we see a man in his khaki safari clothes, with matching hat, giving the monkey an apple.  This is when we realise controlling the people is probably more difficult than controlling the wildlife.

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Foodie Friends

Sharing food is a uniquely human quality.  Sitting around a table is a social past time and makes us realise there is so much more to sharing a table than first meets the eye and also that food is more than just fuel for our bodies.  We connect around a table.  We laugh together, and we give a part of ourselves.  In this fast-paced, technically-driven world, we need to somehow slow down and simply enjoy life.  We do this when we relax with people who make us feel comfortable.

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I love eating out with special friends.  We recently went to a very charming restaurant in White River called ‘Oliver’s.’  It was our friend Ursula’s birthday, and so Di and I had something to celebrate.  (Not that we need an excuse to explore somewhere new but this time our ladies lunch was a special occasion.) There is something truly decadent about sitting for hours, sharing a bottle of wine and sampling different flavours.  The conversation was a non-stop flow and to top it all off, we met the most interesting British couple who were on their 18th trip to South Africa.  Our simple enjoyment of the food and surroundings made us comfortable to connect even for a few minutes.

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I read somewhere that one of the delights of life is eating with friends, second to that is talking about what you ate and the only thing that tops that is being able to eat with friends while you discuss what you are eating! (And in my case photograph what you are eating!)

Our food choices ranged from Calamari on black mushrooms with tomato and garlic sauce to Gnocchi with blue cheese on a bed of mushroom risotto.  We even included Black-bottomed berry cheese cake, Apfelstrudel and an assortment of Cheese and biscuits.

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Theologian Barry D Jones once wrote he was “becoming increasingly convinced that food is one of God’s love languages.”  Experts don’t usually put food on the list of Love Languages, but when you sample creations that have been so lovingly and carefully prepared, how can you not think of food as a gift of love?  “God did not have to make us capable of experiencing such delight. Our 10,000 taste buds are a display of grace, an expression of his love.”

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Even though it is so enjoyable to be able to eat and drink with friends, after a few hours we are hungry and thirsty again.  I love it when Jesus said, “I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me shall not hunger and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35)  I always love to put my life in a spiritual perspective.  It makes me enjoy his creation and provision even more.

 

Pancake Pleasures

There’s just something about Harries that makes us drive for over an hour to have a Sunday Brunch.

It’s not just the food, which is in itself a big drawcard, but it’s the vibe of the place and also the special memories we have as a family that make us return time after time.

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You find Harries in a little South African town called Graskop.  It is on the tourist route between the Kruger National Park and natural wonders like Gods Window, Bourke’s Luck Potholes and the Blyde River Canyon.  This presence of tour busses and people from all over the world make the little town come alive with a buzz of foreign accents and locals trying to sell their handmade crafts.  It is colourful, to say the least.  We sit in the restaurant and watch all the people around us examining the wooden carvings and bright beaded birds then haggling with the vendors.

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The pancakes are scrumptious, and the list of fillings is mind boggling, but best of all is they cater for people with allergies, and they make gluten-free pancakes!

In order to have the best of both worlds, our family always orders savoury and sweet pancakes and then we share them.

Our choices this last week were savoury mince as well as butternut and feta as our savoury option and milk tart filling for the sweet option.  As usual, Harries did not disappoint.  The pancakes were light and fluffy and as delicious as always.

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We love the saying that travelling leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.  This love of ours to travel has a link to Graskop and the tourist filled streets and is one of the reasons the restaurant is special.  Over Harries pancakes, we told our children about the plans for our family to tour Italy.   There was much excitement as we plotted and planned our trip.  Two years later again over pancakes in the same place, we had a discussion about an Island holiday which resulted in our travels to Thailand.

The only problem now is that every time we go to have pancakes at Harries, the family want to know if there is something exciting we need to tell them!

 

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Wine and Chocolate

Wine and chocolate don’t seem like a natural pairing.  But that is what made it seem exciting, and I was compelled to try it.

To the east of Cape Town lies Stellenbosch, a little university town surrounded by wine estates.  We were waiting for our son to finish lectures and stopped in at the wine farm Blaauwklippen.

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The friendly staff gave us a selection of wines and brandy that had been chosen to partner with different chocolates.  We first had to taste the wine in the usual way and then have a bite of the paired chocolate and let it melt and soften in the mouth before we took another sip of the wine.  The difference in taste was surprising and fascinating!  The wine and chocolate combining changed the taste of them both.  It was also a fun exercise.  My younger children, who were eating the chocolates and drinking sparkling grape juice, said they felt we were all food critics on the movie Ratatouille!    I closed my eyes, just like the rat Remy had done and imagined music and fireworks when the two tastes collided on my tongue.

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This was definitely a memorable experience.  Walking among the green rows of vines with the newly forming fruit in such a beautiful part of the world made me realise that it takes time to achieve some of the most appreciated things in life. I read somewhere once that great things take time.  So either you wait, or you settle for less.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pukka Phuket

The Weekend Night Market in Phuket is definitely something to experience, especially if you like authentic, local cuisine when travelling. To really get a taste of Thailand, you will need to sample some of the food on offer in this vibrant, bustling place. It caters for the tourists but what I loved the most was seeing foods I had never seen before.
This immense bazaar separates into shopping and food. Great deals are available with famous name brands on sale as well as hundreds of Thai items and souvenirs. The market has a roof that offers protection from the sudden rains in the rainy season. There are always lots of people, and the heat is intense with music and voices filling the air. There is a fun element to bargaining with vendors. Nothing is ever straightforward or simple, and the prices on items are just a starting point to negotiations!

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Walking through the food part of the Night Market is an education. Fragrances float on the air; aromas strange yet enticing, mingled with the smell of fires and foods frying. Gazing up and down the rows of stalls, you don’t know where to go first or what to try. There are plates of cold, cooked eggs, and a woman is frying blobs of batter with some herb or leaf inside. We buy some, and they are surprisingly tasty. A whole duck anyone? Corn or sushi? Kebabs of seafood? Fried noodles?

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A very strange looking fruit is the Rambutan or hairy lychee. The skin is hard to break, not like the litchi we have in South Africa but the taste is vaguely familiar.
But best of all was the vibe of the place. There was a buzz in the air of excitement and expectation. It was an enriching excursion to share with my family and will be something we always remember and talk about.
Was it worth it? Absolutely…. Every minute!

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Far away fruit

Isn’t it amazing how sometimes when you walk through a place you have a feeling you will one day return?  You feel that one experience is not enough.  That is how I felt when I walked through the fish and fruit market in San Pollo near the Rialto Bridge in Venice.  The fruit on the tables with the crushed ice was so fresh and vibrant we couldn’t help but stop to buy it.  There was a variety of blends, eye-catching because of the colours and different combinations; from the white of the coconut to the green of the melon and the red of the berries. The vendor offered to blitz up our chosen selections into a drink, and we decided this was a good idea.  Walking along the Grand Canal with my berry and pineapple smoothie, I felt every inch the tourist but somehow deep inside I felt as if I belonged there and knew someday I would be back.

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