South Africa, Maverick Life

Book Review: foodSTUFF – a touching memoir with food as the centrepiece

By Antoinette Muller 20 July 2017

Is it a cookbook? Is it a memoir? It’s both. Tony Jackman’s foodSTUFF is a wonderfully indulgent mix of food memories and recipes that’ll be as comfortable in the hands of a serious foodie as it would be for the novice cook. ANTOINETTE MULLER reviews it.

Tony Jackman is a name that should be familiar to most South Africans. Author, playwright, restaurateur, food columnist. And that guy who has a dish named after him on the Societi Bistro menu in Gardens, Cape Town.

(Disclosure: Tony Jackman is Daily Maverick’s chief sub-editor.)

His recently published book foodSTUFF is a delight and nothing like most other recipe books on the shelf next to it.

For some, food is just something we put in our mouths to keep us from keeling over. For others, it’s inextricably linked with memories and our identity. And that’s exactly what foodSTUFF is all about.

Jackman has lived an intriguing life. A Yorkshireman by blood but not by birth, his parents moved to Oranjemund at the mouth of the Orange River lured by the promise of a life built around all that glistens. He spent much of his younger life in this curious little town which, for those who have never been, sounds like it could be part of Westworld, the town in the hit sci-fi Western thriller that captivated TV audiences last year.

Photo: His mother’s recipe for Yorkshire puddings illustrates a chapter on the author’s formative years. Photo by Myburgh du Plessis for NB Publishers

The chapters of his nomadic journey are wonderfully woven between the recipes and serve as a sort of appetiser for the delectable dishes that follow on the book’s pages. The stories are all told with a good dose of Yorkshire wit, and even if you didn’t know Tony, the book will make you wish that you did.

But it’s not all parsnips in the sun. Jackman doesn’t shy away from dealing with the loss of a family member or his difficult relationship with his father. But, in typical Yorkshire fashion, he knows everything will be reight.

Photo: The sweeter tooth is catered for with recipes including lemon drizzle cake. Photo by Myburgh du Plessis for NB Publishers

The recipes are simple, but indulgent. They seamlessly blend South African classics with dollops of influence from our former colonial overlords. Isn’t that one of the best things about food anyway? Technology, science and transport have shrunk the world but expanded our plates and palates.

If you’re a foodie who loves simple, home-cooked goodness this is the perfect coffee-table centrepiece to thumb through for a bit of inspiration when you feel stuck for ideas. There is something here for everyone.

From the oxtail potjie to the bacon and beer braai bread. The parsley-crusted rack of lamb and adding a dash of spice to poultry, all ready to be finished off with some lovely desserts – chocolate tart, lemon syrup cake, pears in Chardonnay Pinot Noir with a Parmesan wafer, all photographed so that the pages look good enough to eat.

All of these are simple to follow and, if you are so inclined, can be adapted to add your own stamp to it – something we’re sure Tony won’t mind. And the instructions are dead easy to follow, even for good philistines. Listen to Tony and you might, for once in your life, not cock up those hasselback potatoes.

Photo of Tony Jackman’s hasselback potatoes by Myburgh du Plessis for NB Publishers

But the book is so much more than a recipe book. It’s a delightful memoir that serves as a reminder that food can be more than just sustenance. Food is a way to bring us all together – around the table, the stove or even across a little breakfast bar.

Food can be an archive for our memories – good, bad and sad – and the sights and smells of some of our favourite dishes can transport us back to those moments in an instant. But food can also be a source of comfort and escape during times of sorrow. And sharing those experiences is something far too many of us have lost in a time when smartphones have become an extension of our palms. DM

foodSTUFF is available online or at all good book stores for a recommended price of R320.

foodSTUFF will be launched in Johannesburg at a dinner organised by Jenny Crwys-Williams, a convivial evening of food, wine and numerous conversations on Tuesday 25 July at 6.30 for 7pm at Coob’s, 38 4th Ave, Parkhurst. Cost R450. To book email [email protected]

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