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Walks on the Wild Side of Breakfast, when life is contemplated and gechiffonade

Walks on the Wild Side of Breakfast, when life is contemplated and gechiffonade
Breakfast bowl of bacon, sosatie wors, tomato smoor, eggs and Languedoc cheese from Dalewood in Paarl. Photo: Tony Jackman

The beguiling temptress that is bacon frying sends its aroma out into the street. Your mind adds veldblom honey to toasted brioche and piles bacon on top, with a sprinkle of basil leaves that have been gechiffonade. (I can explain.)

Thoughts turn to breakfast as you wander past houses with dogs barking at you from front gates and slatted fences. Go away or I’ll eat you! I haven’t had my breakfast, and I’m RAVenous! Grwuff!!!!! They’re disconcerted when you just smile and say “Hello doggie!” It’s not in their script. Look how scary I am, Grwufffff!!!

A waft of oats and honey from an open window. Three houses further along, the beguiling temptress that is bacon frying sends its aroma out into the street. Your mind adds veldblom honey to toasted brioche and piles bacon on top, with a sprinkle of basil leaves that have been gechiffonade.

I had to get that in. I wrote last week’s column in such a headlong rush towards deadline that I clean forgot about a moment during a wild herb tea ceremony in Nieu-Bethesda. Our host Barbara Weitz was explaining how she’d cut the garnish for a dish. “Ek het hulle sommer gechiffonade.” (If you’re wondering: this with the Afrikaans past tense prefix “ge”.)

Gechiffonade (Pronounced: ge-shiff-aw-naad.) A word never to forget once heard. We call that Graaffrikaans in these parts. A hybrid of Afrikaans and English whereby you sling in the first word that comes to mind, whichever language it is. I was braaing a ge-debone-de lamb leg and I sommer decided to gooi some makataan stroop into the marinade with the rosemary and knoffel en dit was darem delicious. Something like that.

These are my morning walks, two weeks in, usually an hour though this morning only 45 minutes as builders were due to put a new roof up in the backyard. Not a resolution; just sick and tired of carrying weight around the middle. I figured: if it makes you unhappy, and you’ve still got legs, use the blimmin’ things.

Every day, a different route, to keep things interesting. At the front gate, turn left, or right; the first choice. At the first stop street, left, right or straight on; the road less travelled (up towards the modern houses of the Fifties and Sixties), or the one well worn (by car tyres, as Cradockian moms and dads take their offspring to the town’s many schools). It’s a town of young parents and their kids; and it has the vitality and sense of a future that comes with that.

Rounding a corner on to the Hofmeyr Road on Tuesday morning, I came upon the morning drop-off at one of the local primary schools. White mums, coloured dads, black mums; some in cars, more in bakkies, the odd SUV and then a time-worn Golf. Out steps dad, a tall, wiry black dude wearing a yellow emergency vest, dropping off his little girl before heading off to make the living that must pay for whatever’s in her tuck box and on the plate for supper that night. The school drop-off point as a great leveller. 

Up past the cemetery one morning, past the old Catholic Convent on my right, then glancing left to the little gravestones of the nuns who lived there, and died there. And the grave of Harry Potter. There’s a house in Market Street named after him too. The fallen British soldier who did not make it home in 1902 from the Anglo-Boer War, not the wizard.

Outside the characterful house of chef, cake maker and preserves maven Heyla Meyer, with its view of the graveyard, I get a whiff of the many roses and the rosemary and thyme she cultivates. Her dog half-heartedly tries to see me off, forgetting that only last week she’d wagged her tail and licked my hand when I popped in to buy a rose verbena bush. Remind myself to come back for six or eight roses to plant in front of the house, and to be glad when teenagers pick some on their way home from school to take home to mom. Or to dad in his yellow vest.

My morning walks are a new thing. The first walk was 40 minutes, the second 45, and the remaining nine no less than 60 minutes each. If I’m near home and there are seven minutes to go, I’ll make another turn to lengthen my return. The stubbornness of the Aries nature, perhaps. Or maybe it’s the Taurus side of this Cuspian. A cross between a ram and a bull. Oy vey. (“That explains everything,” says a voice in the background.) Anyway.

Next morning, I take Cawood Street (Olive Schreiner fans: the family to whose daughters the young Olive was governess) to the main drag, down and left into Market Street. Passing the Victoria Hotel, breakfast calls out to me as German and British tourists tuck in before leaving for the Mountain Zebra National Park or onwards to Port Elizabeth. But breakfast must wait.

At Cross Street I turn right towards the Schreiner Museum. Across the road, a group of men in overalls wait for the hope of work if a bakkie in need of them happens past. One of them yells to me. “Sir! How are you?” “Fine thanks. Hot!” I smile. “When are you coming to buy from us again at the wind pumps?” “Soon! Promise!” I proffer, meaning it. I tell everyone who visits: please don’t leave without stopping at the wire crafters between Lingelihle and Michausdal on the road out of town towards Port Elizabeth. I stop and buy something whenever I can afford to and their eccentric wire works are all over the backyard.

On Thursday morning, in Adderley Street (Cradock), the Tuisnywerheid is pinkly inviting. It’s called Dit en Dat and is wall-to-wall cakes, ginger beer, lemon syrup, koeksisters and pies. Today, there is a suspiciously large number of milk tarts/ meklterte. A ping on a WhatApp broadcast group suddenly explains it: Lani Lombard who has her True Living eatery is announcing, “It’s National Milk Tart Day and we are ready!!” and that they will be selling milk tart, melktert milkshakes, Milk Tart Jaffles with an optional shot of Melktert cream liqueur, and that “for non milktarters we will have a bobotie and rice lunch special”. Because, presumably, that’s what non-milktarters eat. I resist the urge to buy and devour an entire milk tart for breakfast. But it would seem to obviate the point of walking all this way.

Each tannie who contributes regularly to the tuisnywerheid has a number. We always look for Number 9 because she is the mother of Di’s hairdresser Francois. His dad, a retired fisherman, makes four chocolate cakes every day, just the basic cake, but it is mom’s expertise in icing it and making it pretty that is so sought-after. Mom wakes up at 4am every day and bakes all her other goodies for Dit en Dat, including savoury pies. Her rich, dark chocolate cake is sinfully moist and impossible to stop eating once you’ve had a taste. You’ll sommer want to buy a whole one to eat at home. Maybe for breakfast.

But the wildspastei, now that’s a pie and a half. Filled with game fynvleis, they will proliferate once winter sets in again, which won’t be too long now. What with February having happened in November and December and this month feeling like May with its shoulder-season cooling down. Climate change. It’s happening in a small town near you.

On Saturday, last Saturday that is, I awarded myself a walker’s day off and instead made the kind of breakfast I could have devoured after each of my walks during the week. A breakfast bowl. Yes, a bowl. I made bowl food for breakfast. 

Before 2019 was up a parcel of fine cheeses had arrived from Dalewood in Paarl. Intriguing, all. But one in particular was tempting me: the Dalewood Languedoc. It’s one of their four signature cheeses along with Huguenot, Brie Superlatif and Boland

So, I’d have the Languedoc. For breakfast. They’re probably face-palming at the thought of it, but it’s my breakfast, so… Boy was it good.

Ready for the oven.

In small oven-friendly bowls, which I’d Spray-n-Cooked, I put layers of fried super-thinly-sliced onions and fried halved cherry tomatoes, then pieces of grilled short back bacon, then slices of grilled sosatie sausages (an Eastern Cape speciality, they’re deliciously spiced, just like a sosatie would be). You also need one can of chopped tomatoes cooked in the same frying pan in which you cooked the bacon and sausages, with one red chilli, sliced, finished with gechiffonaderde basil leaves and seasoned with salt and pepper. The tomato mix went on top, then two raw eggs, carefully so you don’t break the yolks, and then gegraterde Languedoc cheese. I melted some butter and poured that hot over the eggs to help them along. Then in a 200-degree oven for 20 minutes. Season the eggs with salt and pepper and serve.

I walked it off on Monday morning. DM

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