1. TheFranschhoek Literary Festival: I attended for the first time with my friend Paige Dorkin. That's her in the image above, taken late last Saturday afternoon — we stayed in an old house with a clementine orchard, which we wandered through at dusk, talking about husbands and writing and books and, yes, gossiping a little. It was a magical weekend, if a little overwhelming, and I am quite anxious that I have to wait an entire year for the next one. Highlights included Margie Orford and Rebecca Davis (I want to be just like them when I grow up), Tim Noakes debating heart surgeon Lionel Opie (a bit of a farce, but an entertaining farce), and Redi Tlhabi chairing a debate on racism. I've been having flashbacks all week.
2. Encountering a gorgeous new food blog always gives rise to my obsessive tendencies, but for Local Milk, a blog by writer/cook/photographer Beth Evelyn who lives in Tennessee, I've fallen hard. When I read the opening lines of this post, I felt a swelling my my chest and my heart started yammering against my ribs...
She writes like a dream. She writes the way I want to write. So that was
it, what I was feeling: pure envy. Along with a hefty dose of awe, and the
first fervent flutterings of infatuation. I actually might have to stay away for a while because her writing makes me feel ill with longing for the Deep South. (This woman's writing also makes me ache.)
4. I've made this crazy-simple Lamb neck stew with lemon & thyme three times now, and I just can't get enough. A handful of everyday ingredients (lamb, thyme, lemon, olive oil and stock [optional], black pepper) get naked in a pot together and make sweet, sweet love to each other, resulting in a kind of unctuous, umami-flavoured crack. Seriously, it's addictive. I recommend it with bread, as pictured, and this salad.
5. I've discovered whiskey. A committed wine drinker, I couldn't see the point of venturing into new alcoholic waters when I was so happy drinking wine, but I had to write an article about whisky recently, so in the name of research, naturally, I drank the stuff. I think that's the key — the more you learn, the more interesting the subject of study becomes. Somehow, suddenly, I found myself intrigued. And then drunk. But the intrigued bit is the important part. So, yeah, me and whiskey, who knew? I have a small glass next to me, right now, of Monkey Shoulder Blended Malt Scotch Whiskey, and I'm utterly enamoured of it. (If you'd like to read about what I gleaned on the subject, grab a copy of the August issue of Fairlady magazine.)
I was recently knocked over by the flu — we're talking WWE Smackdown, the RAW Total edition (not that I know about such things, ahem). This time last week, I was shivering away in a sweaty tangle of duvets, in the grip of a fever the likes of which I have not experienced since childhood — this I know, because it was familiar. 'Ah,' my overheated brain informed me, 'We've been here before! But not in many moons.'
My regression was almost total. Not only was the desire to have my mother at my side pathetically strong, but I felt a deep, primal longing for the foods of my early youth. Not that I had much appetite to speak of, but the only things I would even consider eating held the promise of nostalgia and comfort — perhaps it was my brain's way of compensating for my mother's absence.
I hadn't lusted after fish fingers since my teens, when I first examined the greyish, gelatinous block of fish mush without its coat of crumbs. But while I was convalescing, I could have devoured an entire plate of the things, with large puddle of All Gold tomato sauce on the side for good measure. Heaven.
I didn't indulge all of my regressive food fantasies, seeing that I was too sick to go to the shops (and too fussy, impetuous and foul tempered to ask the poor, beleaguered Guinea Pig to do it), so I basically subsisted on Marmite toast and biscuits.
My stomach still lurches at the thought of red meat right now, but I'm starting to feel the effects of too much beige, starchy food. I know I am close to fully mended because yesterday I craved a salad. Something green.
This was the first proper meal I'd had in over a week. Nothing fancy. Some caramelised roast potato chunks rubbed with dhukka, laid out on a bed of watercress, and sprinkled with feta, walnuts and pomegranate seeds... I only used pomegranate because I had one left over from my trip to Calitzdorp. It could just as easily have been chopped apple or sliced pear. It was simple and satisfying and easy to digest. Nowhere near as comforting as macaroni cheese, of course, but nourishing, which is just what I needed.