Wednesday, 2 November 2011


When I was ten, I read a book called My Side of the Mountain.  It was about a child who runs away from home and survives in a forest by living off the land. I was so impressed with this story that I packed a sweet-tin with essentials. There was a safety pin, a pocket knife, salt and sugar in tinfoil wraps, some plasters, matches and a magnet.

I took my survival tin to school with me every day for over a year.  I kept it with me everywhere I went, until the sugar and salt came undone and made a mess at the bottom of my school-bag. 

I still have the pocket knife. And even though I am now a grownup, I still like to make imaginary lists of things I need to survive if I was to run away to a desert island.

These are my lists:

Ten kitchen tools I use every day:

Knife, cutting board, a frying pan, a pot, wooden spoon, Microplane grater, little whisk, spatula, peeler, juice squeezer.

Things in my kitchen at all times:

Butter, onions, milk, bread, lemon, sunflower oil, tinned tomatoes, eggs, barley, flour, potatoes, soy sauce, fish sauce, sesame oil, sugar, vinegar.

The real essentials that I try to carry with me:

They are love, memory, pleasure, hope, kindness and belonging.

The essential sense of belonging

I belong to the tribe of Litvaks who immigrated to South Africa over 100 years ago from cold, impoverished European Shtetls.

In my mind, I can see my grandparents on the boat as they land in Cape Town.   They are stunned at the beauty of Table Mountain.  They are relieved their long sea journey is over.  They are clutching leather suitcases that contain all their essentials: vests, socks, passports, photographs, prayer shawls, warm clothes and recipes for the food of their mothers.

The recipes are all that are left.

My grandmother’s teiglach

6 eggs minus one egg yolk
Two tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons brandy
Add enough cake meal or flour for soft, but not sticky dough.  Add a teaspoon of ginger.
Beat. Roll into little doughnut shapes and leave for two hours. (in the sun if possible)

Boil 1kg golden syrup, mixed with 3 cups of sugar and 3 cups of water.
Boil for ten minutes.
Lower them into the boiling syrup.
Leave them in for ten minutes.
Then uncover, wipe the inside of the lid to remove condensation,
stir quickly and then replace lid.
Boil for another 15 minutes with lid on. Stir again. Wipe again.
Replace lid and cook till brown stirring occasionaly. Remove from heat.
Add two cups of hot , strong black coffee, but not boiling.
Remove teiglach from pot.
Place them on wet board to dry and drain. Sprinkle with sugar.