Category: Food and foodlike things


spag

i do not have adequate words to describe last nite.

i am scared that the ones i use will do it injustice as there is no adequate way to capture what went down at our home as some friends from Sybrand Park, Khayelitsha, Kayamandi, Wynberg, Nyanga, Manenberg and Southfield came together for a meal and some intense conversation.

Spaghetti is a contradiction food all in itself. It is NOT good first date food. It is messy and at some point in the evening someone is going to have to catch your eye and give a nervous cough and indicate that you have some food on your face, or your clothes, or lap.

And that’s kind of how the conversation went. It was messy. And this is probably one of the greatest things that we as South Africans need to learn. MESSY IS OKAY. Messy is necessary and so is uncomfortable and awkward and even angry and confused and devastated. We will not move forwards until we can start having those conversations comfortably, or uncomfortably, so to speak. Both at a political leadership level but also maybe more importantly at a grass roots, neighbour level.

messi

Step one was the phone basket. As you arrive to have a meal with us, you turn your phone off and add it to the basket as a symbol of your commitment to be unplugged and engaged with us for the evening.

Step two was a simple meal. i mean a really delicious and amazing meal that tbV put together including garlic bread and delicious salad and tasty spaghetti, but nothing crazy fancy beyond that. People brought drinks if they could and we shared a meal together.

Step three was introductions. Not even tbV and i knew everyone as one of our friends brought a mate with him, but each person at the meal knew at least one other person. We had an even mix of black and white but from all kinds of backgrounds and current story situations. With this particular meal, we were looking at diving a little more deeply into the idea of race and location and boundary and so you were invited to tell us a little bit about yourself and where you live and why you live there.

As that process happened, people interrupted with questions and clarifications and we got joyfully sidetracked on to deeper conversations of different aspects of race and privilege and prejudice. A lot of laughter. Some silence – a moment after one of our friends stopped talking and tbV wisely said that, ‘The white in me wants to respond and fix and make sense and explain and speak to what you have just said. But I think I just need to listen and let it sink in and really hear and sit with it for a while.’ And so as a room we sat with it for a while. And it was a little awkward and a little uncomfortable [for me, maybe not at all for everyone else or maybe even more so, i don’t know] And then we continued.

There was a lot of passion that erupted. It definitely felt like there were some ‘I have a dream’ speech moments where heart just completely overflowed and it was intense but beautiful. And challenging. There was a strong moment of one participant saying, ‘I feel the same way as you’ and being challenged boldly back. “Where did your children go to school? Oh really, well then they had that choice. How can you possibly feel like me?” Privilege exposed and named in a powerfully tense but amazing moment. At the end of the evening the two of them ended up in a car together as the one gave the other a ride home.

i definitely learnt some things. One of the things i learnt was that for many years the line “Education is the answer” has been held as the carrot before the proverbial horse as if black people just need to educate themselves and get a university degree and then everything will be okay. Apartheid put them on the educational back foot and so one of the ways of overturning that part of the past was through education and lifting oneself out of it. But last night we heard stories of people with masters degrees manning petrol pumps, unable to find work. And that is the story for a large number of people. Education alone has proved to not be the answer. There are much bigger things in play.

i felt hugely uncomfortable. One thing that made me feel uncomfortable was the moment i drove into our driveway with Nkosi and his friend Monde who i had picked up at the taxi rank. Having visited Nkosi and understanding a little of his home situation in Khayelitsha, the thought of him seeing the absolute luxury i live in, was a difficult thought. But it was later on during the story telling when one of our friends shared how 32 of them [not a typo!] lived in a three bedroom house, that i was just blown away. i feel like i have had an idea of poverty and the idea that a lot of people are squeezed into small space so maybe 6, 7, 8 people in a room. 32 people in three rooms. i cannot get my head around that. There are reasons why we live where we live right now which are completely valid. But there are also some inherent contradictions that are part of it as well. At the moment, while we live here, there is the absolute commitment to use the space we have for life-changing transformative conversations like we believe happened last night.

Step four was really just picking up threads that had come out of the introductions and conversation that preceded. But to be honest, the richness of last night was in hearing peoples’ stories and challenges and ideas about where the country needed to go. By the time we got past introductions, i think it must have been 11pm [four hours since starting the meal] and we wrapped up just around 12. One of my highlights of the evening was our one friend who had to be somewhere at 8 and then just got so completely invested that he skipped his other function and was one of the last two people helping clean up after midnight, when i returned from giving someone a ride home.

What’s next is more of these dinners. Having done two now [both going for more than four hours of intense conversation, the previous one being conversations around church] tbV and i have realised that as amazing as they are, they are also really tiring and so probably won’t be moving them to once a week happenings just yet. But once a month feels manageable. We want to have one around money/economics and we are thinking about doing one around marriage. And then we’ll see from there. The next one will happen after we get back from the USA which will be July so maybe end July. If you’re interested in being part of one, let us know. That doesn’t necessarily mean you will be, but it’s good to know who is interested.

i also chatted to Nkosi this morning and he was saying how last night was great and the next step is to get a black church and a white church together and host a conversation like that. i am super amped to do that. So that is something we will chat about and hopefully look to doing later on in the year. If you’re a church leader and interested, let me know. That could really be ultimately country-changing.

These dinners are not the solution to anything. But they are an incredible catalyst for change. i was sitting there last night thinking, ‘This does not happen naturally. Not a lot anyways.’ It needs to be a little intentional and it is likely to always start off a little bit awkwardly. But what if more and more South Africans [because one of our participants from last night is going to be doing something similar with his mates tonite] decided to be more intentional about Deeper Conversation meal times [on whatever topics] and started hosting meals and bringing different people together?

Arguments on Facebook [with the lack of tone that being online robs you of] can only go so far. tbV and i have decided that if you have a strong argument against something that we say or do then sit across from us at a dinner table and let’s talk about it face to face. If we are truly grappling about something [church, race, money, marriage] then let’s commit to an evening together with people who think differently and see what can be learned. Let’s learn to listen together and let’s encourage each other to speak boldly and honestly.

Let’s eat spaghetti on our first date and let’s be bold and realise that we need Messi in our team.

i want to have a positive influence on the state of our nation. This feels like one good way to get started.

Read Nkosi Gola’s reflections on the meal…

Read Brian van Zuydam’s reflections on the meal…

Take in my wife, Val’s thoughts about the evening…

Some related thoughts from my mate, Portal Pete…

Babalwa Nyangeni adds some of her reflections…

Who else is up for giving this a try? i would LOVE to hear how it goes…

flag[For some more ideas of how to move towards progress in South Africa, click here]

pastas

First off, i should firmly declare that there is nothing wrong with pasta.

i love pasta and would probably be fine eating pasta every day if it was allowed.

‘Pasta is life’ as i imagine the Latin Americans say, or more accurately, ‘Pasta la vista, baby.’ Or something.

But i have found that for me [and possibly for Val’s sister and bro who we live with at the moment] pasta becomes the default easy go-to meal.

There are at least two days every week in our house where we cook for each other and then eat together. And it is as if i have gone creatively dull because every time it is my time, or especially if there is not a lot of time to plan and make food, i tend to whip out ‘Ye Olde Pasta and Mincemeat meal’ and sure i surprise it up a little with secret ingredients which have ranged from honey to coffee powder to chocolate sauce [all of which surprisingly worked], it can tend towards sameness.

THE REVOLUTION

food

So this week we decided to shake it up. Firstly Ro [older sister of tbV] decided to raise the bar by attempting her first ‘Toad in the Hole’ [which for those of you who don’t know is basically sausages in Yorkshire pudding, which for those of you who don’t know is not pudding in the same way as ‘Transkei mud’ is not in any way related to the Transkei] and Boom, she completely nailed it.

There was no way i could revert to pasta after that and so i decided to try some crumbed chicken breasts [hee hee, i wrote ‘chicken’] but there were none in the shop and so i decided to try crumbing some steak fillets, cos, you know.

Easy as Google [that’s a saying our children will learn in school. No, we still don’t have children. ‘Our children’ here is a metaphor meaning ‘Your children’. Be okay with that]

And it really actually is that. There is no reason to have to stick with the three meals you make. i wrote a little bit about that in my post titled, ‘Bachelor Food: Yes you CAN!’ which i don’t think manyone read last year [and you don’t have to be a bachelor for it to apply, i know a bunch of couples who simply eat out most of the time because they ‘can’t cook’]

I subscribed to a regular recipe list thing when we were in Americaland and tbV and i had decided that at least once a month we were each going to cook something new [what an INCREDIBLE decision – you should totally do that!] and so either through that or simply googling your ingredients [what you have available] or a meal you love and have never tried [can be as simple as cauliflower with a white sauce, or as complex as ‘Coq au vin’ [hee hee, i said ‘au vin’] but it is easy and it is out there and the only thing condemning you to boring eating is you.

Budget is not an issue [you can google cheap meals] nor is difficulty [simple meals] and time does not have to be either [quick meals] – all it takes is a decision to try something new and then go for it.

How about you do that this week? Pick a night when you have a little extra time to experiment if you do, have the Delivery Pizza place number on speed dial [just in case] and google something you have never made before [or ask a friend for a recipe] and make it and HOWEVER IT TURNS OUT, take a photo and send it to me. If i get more than three i will do a follow up blog on this. [brettfish@hotmail.com]

I can’t wait to hear and see what you come up with.

questionsSo my mate Terran Williams and his wide network of people put together a bunch of questions that they are going to use to make dinner time with their children more exciting and interesting and he has kindly shared them with the world so if you don’t eat together as a family you should probably start doing that and then try using some of these…

[and yes, mine was the one about two animals changing sounds cos imagine a lion chasing you screaming “Polly want a cracker.” I know!]

So, here’s my questions for dinner conversations. Feel free to cut, paste and print them yourself.

I am going to use them to get our kids (and Julie and I) talking about experiences, opinions and feelings. Many nights a week everyone will pull out of a bag a random piece of paper with one printed question and answer It.

Thanks to all of you who helped me brainstorm the list.

General Questions:
If you were an animal, what kind of animal do you think you would be and why?
If you could put your day into a dance, what would it look like? (Show us)
If you could have any super power what would it be?
Share a high of the day, low of the day, and something interesting that happened in between.
If you could make friends with one person who you aren’t already friends with, who would it be?
Which famous person would you like to invite to dinner and why?
If you have a R1000 that you have to use to help someone not in our family, how would you spend it?
What is one thing that you would love to learn to do?
Where is your favourite place and why?
If you could do something you did today a little differently, what would it be?
What made your heart happy today?
What colour was your day? Why?
If you could compare your day to an animal, what animal would it be?
How were you a blessing or help to someone else today?
What happened today that made you mad or glad?
If you could change something that happened today, what would it be and why?
What happened today that really amazed you?
What did you see or hear today that called for you to act courageously?
What do you know how to do that you can teach to others?
If you could be a sound, what would it be?
If you could choose a new name for yourself, what would it be, and why?
What dream(s) do you have for your future?
The one thing that you don’t like that much about this family is…
The one thing that you like best about this family is…
Tell us the one thing you like most about being you.
If you could keep your room any way you wanted, how would it look?
If you were going to have a weird, unusual pet, what would it be?
What is the grossest thing you can think of?
What would you do if you were invisible for a day?
Who do you think you are most like in our family? Why?
What’s the most daring thing you remember doing?
Name 1 thing you love about your brother, sister, mom and dad.
If I give you R100 what will you do to double it?
Did you see someone today who looked happy and why?
Anyone you see today who looked sad – is there anything you can do to change how they’re feeling tomorrow?
If you could swap the sounds two different animals make, what would they be? 
What is something you don’t think you’re that good at that could somehow be a blessing in disguise?
What scares you?
What would you like to do this weekend as a family?
What is one skill/talent you would like to try and learn?
Would you rather be ugly and wise or great-looking and foolish?
Would you rather get everything you want now or work hard for it before getting it?
What are you most grateful for today?

Faith-related questions:
What did you learn about God today?
When you think of God, how do you picture him?
If you could ask God a question, what would it be?
What do you like most about God?
What happened today that you think would have made God laugh, smile or cry?
If you had to choose between having all four limbs and having a close friendship with God what would it be?
If you had to choose between having lots of money and having a close friendship with God what would it be?

Everyone answers:
(Many of the questions above would be suitable for everyone to answer.)
Say one thing you appreciate about the person on your right. Then that person does the same, until all are done.

One person per dinner:
Ask each person what aspect of their life they wish could be better, then have them solve the problem, thus feeling a sense of intellectual ability, achievement, independence in small areas of his life.

Do you have an interesting question to add to this list? Or a funny or interesting story to add having tried a question from this list? I’d dig to hear it…

A father had seven children of which two were step-children from his second marriage.

He decided to take them out for a meal and so they went down to the local restaurant. He told his oldest son that he could pick anything off the menu. His son decided to go for a giant steak with a baked potato on the side. He ordered it and they watched him thoroughly enjoy himself wolfing down his meal.

Then the father invited his oldest daughter to do the same and she chose a seafood platter. Again, they all watched as she really enjoyed her food.

This continued down the line until his five children had all eaten. 

Instead of turning to his step-children, the father then turned back to his oldest son and invited him to choose something else off the menu. The son chose a steak kebab this time with a gourmet salad on the side. His daughter went for a three meat pizza. And so it continued down the line.

After the five children had eaten, the father turned to his children and asked them if they wanted dessert. His two step-children were looking a little hungry as well and so he made sure that their water glasses were replenished so that they had something in front of them. He then proceeded to buy ice-cream and cake for his five children. 

crustyAs they were about to leave, one of his step-children asked if they too could get something to eat. Moved by compassion the father asked his daughter if it would be okay with her if the two of them shared the bits of pizza crust she had left behind on her plate? She enthusiastically agreed and so everyone left having eaten something. A great night out.

THE IMMORAL OF THE STORY

I mean that would be fine, right? You would have no problem with that if it was an actual story? We would be able to make statements like ‘Well the five are his real children and the two should be glad that they got something, right?’

Or not? Would we be absolutely disgusted that five of the children got to pig out and two were left with the remains of the meal? Would it not be okay that there was enough money and resources to give everyone a good meal and yet the decision was made to give some people a great meal while some had hardly any meal at all? 

I think if this story was an actual situation where you knew the people, it might be a lot different. The reality of the world where rich and poor live very much like this is a lot easier to turn a blind eye to or even celebrate sometimes, perhaps because the situation of the poor seems so metaphorical [until we actually start to meet them and they become ‘real people’] that it isn’t actually real [as long as we can keep them out of sight, right?]

‘The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.’ [Gandhi]

I can’t do anything personally about sports and movie stars ludicrous salaries. But maybe I can start with my own greed. And that of those who I am in close relationship with. Through conversation [it’s not guilt that is going to win this battle, but imaginative creativity might get us places] and wrestling over these things. Mutual accountability. Goal setting and experimentation. Living better.

For people in America in particular, one way of starting to align yourselves to something better might be joining a Common Change group and, together with a group of friends, start meeting some of the needs in the lives of the people you know.

For others of us it might be taking on board the stories of people around us who are doing inspirational and creative things like the Albrecht family in the UK, or Nigel and Trish and their family in Hillbrow, South Africa and asking how that might look for us in our context. For parents of young children, it might be reading some of these stories and seeing if there is anything in there we might be able to take on or whether they inspire us to figure out how our story might look.

It might require us taking a moment to stop and do a stock take of our lives and ask if we are currently living out the values that we profess to have or should we be taking a leaf out of Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson’s book and simply walking away from the place we currently find ourselves to have landed and being more intentional about choosing the place where we decide to set up camp.

Maybe a small part of not feeling overwhelmed by what is happening in Syria right now could be by being intentional about the things I have the ability to change in my life and context right now?

I mean it’s just step-kids right? They’re not even his real children… 

browniesi just put the cut-the-calories-in-half chocolate brownies in the fridge and i am burning with a passionate cause.

did i plan to make brownies today? not at all.

did i plan to make brownies two hours ago? still no.

i was browsing some or other thing on the internetwebs and i came upon a link claiming to make brownies that will cut the calories in half. so i thought that looks cool let me go and see. hey we have all or most of those ingredients, let’s do this.

and by ‘this’ i mean ‘this.’

IF YOU ARE A BACHELOR AND YOU SAY YOU CAN’T COOK, YOU ARE LYING.

mancookingNow this refers to the ladies as well [so please feel ‘understood’ in there and also to married people [don’t feel left out] but the main focus of this rant, post, scream is at dudes who are living alone or in digs [or still with your parents – nothing wrong with that, sometimes it’s just what circumstances call for] who exist on take out food or some form of spread on toast and use the ‘I can’t cook’ slogan as a crutch.

Yes, you can! Don’t make me go all Mark Driscoll on y’all. [i acknowledge that i just typed the “word” ‘y’all’ – i’m gonna claim poetic licence.

And i mean you can, don’t get me wrong. This is not a ‘THOU SHALT’ post by any means, but much more of a ‘YOU REALLY DON’T HAVE TO SETTLE FOR’ one and it goes a little something like this:

IF YOU HAVE A STOVE AND ACCESS TO THE INTERNET, YOU CAN COOK

The stove is probably not even mandatory [at least one of those two plate mini vibes will be a good start though] but it helps.

So I start making the brownies and realise that I misread ‘vegetable oil spread’ as ‘vegetable oil’ – now we have vegetable oil, but no vegetable oil spread – what even is that? it sounds hideous and i’m scared to even ask. Oh no, panic time? Not at all – head onto the interwebnet and ask my good old sous chef, Uncle Goodle by typing in “vegetable oil spread” so i can have some idea of what it is, and then “Vegetable oil spread substitute” so i can know what else i can use in its place that will have the same effect. Turns out melted butter is an adequate substitute on most cases and so i strongly suspect i may have invited a couple of those calories back to the party, but problem solved and in no time the brownies are in the over. [“in no time” was a metaphor – it took time, no magic was conjured up in the making of these brownies and MAN, THERE IS AN AMAZING SMELL COMING OUT OF OUR KITCHEN!

female cooking and looking at laptop in kitchenIt is really that simple – if you have not cooked a lot in your life then start simply – do something with an egg – work your way up to french toast – make homemade flapjacks or pancakes and you will be experimenting with meat, vegetables and baked goods in no time. Start by getting over the mindset of ‘I can’t cook’ and you will be amazed at just how simple so much of this stuff is.

But you can find recipes for anything online – you can find simple and complicated recipes, there are programs where you enter in all the ingredients you have in the house and it throws out a couple of recipe options for you. The internetwebs has made cooking incredibly simple.

One thing Val and i recently started was the challenge of cooking one new meal a month each and so that has helped us to try things we’ve always wanted to make or even new things we haven’t even heard of. It has encouraged us to take on ethnic foods from other countries. I cooked my first ever fish the other day [fish fingers apparently don’t count] and the Tilapia was pretty amazing… excuse me for one second, have to go and pull some BROWNIES I JUST BAKED out of the oven [fork in and out with no stickiness on it and they are ready, and smelling really good!]

It is very easy to get caught up in what you are used to. And so, especially maybe as a guy living by yourself, it becomes take out and cereal and bread and beans, but the point i am trying to make here is that THERE IS SO MUCH MORE.  And the exciting thing is that like arrows in a quiver [not a metaphor, i’m talking actual arrows that bow-and-arrow-using people stick in actual quivers] once you know how to make something new, you have it for life.

And if you try something and it doesn’t work… IT DOESN’T MATTER… McDonald’s will still be around the corner – go and drown your sorrows in a McBaconburger and fries and try again tomorrow. Make good use of the internet. Invite a friend around and get them to show you how they make one of their favourite meals. One of my favourite meals is Shepherd’s pie and it’s s easy to make and so now it’s not just that great meal my mom makes for me on my birthday [yes, i like it that much!] it is now something both Val and i have made. And we can add our own unique twists to it. And it becomes our dish. Into the quiver you go.

i think i may have some more to say on this some day soon, but for now single man [hoping to get married one day and that your wife will magically just make all of the food?] take hold of the YES, YOU CAN! 

…and come back here when you’ve tried something, and let me know how it went… as for me, i’ve got some brownies to cut into squares and a wife to wake up and test them on…

chocolatebrowniesaug2013       

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