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Thursday, July 31, 2014


When I looked at my photos from last night's supper on the Harlem terrace, I could tell at glance that I did not take the one above. The Frenchman had picked up my camera (his old camera). So I give you his.

When friends came to share my wild dinner in the Cape Town winter of two weeks ago, they brought gifts. Rupert Koopman brought this barely-labeled red, and last night we attacked it. It was wonderful. Thank you Rupert. For a bottle that traveled far it fared very well. 

The red Bordeaux blend (Cabernet sauvignon, Cabernet franc, Shiraz, Merlot) accompanied our pretty much annual porterhouse, purchased yesterday not from old, dear Los Paisanos in Brooklyn, but from Harlem Shambles, who source locally-raised meat, and where two butchers seemed about as excited about it as I was. It was trimmed very lovingly, and given a little pat. I grilled it over well-ashed coals, on a bed of oregano flowers, with a galvanized metal (zinc, for non Americans) bath over it to insulate. The neighbors must think I'm gaga. 

...marjoram butter drizzled over at the end, and a side salad of terrace mint, chile, lime and pineapple (bought from a very sweet vendor on Frederick Douglass Boulevard at 116th, who also sells the nicest litchis I've seen out of Chinatown. I'll go back).

I gardened for several hours, in the afternoon, and the terrace is a more tamed. I transplanted strawberries smothered by thyme and marjoram, relocated some full size Nicotiana (don't do this at home), cut off all the parsley and dill flowers (see vase above) and tossed the plants, fed the demanding beans and roses, cut the blueberries* back very hard - this is always terrifying - and left a bucketful of herbs at the font door for our upstairs neighbours.

*The blueberries in the freezer are calling me. I think the peach and blueberry cake is in our immediate future.

And now I'm off to Central Park on a reconnaissance mission - I'm leading a private walk for some Peninsula Hotel guests tomorrow and must see what is what.

My next public walk is August 16th, Dead Horse Bay (think sumac, black cherries and bayberry), then August 23rd, Central Park. See the link below for details.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Pop up jungle

The yellow cab from JFK dropped me, my suitcase and my box of wine at the door on 127th Street. We had flown nine thousand miles, crossed several time zones and two hemispheres and found ourselves in a new season.

I hauled everything inside, greeted the startled cat, and went out to the terrace. And I began to garden.

A jungle has appeared in my absence. Hot weather, long days and plenty of water (French and sky in origin) and suddenly the purple runner beans have made that bean screen I dreamed of, in the long, very dark start to the year. There weren't even flowers when I left. The Malabar spinach is a slender python trailing in search of prey. The shiso (aka Perilla, below) is shiso-ing. The Nicotiana look tropical and are shouldering the roses. All the herbs are in bloom. Even the parsley. I started deadheading.

Then I pulled myself together and forced myself inside to unpack - which I detest - and shower, before letting myself out again. With a glass of sparkling elderflower cordial (about which more later) and bubbly water and lots of ice, I gardened some more.

Then Vince came home, which was wonderful, and I showed him all the goodies I had brought and we had a drink at the stone table.

Last night as we sat eating on the terrace he looked rather sadly at the de-flowered lemon basil. I realized guiltily that he has become proprietorial after being the garden keeper for four weeks, and I should have asked him. They were pretty, he said, taking a sip of prosecco. And they are, and bees love them. But I'm greedy and want the leaves, which give up after full bloom. So, no flowers for now. There will be more.

It's good to be home.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The road

We drove 25 minutes from home, over Ou Kaapseweg.

The clouds were splitting and reknitting, after three days of continuous rain. 

We were heading for some lunch at the Cape Point Vineyards.

Lunch had a good view, good service, and good smoked yellowfin tuna. And otherwise very on the ball maitre d's who squeezed your shoulders affectionately (with both hand, either side) every time you asked them something. Table at the window? Squeeze. Pepper? Squeeze. Bill? Squeeze. I hated that. Someone has told them the customers like it. This customer wanted to bite their arms off. Do not be touching me...(is it just me?). My dad might say, As jy my daar vat, moet jy my trou. If you touch me there, you must marry me.

And then we drove home, again.

There will be more Cape Town posts, but they will be loaded from Harlem. I am leaving home. I am going home.

See you there.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Home cooking

My mother and I have been having supper in front of the study fire, these winter nights in Constantia. My father is still in Europe, so it is just the two of us.

While I have been making many of our suppers, recently she made an old favourite - cottage pie. The lamb was ground up from the leftovers of two legs I'd roasted for the wild dinner party last week, and topped with smooth mashed potatoes, then slices of tomato and bacon. Hello, childhood. I had forgotten about those finishing touches.

Home keeps changing its meaning.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

False Bay

This is one of those perfect winter days in Cape Town. 

More beautiful than the long days of summer.

                                                         When the bay is as placid as a Swiss lake.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Chameleon Wednesday

I took the spirit of the Frenchman with me for a walk to find the Constantia chameleons. 

The spirit was strong because I discovered two new green dragons. 

The bored corgis lolled at my feet.  

Polite walkers wondered but did not ask what I was doing, staring at trees for long silent stretches. 

The one above has lost the tip of its prehensile tail.

This tiny one below is always in the same spot. Once the eye is used to their patterns they become easier to notice, but it's remarkable how fast they are lost, once you look away again.

The beautiful clear days are almost over again, as another weekend of winter storms approaches.

My mission here is not altogether accomplished. There are obstructions and labyrinths and a dark tunnel or two to negotiate, spanning the impressive range of country, family and livelihood. Like the lesson of the chameleons, we must adapt, and dye. And focus hopefully until we identify that which we came to find.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Bokbaai vygies

Enjoying the late winter sun in Constantia.

Previously seen here.


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