Of Wine and Truffles

Yesterday was not a good day. I found out that a bottle of expensive wine that I bought almost a year ago disappeared out of the back of my grocery cupboard. The only thing I can think is that it was taken by the once-off cleaning lady and her companion that came to help me spruce up The Cave during level three of the lockdown. I left them alone for maybe a half hour to go and buy them some groceries as part of their agreed remuneration. It’s not so much the wine, but the memory attached to the bottle. I bought it for the girls’ night Eliza, Carmen and I had when we knew that Carmen was leaving to join Ewan in the Land of the Kiwis. We never got around to drinking it, but we made a pact to drink it together – Eliza and I at her house, with Carmen on a video call. To add insult to injury I felt a migraine setting in late afternoon and I felt all round blegh. Anyway, what’s done is done; there’s nothing I can do about it.

It’s Friday and nobody want to listen to gripes anyway, so I am going to share another kitchen adventure with you.

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Day 126: A Promise Almost Un-Kept…

After 126 days in lockdown, there is still no real sign of when a sense of normality will return. I know that life as we knew it before COVID-19 will never be the same, but still, having the freedom to do some of the things we used to, would be nice. Anyhow, I’m not going to rant. It just sets me off into a downward spiral.

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Day 115: Boozy Comfort Food and an OTT Dream

It finally happened! I made the Boozy Jack Daniels Mac and Cheese that I’ve been hinting at in a previous post here, and here. Oh. My. Word. It was delicious!

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Day 110 (I Think): K’Ching Cheddar

There I was, merrily typing away when poof, off went the computer and the deafening silence that only loadshedding brings, set in. We were supposed to be on stage one, but apparently a half hour before 14h00, they upped the ante. I had a number of consequential four-letter words that I silently screamed at Eskom. Aside from work that gets behind, I am worried about the fridge. It has taken to making a loud knocking sound every now and then. I hope it isn’t on it’s way out. Anyhow, I caught up some of the lost hours, with a delicious treat-coffee.

Given that I couldn’t work, I decided to go to the shop for the missing ingredients for the boozy mac and cheese that I keep seeing in my saved FB items.. Holy crap! Dinkum hard cheese is pricey. I’m talking R420 a kilo expensive. To add insult to injury, it is better travelled than I am! Made in Poland, matured in Italy. Pfffffffft!

As I stood with a mere 148 grams of it in my hand, uhm’ing and ah’ing about if I really wanted to try the recipe that much, the Cookery Goddess, Penelope (who has been on hiatus) emerged and said, “For crying in a pot of minestrone soup, you’re willing to toss half a cup of Old No.7 in this dish. Buy the effing cheese!” I knew best not to argue – people tend to look at me funny when I have a conversation with Pen in the middle of the dairy aisle.

I am going to make the mac and cheese tomorrow, assuming Eskom doesn’t put the power off in the early afternoon. Lord knows, this mac and cheese better live up to all the anticipation I have built up and the money I’ve spent on ingredients. Penelope had better come up with other recipes to use this cheese because I’ll be damned if I’m letting it turn into a penicillin-based science experiment in the (possibly retiring) fridge. On the flip-side I got paprika for almost R12 less than the local grocery shop here. The brown sugar was on special too. Penny best be clever there too. Last time she had me buy castor sugar for something and when I eventually wanted to use it, the ants had built slopes in the box and were donning skis.

It is less cold than yesterday, for which I am grateful. Even though there isn’t much warmth in the sun, the light is bright and the sky is blue. The alien tapeworm is also dormant – another thing for which I give thanks. I’ve only had a cup of coffee, my Herbalife shake, and two apples today. Tonight I shall most likely have some fish and roast vegetables.

I tried to wear my ankle boots that have a slight heel. I lasted all of ten minutes walking with them. My ankle did not appreciate being bent at an awkward angle. I very quickly put on the spare pair I had in the boot of my car. The Toppie is always on me about my car being like a travelling wardrobe, but today it was a blessing. My ankle is sore, but without a change of shoes the pain would be worse.

Before lockdown was implemented a hundred and whatever days ago, a few friends and I celebrated a friend’s birthday. There we joked about driving around ever weekend in search of the perfect carrot cake. We even joked about having a van, with WortelKoeke on the outside – the blokes being the wortels and the gals being the koeke. In this spirit, I want to do the same kind of thing, but for the perfect savoury pie, preferably pepper steak.

This may be #TMI, but after shitting through the eye of a needle for four days earlier this month thanks to a dodgy chicken mayo vetkoek sarmie, I’m averse to the idea of eating anything chickeny unless I’ve cooked it myself or seen it being prepared. I don’t wish diarrhoea for days on anyone.

Many South Africans are sad because Nestle is discontinuing Chocolate Log bars. They’ve been around since 1969, but in all my life if I’ve eaten one a year, it’s a lot.

I’m not big on marshmallowy chocolates, except Sweetie Pies; if it has peanut butter in it I will devour it, but failing that anything wafery is good, as is a Peppermint Crisp, Flake or anything by Cadbury. I swear I can taste the glass and a half of milk in every block. When I came back from my holiday to Singapore in 2004, I bought a Cadbury Black Forest slab at the airport. It was deliciously indulgent. I broke off a single block every so often and savoured it. That slab must have lasted at least three months which is a record for chocolate when I’m around.

While infections continue to rise, recoveries go unmentioned, and Eskom continues to freeze us out of the warmth and light many of us pay for, life is good – Rachel the Rocket continues to grow, work chugs along, and I’ve not yet acted on murderous impulses – but, it is only Wednesday…

Day One Hundred and Whatever! Who Cares? I’m Freezing!

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Day 103: World Chocolate Day

It’s been a while since I’ve written a grocery list, let alone a blog post. A friend sent me a message on Friday telling me she misses me – and my blog.

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Day 76: At Least That’s What I Think It is…

I’ve lost count; I think it’s day 76 of the lockdown, or as I’ve come to realize, the new normal. It’s been challenging, but slowly I am beginning to get used to it. I’ve pretty much given up wearing my specs when I go out because they constantly fog up when I wear my mask.

My cooking skills continue to improve. I made an amazing Thai green chicken curry a while back which was beyond delicious. As I become more confident, I will experiment with spice mixtures myself, rather than the readymade ones. The Amish apple loaf is something I can make with my eyes closed and it is an absolute hit.

I also tried my hand at making a vegan tropical rice pudding. Oh my word! It was so delicious, I at the entire pot all by myself.

Tomorrow I plan to make chicken a’la king and somewhere in between then and Monday, I want to try a Jamaican banana bread. Yes, I’m finally climbing on the bandwagon. I also want to try making pizza dough in the breadmaker.

Staying in the kitchen, I finally used my juicer. I made an amazing mix of beetroot, cucumber, apple, pineapple, and orange juice. I stored it in a Douw Egberts coffee bottle, but it didn’t last. I drank it all. I felt spritely afterwards. My body must not have known what hit it – such freshness! I made some for Elizabeth and when II went into work, I took some for Carla and Rowena too. Carla is quite keen to try anything that comes out of my kitchen. I feel bad for all the pulp that goes to waste, but I will freeze it next time and use it in waffles, soup, cakes, or even try to make vegetarian patties of some sort.

On June 1st, the ban on alcohol was lifted. People queued for hours to get booze. I waited until Tuesday, went to Woolies and bought a bottle of Diemersfontein Chocolate Shiraz there. In and out in under ten minutes. Elizabeth and I drank it on Friday night while sitting a great social distance apart from each other.

There are rumours doing the rounds that some MEC’s are requesting a reinstatement of the ban because abuse cases are on the rise, as are accidents. Just last week, someone posted on a local Facebook group that a visibly drunk man knocked her son over – this while the inebriated prat had three children in his own vehicle. Apparently, he was let go, because under COVID-19 regulations, he couldn’t be breathalyzed. The question begs, why wasn’t he detained and taken to hospital to have his blood drawn? What if the child he hit had sustained serious injuries? The mind boggles…

On the subject of blood, I went to donate a pint yesterday. It’s been over a decade since I last made a donation. Turns out my details were still on record after the extended hiatus, and yesterday was a milestone donation: number 25. I got a nifty picnic blanket to mark the occasion. My hope is that when a modicum of normality returns to life, I can convince our management to host a clinic once every two months. I broached the subject in March, but then lockdown happened.

Last Wednesday, Lily-Rose celebrated her crown birthday. I could unfortunately not spend the day with her, her parents and her Nanna because I had work but took a drive out to the farm on Saturday. The great thing about the farm is the wide-open spaces, so visiting with social distancing in place is easy.

They have a few orphaned lambs that are bottle-fed which is always a highlight to me. I can confirm that Ba-Ba Black Sheep is indeed real. And he is a glutton for milk. If I didn’t have a tight grip on the bottle, he would have pulled the teat clean off.

Apologies for the bad quality pic, but the little bugger is lightning fast…

I also got better acquainted with the chickens.

I’m seriously not made for selfies…

 One thing I love about going to the farm is t a drive down to the river. The reflections on the water are always magnicient.

My heart is always happy when I’m close to the water
Another photo for Reflections of a Misfit, by the Reflective Misfit herself

Rachel the Rocket continues to grow, giving me hope that I might be able to cultivate other edible indoor plants after all. I don’t have the right set-up at The Cave to grow plants outside, and with the way the wind has been destroying things of late, even if I could, I wouldn’t.

Tonight, a ridiculous wind storm is expected, bringing with it a cold front and freezing temperatures. I fortunately still have some Cape Ruby Port left from last year, and The Bean gave me a pair of warm slippers to wear, on the proviso that I buy her another pair that simply slips on.

The one thing I do enjoy about the winter is the sunsets (I just hate that the sun is down by 17:30 already).

Work continues at a reasonable pace. The lockdown has changed many things and there is a ripple effect as a result. It can be extremely frustrating at times, but I’m still fortunate to have a job, and even more so, to still be able to work remotely. On cold days, I’m extra grateful because I can work while sitting under a blanket, with an unlimited supply of coffee.

That’s all for now. I promise my next post won’t be weeks away.

Until next time, stay safe and keep warm! And remember:

Day 30: A Simple Saturday

Today I slept until something past 11. I don’t even feel guilty either. The last fortnight has been riddled with troublesome sleep and nightmares. My duvet has been so twisted every morning, one would swear I was sharing my bed with a Boggart.

I cooked yesterday. A Cape Malay curry – with the spice mix out of a packet. The smells emanating from The Cave (because the stove is virtually in the middle of the place) were amazing. My white rice was finished, so I had it with a brown variety. It was delicious – and, there are leftovers for supper tonight. I’m looking forward to it because curry often tastes better the next day.

Lucy the lettuce continues to sprout new leaves, so I am happy. At some stage, when I can get a pot and soil, I will re-home her. For now, she appears to be thriving on the sink. Once I have some kind of setup, I will start keeping my food scraps for compost too.

The streets are quiet. So much so, that I can hear the neighbour’s TV across the road. The voices sound like they have a Southern twang. Every now and then there is trumpet music too. If I have to judge by the snippets of the soundtrack, I think it’s an old movie.

I didn’t listen to the Ministers’ addresses this morning, but I got the gist of what’s happening. One thing I don’t understand is Oom Cyril said we will be allowed to exercise under strict hygienic conditions, yet according to Minister Whatever-Her-Name-Is, we’re not allowed to walk, or jog. Guess I’ll have to have the tyres of the bicycles pumped, even though I can’t sit on the saddle and reach the pedals at the same time.

Tomorrow Eliza, Carmen and I have a video call scheduled. It’s been a while since. The last few days I’ve been thinking about my friends that have emigrated. It must be incredibly tough being away from your extended family. One friend I was at school with, Lana and her husband, Robert moved to Australia, arriving about three weeks before lockdown was imposed. Their pets have been released from mandatory quarantine in SA, but are not yet able to be sent over. It’s heartbreaking for them. Consciously, I don’t think some people realise just how much pets do become family members.

Shayla-Rae’s Gran has also been on my mind a lot of late. The Old Dame turned 100 (yes, you read right) in October last year, which means she was alive when the Spanish Flu riddled the world, and she’s alive today with the Coronavirus. She’s in a local old age facility in town. The residents were locked down a week before the rest of the country was. I wonder how she is holding up – whether she even knows what’s happening 😦

I’m keen to hear how we will be working, with the allowance of staff only allowed to be at a third of full capacity. I imagine shifts will be the answer. Our management is extremely communicative, so I’m sure that by Tuesday we will have concrete news. Part of me is seriously looking forward to seeing my colleagues again, while part of me is going to miss the freedom that flexitime has afforded to get more rest and learn more about myself. I am indeed fortunate to be returning to work – some many workers are not yet able to do so.

We’re in for a tough few months; where you can, support your local businesses that are operational, share from your pantry stores if you can, acknowledge unhappy feelings (because they will come up) but don’t dwell on them, drink water, and remember that you matter!

Years from now, when we look back with the perfect vision that hindsight brings, each one of us will smile and say, “We survived a pandemic. We were part of history!”

‘Til next time…