Finding some passion in curd

Passion fruit curd recipe

It’s no secret that the kitchen has long been my happy place.  Over the last while, I’ve not had the inclination – or reason – to spend much time  in the kitchen.  Other than what I must do for the market each week.  I am grateful for that – it is one of the things that helps to shape my week, and depending on what I (don’t) sell, ensures that I eat.

For a while, I admit, Fridays literally involved going through the motions.  Sometimes that was very hard.  That’s getting more manageable – thanks to time.

I also have friends to thank.  As the summer approaches autumn, harvests begin and friends who have produce they can’t use, arrive with armfuls.  In the last two weeks I have had deliveries of pears and granadillas.  GranadillasHere, passion fruit vines sometimes bear more than once a year and when the do, I have a ready market for granadilla curd.

As so often happens, it begins with a

Could you use….granadillas?


As it turns out, one of my regular marmalade customers is passionate about granadilla curd, so I knew I’d make at least one person happy if I made a batch.  So, of course, I answered in the affirmative.

Then.  I couldn’t find the recipe.  Or so I thought.  Then after trawling the interweb, I did.  There was something at the back of my head that told me I’d found and saved the recipe somewhere.

An aside:

In June last year – the 4th to be precise – my house was burgled and my laptop stolen, and along with it, recipes that I’d created and saved.  But neither saved into the Cloud or on to the Blockchain.  I should have known better.  Anyhow:  another lesson learned.

Back to the curd recipe:

I knew I must have a recipe because less a month after that burglary, I’d made a batch ofgranadilla fruit and pulp granadilla curd.  I knew I had the recipe.  And because of aforementioned disaster, I also knew I had saved it in some or other cloud.  I love it that my new flying machine (story for another time, perhaps) laptop has fab-bloody-tastic search features.  I eventually found it: I’d filed it under something else.  Anyway, this time round, I’m saving it here, on my blog and from here on to the blockchain so that I won’t lose it and I (and others) can find it.

For those who don’t know, a sweet curd is, effectively, a custard to which you add fruit.

Granadilla curd ingredientsPeople are most familiar with lemon curd and other than the lemon, this includes the same three ingredients:  eggs, sugar and butter.  Yes, it’s very sweet.  And rich. Occasionally rich and decadent are a necessary combination. This is one of them.

Curd takes time and attention

Curds need gentle treatment.  That takes time:  if you rush things you could end up with a scramble(d egg) which neither looks nor tastes good.  You also have to keep your eye on it.  For two reasons:  the first I’ve already mentioned which means that you need to continuously stir the mixture, preferably using a whisk.

Secondly, if you don’t have a double boiler (even if you do), make sure your equipment can “contain” everything.  If it’s an “only just” situation like mine, you have to stir gently to avoid spillage or its boiling over and creating an almighty sticky, burnt sugar mess.

Happily, I did!

This batch of granadilla curdGranadilla curd

Even if I say so, myself, this is a spectacular batch.  The granadillas are fantastically sweet – thanks to all the rain – and hot temperature we’ve had/been having.  It’s delicious on toast or bread, on cup cakes, ice cream and yoghurt.  Or, as R who gave them to me, pronounced,

…with blue cheese!

Thanks to her dumping the granadillas with me, and with another friend acting as guineapigs for another product (more of that in another post), I’m beginning to recover my passion for curd cooking.  For the moment.

If you’d like the full recipe, you’ll find a printable version here.

Until next time
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

Post script

If this post might seem familiar, it’s because I’m doing two things:

  • re-vamping old recipes. As I do this, I am adding them in a file format that you can download and print. If you download recipes, buy me a coffee. Or better yet, a glass of wine….?
  • and “re-capturing” nearly two years’ worth of posts.

I blog to the Hive blockchain using a number of decentralised applications.

  • From WordPress, I use the Exxp WordPress plugin. If this rocks your socks, click here or on on the image below to sign up.

Original artwork: @artywink
  • lastly, graphics are created using partly my own photographs and Canva.


Pretty Prickly

Grief and mourning

I have been very prickly, lately. They say things get easier with time. Six and a bit months later, things have certainly not got easier. They are different. And it’s hard to explain exactly what that means. What is different is having to accept that you never know – really – what will trigger an emotional response.

grief, mourning

At the beginning of December, I was at the opening of the McGregor Art Walk. It’s an event that had been in the planning since February or March, and when that began, it was with The Husband’s full support. He was supposed to have been at that, and other, events over that weekend. Needless to say, I was flying solo that evening. That’s not new, but it’s most certainly different now. People’s conversations with me are different.

Conversation one

Pleasantries dispensed with, “I so admire widows and widowers….” she gushed.

Something in my brain clicked. I have absolutely no recollection of the rest of conversation other than that I somehow had to extricate myself from it, and move on. Once the formalities of the evening were done, I bade the host farewell and confessed, “I have to flee…” Mercifully, she understood.

I retreated to my usual Friday haunt and shared the gist of that conversation with a friend who lost her life partner a few years ago. She was aghast. As I had been. I spent the best part of the next couple of days, vacillating between bridling with incredulity, and reflecting on whether my reaction to the word “admire” was appropriate.

I did what I always do, and consulted the dictionary:

This is what Collins told me about admire:

Word forms: 3rd person singular present tense admires, present participle admiring, past tense, past participle admired
1. VERB B2
If you admire someone or something, you like and respect them very much.
I admired her when I first met her and I still think she’s marvellous. [VERB noun]
He admired the way she had coped with life. [VERB noun]
All those who knew him will admire him for his work. [VERB noun + for]
Synonyms: respect, value, prize, honour More Synonyms of admire
2. VERB B1+
If you admire someone or something, you look at them with pleasure.
We took time to stop and admire the view. [VERB noun]
Synonyms: marvel at, look at, appreciate, delight in.

When I read the first definition, I began to second guess my reaction . Then I read the second and which is the context – and which connotation – I usually associate with the word. I cannot – and could not – reconcile either pleasure or delight with the unwanted condition of widowhood. In my understanding, when one admires someone – like a firefighter, nurse, or teacher – it’s aspirational. Unless one aspires to being a mariticide. And the woman said it with her husband of at least 40 years at her side.

On reflection – I’m doing a lot of that – I realise that she was probably less admiring of the condition than of how the widow appears to getting on with things. It’s taken me nearly a month – and a second conversation – to get to this realisation.

Conversation two

I had a catch-up conversation with a client last week and it included a brief look back at the year, which from a work perspective has been a relatively good one. He thanked me for my contribution – especially given what had happened this year – for not dropping the ball. He concluded that it – how I coped – was an inspiration.

Why, I asked myself, had I not balked at that remark?

Again, I went to the dictionary, and before I did, I realise that the comment had context: he (and the team) – as far as anyone can – had shared my journey. We had much more than the perfunctory conversation that happens when you happen to bump into someone. There was empathy, compassion and concern which, when my house was burgled, translated into practical and material help. And, with all that, they gave me space to work at my own pace which enabled me to continue meeting deadlines – and earning. I needed the work for other reasons, too it was more than a necessary distraction. It helps to give my days, weeks, months, shape. A real reason to get out of bed.

More reflections

So, when I reflect on the context of both conversations, I’m struck, again, at the power of language – to break down – and build up. It also reminds me of the sports’ rule: play the ball, not the player. Yes, I am now a widow, and perhaps that’s why I had such a knee-jerk reaction to that comment. One doesn’t sign up for widowhood and if one has the misfortune to lose a life partner, even though you think you are, you’re never prepared. Nor is one prepared for the journey that is mourning. It’s different from any other, and until one embarks on that new

sunrise mourning grief

path, one cannot even dream of beginning to understand.

Now, I must look to the sunrise each day, and start all over again. On my own.

Until next time, be well
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

Post script
If this post might seem familiar, it’s because I’m doing two things:

  • re-vamping old recipes. As I do this, I am adding them in a file format that you can download and print. If you download recipes, buy me a coffee. Or better yet, a glass of wine….?
  • and “re-capturing” nearly two years’ worth of posts.

I blog to the Hive blockchain using a number of decentralised application’s.

    • From WordPress, I use the Exxp plugin. If this rocks your socks, click here to sign up.

    • Join Hive using this link and then join us in the Silver Bloggers’ community by clicking on the logo.
Original artwork: @artywink

Pita Breads with Natural Yeast – Sourdough

Fiona Cameron-Brown Sourdough Pita Bread Recipe

I have been planning to share another episode in my sourdough journey for a while. It was prompted by my newest market product which garnered orders for 160.  Yes, you read right.  One-hundred-and-sixty.  Pita breads using wild yeast.

Oh, and that excludes the batch I make each week for the market…

I started working on this on Friday – in between my usual other “other” office tasks – and discovered that my WordPress site needed some updates (it still does which is why some images may not have pulled through).  I’ve not been here much in the last few months.  I also realised that I had far too many pita-related pictures….and went down the Canva rabbit hole making banners and collages.  The plan then shifted to finishing writing this on Saturday.  Now, I’m not so sure because, instead of sitting down to work after my post market brunch – around 1.30 pm, I got to it after 4.  And I had an early evening appointment.  And I was…tired…

An incident digression

Because I had to go and make a statement at the police station.

Because:  when I got home at dusk on Friday evening, somebody – the police think (a) child(ren) – had got into the house.  Nothing of significant value was stolen – there’s nothing left to steal (a story for another time) but the kitchen door has been so badly tampered with that I cannot unlock it. It may be irreparable.  I will know on Monday.

The intruder was not to be thwarted, though.

So, how did they/he get in?

Thank you for asking.  With today – Sunday’s – visit from the detectives, we discovered how they climbed on to the stoep roof and came in the fanlight and into the upstairs bathroom.  Definitely children.

What did they/he get away with?

Again, thank you for asking, but I’m almost embarrassed to say, small change.   Literally.  It must have been (a) boy: he stole nothing that would have appealed to girls, and small enough to have pocketed, like costume jewellery and perfume.  No wine went, either.  Another clue that it was probably kids.

Even though they didn’t get away with much, and their mission couldn’t be considered really successful, I’m rattled, unnerved and sadly angry.

I don’t want to be that person who is suspicious of every brown/black child who passes the house, or who stops to catch their breath on the corner, as they make their way up the hill – home or to the dam.

I am already the crazy lady who lives with cats and bats in The Sandbag House.  I don’t want to have another – and negative – descriptor added.

That incident soured what the end of what had been relatively sweet good day.  After five or so months, I’m in a space where had thought I was beginning to “get it together”, but after Friday, I’m back in fall-apart-mode and tears are not far.  Writing this, and about my new favourite sourdough product, is an attempt at getting myself back on track (again), and soldiering on.

Enough of the pity party.

Back to the pita partyPita Brea

Ever since I ate my first pita – some time in the early-1980s – I have been a fan.  As I am of so much Mediterranean food.  Until the pandemic, I had been totally intimidated at the thought of baking bread.  Even though I secretly harboured a dream of making my own.  And with natural yeast – sourdough.  With nothing better to do during lockdown, and encouraged by my friend, I grew Ursula.   She’s now three-and-a-bit years old.  I bake three different types of sourdough bread.  Every. Week.

When The Husband was still around, I did a lot of experimenting in the kitchen.  Succeeding with sourdough was a delight and once I’d mastered the buns, I had a go with naan and pita breads.  I made the naan breads with discard;  it took some planning and they were delicious.  However, not often having discard, and the need to paint them with oil or butter, means I haven’t done them that often and not at all in the last few months.  Also, the first pitas I made were using instant yeast.  That taught me, among other things, that the dough is very forgiving.  I have been wondering whether the dough would be as forgiving if I made them with natural yeast.

Market mates

Pita breads with Trish’s falafel and tzatziki on a bed of Asian slaw

Anyway, I digress again.  Fast forward to the last couple of months.  My market pal, Trish, makes falafel and tzatiki.  One day it occurred to me that it might make sense to add sourdough pita breads to my repertoire.  To suit my own tastes, yes, and they’d “play” well with my neighbour’s wares. She loved the idea. Eventually, in mid-September “it” happened.

As with all things new, that day, I came home with most of the batch and happily shared my supper on Instagram.  As I do.  My friend, R, who caters big functions saw the post.  A couple of days later, I saw her at the local:

Can I order 120 pitas for xyz date?


The following day, I checked in, concerned that it had been the whisky speaking.

Nope.  Not the whisky.

So began a couple of weeks of perfecting pita breads, discovering the maximum quantity of dough my kitchen and equipment could cope with.  And when I’d delivered the 120, she ordered another 40!

Let’s just say, I now have pita-making down pat!

Pita practise taught me –

pita-breads-with-natural-yeast-sourdoughPerhaps the best thing I learned from the pita practise is, as I mentioned, how forgiving they are.

  • you make the dough in two stages, but if you get some things mixed up, it doesn’t really matter
  • when you’ve made the dough, and before the long ferment, you have to stretch and turn it.  Twice.  At least twice, I only did it once.  I prefer doing it twice, but there was no discernible difference between the batches.
  • the recipe says a long ferment – like overnight in the fridge.  I did. And I didn’t.  It depended on other things affecting my programme but it didn’t affect the final result:  the shortest ferment was about 4 hours.
  • you don’t have to use all the dough at once:  pull off and use what you need, and bake fresh pitas on demand.  The dough keeps in the fridge for a couple of days.  At least.

Six, err… five ingredient pita breads

Like all breads, water and flour are the key ingredients, then it’s a case of adding salt – of course – sugar and olive oil.

The sixth ingredient is mother – the sourdough starter – which is just flour and water.  If you don’t have your own mother, make one.  You won’t regret it.

In terms of quantities, you use equal quantities of mother and water, and just under double the quantity of flour.

Two-step dough

  1. In a large bowl, combine the starter, water (226g of each), and 210g of thepita-breads-with-natural-yeast-sourdough flour. Mix (I use a mixer) until it forms a thick batter. Cover and set aside for half an hour to an hour.  When you lift the cover you’ll see that the batter has a few bubbles.  That’s good.
  2. Add the olive oil, sugar and salt. Mix to combine. I add 30ml olive oil first, then some of the remaining 179g  flour and 1½ tsp salt and then the rest of the flour and 3tsp sugar, mixing it to a soft dough.
  3. With the mixer running on low, mix until the dough begins to clean the bottom of the bowl and form a ball around the hook.
  4. Knead for 5 minutes until the dough forms into a smooth ball.
  5. Put the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, turning once to coat the dough. Cover and set aside at room temperature for half an hour to an hour.
  6. After it’s rested, uncover and lift one side of the dough and fold it into the middle of the dough. Do this with the other three sides of the dough then turn it over to ensure even distribution of the yeast. Cover and leave for another half an hour to an hour.
  7. Repeat and then leave the covered bowl for another hour – the dough should be lively, elastic and airy. If the dough is still heavy, give it another hour or two at room temperature.
  8. Cover the bowl tightly and put it in the fridge overnight or for 2-3 days. When you’re ready to make your pitas, take the dough out of the fridge and let the dough to come to room temperature.
  9. Preheat the oven to 240 °C. If you have a baking steel put it into the oven to heat. If not, put a baking sheet in oven to preheat.  (Dark baking sheets work best because they absorb heat better and the bread will bake faster and puff better).
  10. Divide a single batch of dough into 8 equal pieces (around 110g) and roll each into a ball and leave to rest for 10 minutes.
  11. Use a rolling pin to roll two pitas to 1cm thick and roughly 15cm around. If the dough springs back too much, let your little rounds rest for 5 minutes and roll again.
  12. Put each round on your preheated baking stone or baking sheet and into the oven. Bake until they puff up and the bottom is nicely browned, about 3-5 minutes.  Don’t turn the breads. Wrapped the baked pitas in a clean kitchen towel while you roll and bake the other pitas.
  13. Eat the pitas the day they are made when they are best. They also freeze very well.


  • At step 8, you can either make your pita breads or cover the dough tightly and refrigerate. You can keep the dough for 2 – 3 days, taking off what you need, as and when.  Remember to let the dough to reach room temperature before working it.
  • The perfect baking time in my gas oven is 6 to 7 minutes.

A real Fiona’s Favourite

Of the sourdough products I make, my personal favourite is the pita breads.

Scrambled egg pita

Customers also like them and I am developing a couple of regulars.  I also admit, that if I don’t have some to bring home because I’ve sold them all, I will make a batch for myself.

They freeze well and I love their versatility.  One Sunday, without bread, I made myself a scrambled egg and tomato pita.  Loaded with fresh parsley.  I won’t wait until I have no bread before I make it again!

Finally, pitas freeze well, and reheat easily in a dry pan with a lid.  So when it’s meals for one…as it is for me, now, they’re a no brainer.

If you want to make your own, you’ll find a printable recipe here.

Until next time
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

Post script

If this post might seem familiar, it’s because I’m doing two things:

  • re-vamping old recipes. As I do this, I am adding them in a file format that you can download and print. If you download recipes, buy me a coffee. Or better yet, a glass of wine….?
  • and “re-capturing” nearly two years’ worth of posts.

I blog to the Hive blockchain using a number of decentralised applications.

  • From WordPress, I use the Exxp WordPress plugin. If this rocks your socks, click here or on on the image below to sign up.

Original artwork: @artywink
  • lastly, graphics are created using partly my own photographs and Canva.


Different people. Different grief.

The other day, someone asked me,

Do you miss him?

I was a little girl – probably nine or ten – when I first encountered a death in the family.  My father’s mother.  We called her Wee Granny.  I don’t remember her.  Hardly surprising because the only time I did ever meet her, I was an infant and she never left Scotland.  Glasgow, to be precise.

Next, it was Big Granny.  Now, I do remember her.  I have vivid memories of her trip to South Africa.  I also have vivid memories of my time with her – as that three-year-old – on the eve of our departure from the UK, en route to Johannesburg.  She’d been ill, and my mother had been called to her deathbed in England.  About a month after her to South Africa, Granny died.  I was about 16.

Neither of those deaths had a profound impact on my young life.  Mainly because neither of the grannies had been part of my everyday life.  Ever.  In a world without the Internet and social media, intercontinental, trans-hemisphere communication was by letter.  Trans-Atlantic telephone calls had to be booked and were reserved for life – and mostly death – emergencies.  And telegram.

Because we were so far from blood family, my parents built close friendships with contemporaries. Members of their inner circle substituted for grandparents.  So, the death that first really hit me was Uncle Ritchie.  That time taught me two life lessons.  Firstly, that death hurts.  And secondly, that bad news really does travel fast – via routes least expected.  I wasn’t living at home and was in the throes of my first-year university exams so they decided I should not be told.  Little did they know that among my circle of friends, was somebody who had also known Uncle Ritchie.  I didn’t believe her.  I rushed to the payphone.

They didn’t want me to go to the funeral.  They couldn’t stop me.

In the years that followed, I lost friends, colleagues and acquaintances:  car accidents, illness and suicide.  With each death I learned that grief is as individual as the person for whom one grieves. That lesson was hardest when my parents died within eleven months of each other.  My mother, unexpectedly after a short illness.  My dad, although of cancer which only emerged after Mum died, The Husband and I always believed, of a broken heart.

It’s no secret that my mother and I were not friends, but she was my mother and her death hit me like a sledgehammer.  I wept for months.  Dad and I, on the other hand, had a special connection which deepened after she died.  I miss him and wish him here more than I do her.  Nearly a quarter of a century later.

The death of a parent, even as a thirty-odd year-old child, changes one’s world.  Suddenly, somebody who, from the beginning of one’s memory, was always there, and integral, is just gone.  That is an enormous adjustment.

Nothing, however, prepares one for the death of one’s life partner.  Oh, you can prepare in your head.  I knew, in my brain, that with a significant age gap, biology and statistics suggested that he would die first.  But the brain and the heart don’t work together very well especially when the older person is healthy, fit and never got ill.  Especially when the stock response to hearing his age was an incredulous, “Really, I thought you were ten years younger than that!”

The Husband died exactly a month short of his 77th birthday.  He went to hospital to get better.  The operated and removed what had made him suddenly ill. He came through the surgery with flying colours.  So well that the medical staff called him their miracle man and even with all the post operative pain and discomfort, his lust for life had not diminished.  Three days after that surgery, he developed a clot, was rushed to ICU and intubated.  On top of that, he had an infection, and he went into organ failure, and I was called to his death bed.  Not ready to give up, few hours later his body had rallied, and he’d turned the corner and continued improving.  Until.  A series of hospital-based infections eroded his already compromised body and, eventually, his life.  For the last 37 days, thanks to being ventilated, he could not speak.  He could, though, communicate, and in our last conversation, he was still determined to come home.  That was his plan.  That was our plan.

Three days later, he died.

For seven weeks I had been home alone and visiting him in hospital.  I put stuff on hold because he was coming home.  This could wait.  That could wait.  He was coming home.  I put the laundry away.  I ordered a chicken for a Sunday supper.  He was coming home. Knowing he’d be weak and not be able to climb stairs, I began planning to move ourselves into the guest room.

Marriage is “in sickness and in health”.  They warned me it would be a long path after six weeks in ICU and the extent of muscle wastage.  If it meant his coming home and – again – grabbing the brass ring, it was what I had signed up for.

I chose to sign up for a life with him.  It was a choice.  And we made a life.  We scrapped and disagreed – as all married couples do.  But he was the person I bounced ideas off.  The Husband was the last person I saw as I went to sleep, and the first when I woke up.  I’d reach over in the night to see that he was warm and still breathed.  My worst nightmare was waking up and he’d be gone.

I am living my worst nightmare.  He is gone.

I am not alone.  I am not lonely.  I am lonely for him.  For my friend.  The person I chose to spend my life with.

I miss him all the time.  I shall miss him always.

Until next time
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

Post script

If this post might seem familiar, it’s because I’m doing two things:

  • re-vamping old recipes. As I do this, I am adding them in a file format that you can download and print. If you download recipes, buy me a coffee. Or better yet, a glass of wine….?
  • and “re-capturing” nearly two years’ worth of posts.

I blog to the Hive blockchain using a number of decentralised applications.

  • From WordPress, I use the Exxp WordPress plugin. If this rocks your socks, click here or on on the image below to sign up.

Original artwork: @artywink
  • lastly, graphics are created using partly my own photographs and Canva.


Cooking class(es) with Kurt


cooking-kimchi-with-chef-kurt-mcgregorOn Saturday, 8 July, I had the privilege of joining a cooking class.  With Chef Kurt, owner of The Fat Lady’s Arms.

It was the most fun Saturday afternoon I’ve had in a long while.  Especially on a cold and miserable winter’s day as it was, yesterday.


First –

A disclaimer – and more

Although Kurt is one of our longest standing (ahem…not older…) McGregor friends, I am not sharing and waxing lyrical at his behest.  I do so because it was a glorious afternoon and it’s an initiative hope will flourish.

We have food in common – eating and cooking.  He’s the professional, I’m not.  Learning how to make “new” food is something I relish.  Also, I’ve long been thinking about fermenting things and just never got around to it.  Kimchi, too, I find fascinating.  A few years ago, a Canadian blog pal who lives in Korea with a Korean wife, wrote a fascinating (to me, anyway) blog about the family kimchi-making tradition.  Alas, the post, I cannot find, otherwise I’d send you there.

A confession

Cabbage and I have a love-hate relationship. I’ve eaten kimchi just once that I can recall.  I was underwhelmed but thought that when the opportunity came, I’d try it again.  I’ve been around a few blocks to know that like so many of these things, who makes them, how they’re made (at home or in bulk), etc., etc., makes a huge difference.

I jumped at the invitation to learn more – and from someone who has spent a significant amount of time in the east.  Kurt lived in China for six or so years and although his day job was planets away from food, he spent is spare time in friends’ kitchens, including a “pukka” Korean restaurant.   His interest in eastern flavours also pre-dates that trip:  The Husband and I frequented his and Andre’s first restaurant – in McGregor – even before we moved here.  Already, Asian influences – like the fa-bu-lous duck spring rolls – were menu staples.

The first (parts of the) lesson

There’s an old saying that it’s 90% preparation and 10% doing.  And if there isn’t, there should be.  The first – and a significant of the time in making kimchi is in the preparation.  First, the proper (not quite) dismembering of the Chinese cabbage that had been harvested just that morning,  This, we washed and salted (brined) and set aside.  What followed was a significant amount of chopping the other additions:  daikon, carrot, garlic, ginger and spring onions.

As Kurt pointed out, there are machines that do this work, but two things: cooking-kimchi-with-chef-kurt-mcgregor there is something about hand-made food and then there’s learning knife skills from some who really “does” them.  My knife skills have developed over the years – with practise – but I was making at least one mistake.  Now remedied – with the logic explained.

Once we’d finished playing with knives (mostly), with everyone’s digits still intact, we were handsomely rewarded with a glass of Prosecco.  Partly, I suspect, to soften us up for the middle – and very messy part of the lesson.

cooking-kimchi-with-chef-kurt-mcgregorBecause we used out hands for this part of the lesson, I have no photographs of our mixing the rice “porridge” and chilli into our “choppings”.  I had been a little anxious about this, I admit. I am allergic to chillies.  Although, over the years, I have developed a tolerance, I know that working with crushed, dried chillies is another matter.  Not a problem:  Kurt had latex gloves on hand and I was spared the chagrin of somebody else assembling  stuffing my cabbage with the flavourings that make kimchi, kimchi.

Once we had done that, we had the dubious pleasure of squishing the stuffed cabbage, bar a little, into jars.  And I mean squishing.

I’m not hearing any of those squishy noises…

…said Kurt.  And then he did.  As we stuffed our large (and smaller) bits of marinated cabbage into the jars he had supplied.

To end (the last part of) the lesson

It wasn’t enough for Kurt that we just make Kimchi.  We had to do something with it.  That “with it” was dumplings.

In addition, then, to learning about – and making – a natural, fermented, instantly edible product, we learned how to use it.  I was fascinated by the dough:  just flour and water.  So many cultures have flour and water as a base for a sort of bread staple.  From bread to tortilla and Chinese dumplings.  Unlike bread, and more like tortilla, this dough is made with warm water.  Like with all doughs that need kneading, it will take some practice. Another technique to hone – and learning about the balance between releasing the gluten and not breaking it.

Proof of the dumpling stuffed with fresh kimchi

My dumplings were a bit doughy, but stuffed with the chopped, fresh kimchi? Delicious.

Playing with fire

I’ve run ahead of myself:  we didn’t just get to play with knives, we played with fire,  The technique for cooking the assembled dumplings was a combination of frying and steaming – all in the same pan.

You know that oil and water don’t mix, right, and that if they do, there are big flames?  And so there were when Kurt played with my dumplings!

All’s well that ended well – handled with the calm that is both the man and his years of experience.

Rounding things out

We went home with our kimchi, recipes and instructions about how to look after it.

But that’s not all

This wasn’t just about chopping, messing with chillies and drinking bubbly.  This was a well-rounded experience, orchestrated with aplomb.

Firstly:  Not only does Kurt explain the whys and wherefores of kimchi and fermenting, but also the well-documented health benefits of this traditional – and trendy – Korean staple.  It’s always this type of cerebral value-add that gets me.

Then, and equally importantly was the quality of the knives – and other equipment – we got to work with.  Proper chef’s knives, and properly sharp.  (I am someone who goes on a self-catering holiday with my favourite knife.)  Properly sharp.  No, it’s not only about the knives:  each workstation had exactly the equipment we needed.  I loved the colanders, the peeler (different from my one at home), the bowls and the swabs for cleaning up after ourselves.

If I’d had one, my only gripe would have been no apron – I had the foresight to take my own.  An oversight Kurt acknowledged and plans to remedy.  That said, I don’t think it’s essential.  If you know you’re playing in the kitchen, you should go suitably prepared for mess.

Last but not least, Kurt’s experience is backed by his training in one a top-rated chef school..

A last (important) word

This was the first of what Kurt plans to be a regular, first weekend of the month event.  At R550 for three hours well spent, it’s excellent value for money.  If you’re not a local this is just another a great reason to visit the village.  The plan is that each month, Kurt runs the same course four times:  Friday and Saturday mornings and afternoons.  For less than a good meal and a bottle of wine, it’s an experience you won’t regret.

I’d do it again.  In a heartbeat.  Especially when it’s something I’ve been nervous of trying without help.  It’s also a great way to celebrate a milestone event with your (foodie) friends.

Until next time
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

Post script

If this post might seem familiar, it’s because I’m doing two things:

  • re-vamping old recipes. As I do this, I am adding them in a file format that you can download and print. If you download recipes, buy me a coffee. Or better yet, a glass of wine….?
  • and “re-capturing” nearly two years’ worth of posts.

I blog to the Hive blockchain using a number of decentralised applications.

  • From WordPress, I use the Exxp WordPress plugin. If this rocks your socks, click here or on on the image below to sign up.

Original artwork: @artywink
  • lastly, graphics are created using partly my own photographs and Canva.


This day, 23 years later, will never be the same

For the first time in 23 years, I celebrate The Husband’s birthday without him. He didn’tFiona blog “do” birthdays. I did. That photograph, I took of him in 2016 and used it for the invitation to celebrate his 70th birthday. Seven years ago.

Exactly a month ago, on 5 June, I said goodbye to him forever. I left him knowing that while I was gone he was likely to breathe his last breath. He hadn’t been breathing without help for 37 days. He had been living – if you could call it that – his worst nightmare.

I had been home an hour when they called to say his time was close. A quarter of an hour later he left.

Six days later, the village – I mean the village – said goodbye.  It was an old fashioned wake at the local – where he had intended having his first beer when he came out of hospital.  It was not to be.

I did not have the strength to say what was in my heart and a friend read it for me.  I share it here.


My first conversation with Tom was over a pot of potatoes.  No, I wasn’t cooking.  He was.  He had his rear end in the air and I heard a frustrated expletive from behind a cupboard.  Cigarette hanging out of his mouth, he was managing very dodgy electrics to cook the perfect roast potatoes. I was just passing through the kitchen. He hadn’t seen me when I asked in even more colourful language, whether the potatoes were ruined.  He was more than startled. 

He never let me – or anyone – forget that conversation, especially the bits that followed:  a highly intellectual discussion about the meaning – and use – of the swear words for sodomy and fornication.  I subsequently discovered that he was a little nonplussed when he worked out that I was also that very annoying woman who kept on wailing, “I’ve lost my drink…”

It was a party – Tom never forgot the date:  Saturday 30 October, 1999. A housewarming of friends and who had been former neighbours of both of ours, at different times in our respective lives.  It was also that evening, that we danced together for the first time.  Not really together, although that’s what he’d have liked. Because I fled.  He was too interested.

As I think back on that evening, and it feels like yesterday, not the nearly quarter of a century that it is. Our meeting and what unfolded was – is – the Tom we know and love:

– Happy to help where he was needed

– Quick with a quiet riposte

– Always ready to hit the dance floor

He worked hard over the next few months. 

Just as he always remembered the date we met, he never forgot the date when, the following February, our “together” journey really began.  I didn’t make it easy for him.  Another long term relationship, let alone a marriage, was not in my life plan. Then.  He accepted that, and me, with all my foibles, and set about courting me.  Yes, that’s an old fashioned word, but it best describes how he gently held me as I grieved my mother, and set about earning my trust just by listening and doing.  Thinking and caring.  Just being himself.

Tom was not my other half.  He was a whole vibrant, strong, healthy person. The hardest part of the last 37 days of his life was that for most of it, he was robbed of his independence, agency, and autonomy. 

People laughed when I referred to the co-management, but that was how we did things – we discussed and reached an agreement.  Or tried because we didn’t always agree.  There were times – a lot – when we didn’t agree – mostly on work issues.  When the other knocked heads, we just picked up each other’s pieces and carried on.

Most people know Tom as a man of few words.  He was – unless he knew you well.  Then, he was hard to shut up.  He told stories and one of our Sunday Supper guests one evening exclaimed that she hadn’t known that he was such a raconteur – her word.  I’ve never forgotten.  I know there are so many of you here today who will miss Tom’s stories.  I, and others, asked him to write them down.  He never did.

There’s one story he never told at a dinner party, but which we discussed.  Often.  It epitomises the man who loved people and had the capacity to talk to anyone – and build bridges.  The specific details are not important, but here are the broad brush strokes:

Either shortly before or after independence in Zimbabwe and although back on the farm, he was still part of the police and some cattle had been stolen.  Everybody knew where they were, and with whom.  Things were still tense but protocols had been set in place for this kind of engagement. Tom volunteered to lead the group and negotiate for the cattle.  One of the conditions for the expedition was that nobody was to be armed.  It bothered everyone else.  Not Tom.  He was simply going to meet with people to have a conversation.

When the two groups ultimately met, they all recognised each other from having been on opposite sides.  Individuals in their respective forces who had been counterparts and enemies.  What ensued was a long and engaging conversation about hostile contacts.  There was one, in particular, and during which, the two men discovered that by some slight of hand or crack of stick, the one had not assassinated the other.  They discussed “who” (and what) the other had been during hostilities  and that they had known “of”, and encountered each other for years.  With no hard feelings, and much mutual respect they shook hands, and Tom returned to the farm with the cattle.

His gift with people explains why, during the hostilities leading up to Zimbabwe’s independence, their homestead was never attacked despite their cook, who lived in the compound, being a senior political leader.

Tom had a wicked sense of humour and given half a chance, full of mischief.  He was an adventurous and mischievous child.  One of my favourite stories is of the mice he wasn’t supposed to have had.  His mother discovered them because when he’d taken them to school – on his bicycle, inside his shirt and in his blazer – they ate bits out of his school uniform.  He graphically described how on a winter’s morning, he took them to school to sell. I know it’s impossible, but in my mind’s eye, created an abiding image of a little boy, peddling to school with a mission of mice clinging to the handlebars of his bike.

Then there was the time he and three of his mates built boats and raced them in the nearby stream. They waterproofed them with bitumen they encouraged to ooze from the edge of the tar road… They did it often because, between regattas, they stored boats by sinking them in the stream…

Then, there’s his telling – with all the actions and appropriate animal sounds – of when he tried to encourage an errant herd of cattle back into their camp. In the dead of a night with no moon. Such were his storytelling skills that listeners hung on every word, and when he eventually explained that the glowing eyes and warm snuffly snorts were coming from a herd of wild buffalo, everybody would be crying with laughter.

He loved a party, and to dance. Often, at his insistence, we’d be the first up and dancing. And the last.

Please dance for Tom. With Tom in your heart. At least one more time.

Until next time
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

Post script

If this post might seem familiar, it’s because I’m doing two things:

  • re-vamping old recipes. As I do this, I am adding them in a file format that you can download and print. If you download recipes, buy me a coffee. Or better yet, a glass of wine….?
  • and “re-capturing” nearly two years’ worth of posts.

I blog to the Hive blockchain using a number of decentralised applications.

  • From WordPress, I use the Exxp WordPress plugin. If this rocks your socks, click here or on on the image below to sign up.

Original artwork: @artywink
  • lastly, graphics are created using partly my own photographs and Canva.



Keener than (wholegrain) mustard

Wholegrain mustard recipe

I have been making my own wholegrain mustard for a while, now. Well, until December 2022, I hadn’t made it for a while. The first time I made it was ahead of a Sunday supper. I cannot remember why I needed it, but none of the shops had any. For love nor money, we could find none anywhere. Whatever I was making (I don’t remember), needed it. I had to have a plan B. I made my own.
It was that good.
I’ve been meaning to do so, again. I also thought that those little jars might be a nice addition to my line of products and, potentially, a great Christmas gift. Last December, as I was planning my fare for the annual Christmas market in McGregor, I had the opportunity to get my hands on goodly quantity of spices and mustard seeds were on my list.
Recipe: lost
Of course, I had written the recipe down. Somewhere. Probably on a (s)crappy piece of paper. Given that it was probably some three – even – four years ago – I couldn’t find it. I did my research (again) – having remembered the basic ingredients, – to be sure of the quantities and ratios. The first time, of course, I needed it in a hurry, so I broke the rules – of making. It was a mistake.
It’s easy, but you need to plan and do the plan
I didn’t need to make that a heading. However, this is a note to self as much as it’s a strong recommendation to you. Because I learned the hard way. The first time I made mustard, I neither soaked the mustard seeds and nor did I stash it to “brew”. I should have. The soaking makes the mustard more creamy and the stashing – for a month if you can bear it – does significantly add to the flavour. Not only does the mustard get hotter, but the mustard mix gets more aromatic the flavour deepens.
Getting into the mustard

It’s a really simple recipe and when I made it, I had fun making pretty patterns with the yellow and brown seeds.
In addition to the seeds, the ingredient list is short: apple cider vinegar, honey (or sugar) some salt and turmeric. The latter does two things: it’s anti fungal and it helps to keep the mustard yellow. The colour tends to dull even though the flavour improves with time.
When I made it in December, I chose to make it in an extra large jar because I quadrupled the recipe and I knew that my immersion blender would fit into the jar.
Once I’d blended it to the consistency I wanted, I didn’t have to decant it. I could scrape down the sides and let it mature. After a couple of days I tasted it for flavour and also for consistency. I added a little more honey and some water so that it wasn’t quite so stiff and claggy.
The recipe – roughly
Equal quantities – 50 g – each yellow and brown mustard seeds, just under half a cup of apple cider vinegar and 1-2 tablespoons or water and half a teaspoon of salt. As I said, they say that the sugar (I use honey – and you could use a sugar substitute) and turmeric are optional. I don’t think so. That means, the same amount of turmeric as salt and then honey to taste. I recommend about double the amount of salt so you don’t have a sweet mustard. Unless, of course, that’s what you want.
What to (you must) do
Soak the mustard seeds – cover them with about two thirds of the vinegar. Stand for at least 1 hour or overnight – better. The following day, add and blend the remaining ingredients. Then pot in a sterilised jar and leave it alone for a month for the flavours to develop.
If you’d like a printable recipe, you’ll find it here. If you do download recipes, buy me a coffee. Or better yet, a glass of wine….?

A selection of best selling products prepared for the Christmas market
I mentioned that I made a batch for the Christmas market. I’m delighted to say that it sold like hot cakes and I’m going to see if the next batch sells as quickly. One of the pots was booked even before I made it. The buyer will collect it tomorrow and I have to persuade her not to open it for at least four weeks…I’m not sure I’ll succeed!
Until next time, be well
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma
Post script
If this post might seem familiar, it’s because I’m doing two things:
re-vamping old recipes. As I do this, I am adding them in a file format that you can download and print. If you download recipes, buy me a coffee. Or better yet, a glass of wine….?
and “re-capturing” nearly two years’ worth of posts.
I blog to the Hive blockchain using a number of decentralised applications.
From WordPress, I use the Exxp WordPress plugin. If this rocks your socks, click here or on on the image below to sign up.

Join Hive using this link and then join us in the Silver Bloggers’ community.

Original artwork: @artywink
lastly, graphics are created using partly my own photographs and Canva.

Some September Stuff

Fiona Cameron-Brown Canva

There are some days that one never forgets.  What happened, where you were, what you were doing and what followed.  I was standing in my kitchen starting to get supper ready when I heard the news that Queen Elizabeth II had died.  It got me thinking about how, in my life, I’ve lived history.  It’s not something one thinks about as a six-year old, sitting on the floor, listening to a crackly radio broadcast as the first human walked on the moon.

Similarly, when the 1976 “riots” broke out in South Africa and a year later, Bantu Stephen Biko was murdered on 12 September.  I was at boarding school and television didn’t exist in South Africa then.  Because of that, and because at school, unless you were a senior (I was not in 1976/7), the only source of news was the local newspaper.  Every week day, a copy of the Daily Despatch arrived on a table in the common room.  After school, almost ritualistically, I’d read it.  Although I didn’t know it at the time, it was one of the few South African newspapers to document – in detail – the inquest into Biko’s death.

That, with hindsight, was my first significant September date.  There are others.

Not actually a royalist, but…

I’m not  a royalist and my views of monarchies are conflicted.  We have monarchies in South Africa.  Nelson Mandela was a member of the amaXhosa royal family.  Here, too, the notion is contested and, frankly, a bit confusing. Unlike in Britain, they are quite parochial and play no role, formally, in international relations.  Interestingly though, just today, the recently installed King of the Zulus extended an olive branch to their former colonisers.


I did, however, grow up with an English mother who, after her own mother’s death, found a book that documented the family’s tree back to landed gentry and royalty.  She claimed.  I don’t know what happened to the book. I wonder, now, whether that story is apocryphal.    It does, however, explain why I remember November the 14th 1973.  I was 10, it was a hot, early afternoon in the kitchen at home.  Making a million sandwiches. There was some or other school event later that day. My memory isn’t sure, but says that it was a prize giving.   What my memory is very sure of, is why the radio was on, and there was no conversation:  Princess Anne was getting married.  My mother was hanging on every word.

Some eight years later, and Charles married Diana, I was at university.  A bunch of us piled into a friend’s car and headed to our house.  When my parents came home for lunch our lounge was bursting at the seams with young people, glued to the television, watching the royal wedding. We were all – to a boy and girl – roughly the same age as the girl-woman who became the People’s Princess.

September, 16 years later

As vividly as I remember that July day, I remember the morning of Sunday, September 1st, 1997.  I had gone through to the kitchen to make the ritual cup of tea and turned on the radio for the news.  It was heart stopping.  Princess Diana was dead.  She was only two years older than I, and over the intervening years, my empathy for a woman who on that 1981 day, had no idea of the poison chalice she’d been served, had grown.  My own marriage at the time, was on the rocks.  That she seemed to be getting a second chance made it all the more tragic. To me, anyway.

Then, five days later, Mother Theresa died.  Yes, she was old, but I felt it in a way I hadn’t for Princess Diana.  That news was buried in the public outcry, controversy and pomp an ceremony that surrounded the Princess’s funeral.  My memory sent me back to that day in 1988 when I’d had the privilege of meeting a saint.

Living history

Little did I realise, following the Biko story as a 14 year old, that the newspaper I was reading was part of history, documenting history.  I think it’s really something that dawns on one with hindsight.  As do the ironies of life.  Like, for example, from whom I heard about Nelson Mandela’s imminent release in 1990. I wrote about that here.

There are other dates that remain indelibly in my memory, and one of these is 9/11.  The Husband and I weren’t yet married.  We were at work – on a joint project.  Not long after lunch, a colleague said her mother had phoned to tell her that an aeroplane had flown into a building in New York.  My initial reaction was one of utter disbelief.  It was in the early days of the internet and I had a dial up connection in the office.  I simply could not connect to any of the international news sites to verify what sounded like a bad story line.

By the time we went home – earlier than usual – we new “it” had happened.  We unlocked the front door, and for the first time in our shared life, dropped everything and turned on the TV.  How long we sat watching that horror unfold and repeat, I can’t remember.  I do remember a sense of incredulity that something unimaginable was happening and that the world would never be the same again.  Nor is it.

An internationally insignificant, significant September day

21 September 2002

There is a third September day that I shall never forget, and for very different reasons.  It didn’t hit the international headlines, but twenty years later, my memories of that day are as vivid as they were then.  It feels like yesterday and in others, it’s a lifetime ago.  Only because we’ve made a life.  It’s been an eventful one and, I’d like to think, a happy one.  May we have as many more happy and healthy years together.

Back to the Queen

Over the last week or so, I’ve been wondering about my fascination with happenings in the United Kingdom.  I am.  Anyone who has lost a parent or someone close to them, can only but empathise with the family’s grief.  Could I grieve publicly, stoically and as gracefully as that?  No.  I didn’t.  When my mother died, I took one of her friends to church.  I’d been holding it together for my father.  Condolences from my mother’s friends and comparative strangers to me, and from the pulpit, sent me into a paroxysm of weeping that I could not control.  Nothing very stoic or graceful in that.

The ancient ritual, pomp and ceremony fascinate me.  That some of them, like the coronation, hark back to prehistory in a modern world keep me glued.  The people, the scenes and the buildings fascinate me and while there’s a part of me that feels a bit like voyeur, this is history unfolding in real time, and scenes I doubt, I shall ever see again.

Until next time, be well
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

Post script

If this post might seem familiar, it’s because I’m doing two things:

  • re-vamping old recipes. As I do this, I am adding them in a file format that you can download and print. If you download recipes, buy me a coffee. Or better yet, a glass of wine….?
  • and “re-capturing” nearly two years’ worth of posts.

I blog to the Hive blockchain using a number of decentralised applications.

  • From WordPress, I use the Exxp WordPress plugin. If this rocks your socks, click here or on on the image below to sign up.

Original artwork: @artywink
  • lastly, graphics are created using partly my own photographs and Canva.


Six decades, only six songs? Impossible

musical memories

Whenever I hear Abba’s Waterloo, my eleven year old self remembers the first “pop” song that appealed to her – the very first time she heard it.


It was a weekday afternoon and the radio was on – we had one of those radiograms that had the radio in the middle, a turntable on one side, and a cubby hole for the records on the other.  No, Waterloo was not the first seven single I bought.  That was this song from a local singer, and about not my father, who was also a Jimmy, but rather he who sang about his Long Haired Lover from Liverpool. My mother subsequently developed a long lasting love affair with Abba and bought each album as it appeared.  They were played to death on that record player.  In my teenage and adult years – and still in some circles – it just wasn’t done to admit that one was an Abba fan.  My mother was NOT a Waterloo fan, but she loved Chiquitita

As a fourteen year old, I remember a drilling – gymnaestrada – competition at school.  Every class participated in it each year.  I only remember 1977 and the song:  Knowing me, Knowing you.  We won.

Not quite the task

I’ve not really begun, and already I’m way off track.  The task set, here, was to select one song that best reflects for each decade of one’s life.

A confession

I recommended the theme, and the Silver Bloggers’ team agreed.  I should have known better.  Music – popular – I admit – has played an important part in my life – with a little jazz on the side.  Going on five years ago, someone challenged me to pick my favourite song.  I simply could not and, instead, wrote a kind of musical “back story” to my life.  Similarly when I tried and forced myself, eventually, to pick my top 3 lead singers. I couldn’t.

It’s that old story:  be careful what you wish for.  I had created a tall order.  For myself, anyway.


Reading those posts – you need to, for some of what follows to make sense – I confirmed a suspicion:  I’ve written a lot about my favourite songs.  That backstory to my life, though, is a combination of musical memories and poetic license:  I did have to search for some songs to weave into the story. Just for fun.   I do conclude with some real, and for me, iconic favourites.  In getting to my top 3 lead singers, on the other hand, I picked songs and people that take me back to people and places at specific times in my life.  Or, which reflect – with hindsight – what was happening for (or to) me, in that phase of my life.

So, in thinking about the six decades from the 1960s to the 2020s, I realise I have set myself a hard task.  In thinking about it, I had to create a framework for myself.  I tried to divide my life into phases and thought about what song takes me back there.  In some parts of my life, a lot happened in ten years and at others, there’s an almost ten year blank.

So, as usual, I’m taking liberties and I shall be doing phases rather than decades.

Pre-school:  the 1960s

One of my earliest musical memories is Sandy Shaw’s Puppet on a String. Somehow, it always takes me back to the first home I remember in South Africa:  an apartment in Port Elizabeth.  I don’t have vivid memories of the place other than of some of the things I did with my Dad.  He worked for the municipality and St George’s Park  was within walking distance – even for a wee girl of about four – and I’d occasionally go with him when he had a weekend duty.  I think, though, that this is the song that marks that phase:

Donovan’s Mellow Yellow, it seems, is a song I’ve always known, although I didn’t really get to enjoy or understand his music until I was in my 20s.  I have a funny feeling that my mother’s decision that yellow was my favourite colour, was based on my probably constant humming of this song.

I loved singing and would often ask my dad what I could sing for him.  His stock answer:

Over the hills and far away…

And he meant it.

Back to Donovan: I had a colleague in the mid-80’s who had a yellow tie, and whenever he wore it, I’d greet him with a

They call me mellow yellow….

He was a dyed-in-the wool Afrikaans South African.  His expression told me he’d never heard the song…

Primary school:  1970 – 1975

I have already mentioned my Waterloo moment.  There is though, another 1970s song that will forever take me back to this part of my life.  My parents had friends who would invite us to lunch at the military base and in the mess.  There was, of course, “piped” music and one Sunday, I distinctly remember singing along (much to my mother’s horror) to a song, in the middle of which she exclaimed:

I cannot stand this!

Charisma’s Mammy Blue, now rarely heard on the radio, never fails to take me back to that time, my little frock and bobby sock, as well as of course, my very irritated mother.

High School: 1976 – 1980

I was twelve when I went to boarding school in 1976.  Happily.  I escaped my mother and home where I felt trapped.  While boarding school was very rigid and I was considered a goody too shoes, I lived in my head, doing my own thing within those rules.  There were difficult times and one of my most horrible memories was the initiation.  The “newpots” had to dress up as bunny girls and dressed like that, we were subjected to all manner of humiliation and finally compelled to perform at a concert.  For an introvert it was traumatic.  To this day, dressing up and opening myself to that kind of humiliation fills me with horror.  Nor will I be part of anything like that.  If I were to pick a song that summarises that time, it would probably have to be this one:

I did relate to Sandra Dee, but never saw myself finding my Danny.

University: 1981 – 1985

Each of these five years is a lifetime.  I started growing up and started the journey to becoming myself.   Choosing just one song from that phase, was difficult.  The 80s was, seriously, my era, so in selecting, I’ve chosen, again, songs, the titles of which reflect what I was learning to do and be.  That said, I do love them both.  For different reasons.  Both have elements of brass and big bands, a love of which I shared with my dad.

First up, Joe Jackson.  Many of his hits punctuated the first couple of years at uni – as I was learning to step out, myself.

Not only do I enjoy the ska that was Madness, but I was also, in my own way, learning to go one step beyond…


Work and more: 1986 – 1990

I think I had more fun, and did more partying in my first year as a working girl than I’d had in my entire life.  Every Friday, the party began at around 3 or 4 in the afternoon.  A bunch of us would adjourn to an establishment about four or five blocks from our inner city Johannesburg offices, for our weekly “seminar”.  We’d put the grand sum of R2 into a pool and that would buy the bunch of us at least two rounds of beer.  Yes, I drank beer in those days.  Who didn’t?

We’d hang around there until we discovered who was playing that evening.  If we liked the band, we’d stay.  We always stayed for The African Jazz Pioneers.  This transports me back to those evenings – instantly.

In 1990, after Nelson Mandela’s release, but before democracy, they were one of the first mixed groups to play at the Nico Malan Theatre (now Artscape) in Cape Town.   I was on holiday in Cape Town and dating (sort of) a then member of parliament and we went to see the show.  It was weird.  There was that huge band, all formal, in dinner jackets, playing to a seated, un-dancing audience.

Returning to the 80s, and that same venue, another iconic local band we never missed, was Bright Blue.  Their iconic Weeping is embedded in the soundtrack to my life but the song that takes me back to those heady nights when we literally danced till dawn, either at Jameson’s or at some or other illegal shebeen in Soweto, is this one:

It was a happy, dancing time and I met genres of music that this little white girl had never experienced (too many and much for now).  I was enchanted and hooked.

Democracy and divorce – 1990s

The 1990s is the decade that, when I looked back, seemed like a complete blank.  Of course, it was not.  South Africa went to the polls for the first time – as a united nation. This always takes me back to that time.

I left Johannesburg and followed my heart to the Eastern Cape where I started an entirely new life as a self-employed gig-worker.  With him, I moved to Cape Town. Married.  Had to start a new work network.  Again.  Then.  Divorced.

This was an essential and defiant anthem.

2000 and beyond

Sanatna, of course, featured for me in the 2000s.  Although this song came out in 1999, the album won a load of Grammy awards in 2000.  It was also in the last decade that Santana performed in South Africa.  A highlight, which I enjoyed with The Husband (we married two years into the new millenium – another story…).

At that show, Santana played not only Smooth, but one of my favourite – ever – guitar instrumentals and which I shared in that other post.

If I did have to pick a that sums up South Africa (and perhaps the world at the time) for that decade, it would be this one:

Then, for the current decade – which is still a toddler – dominated by nothing but probably world’s worst pandemic since the Black Death, if not the Spanish Flu.  I began the decade filled with hope for (yet another) new beginning… It’s a song and dance that somehow seemed to lift not just South Africa but the world.



I admit:  I’m not really “into” new music.  That said, we love local live music gigs – when we can.  We (The Husband and I) have a reputation of being both first. And last.  On the dance floor.

Long may we (all) dance.

Until next time, be well
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

Post script

If this post might seem familiar, it’s because I’m doing two things:

  • re-vamping old recipes. As I do this, I am adding them in a file format that you can download and print. If you download recipes, buy me a coffee. Or better yet, a glass of wine….?
  • and “re-capturing” nearly two years’ worth of posts.

I blog to the Hive blockchain using a number of decentralised applications.

  • From WordPress, I use the Exxp WordPress plugin. If this rocks your socks, click here or on on the image below to sign up.

Original artwork: @artywink
  • lastly, graphics are created using partly my own photographs and Canva.


The quest to use less plastic

plastic free

Jars and lids for cleaning and repurposingThe Husband groans every time some of my regular customers arrive at the market, bulging bag in hand and make a bee-line for me.   I take great delight in these deliveries: they’re usually glass jars (and the odd bottle) that they have emptied and saved.  Sometimes for me to refill or to fill afresh.  Before I can use them, the labels must come off, the glue cleaned and the branded lids sprayed black.  Jars and lids, from time to time cover entire surfaces – like the dining room table – as I clean, sort and save similar jars until I have enough of a particular size and shape for a batch of something.sorted, recycled jars

Saving jars is not new.  I’ve been doing it ever since I can remember and each time I’ve moved house, I’ve had to throw lots out.  I hated doing it because it goes back to the days before recycling depots existed.

Newspaper, brown paper and string

I remember a time before polystyrene trays, cling wrap and plastic bags.  My first memories of grocery shopping – my mother did a monthly shop – and everything came home in large, brown paper bags.  Then, when I must have been about ten, the groceries started coming home in yellow and black plastic bags.  They crinkled and squawked and just couldn’t keep quiet.  Paper bags were much gentler on the ear and we folded them up to store for re-use – if they weren’t  wet or torn. Actually, we seldom threw any paper away.

Newspapers were a fact of life:  at least six, if not seven, days a week.  They, too, were never thrown out after they’d been read.  They piled up for lining the refuse bins, padding, packaging, cleaning windows and starting the fire.  Newspaper is still the best thing for the final touch to the clearest, cleanest glass windows.  Consequently, newspaper, because it’s so rare, is a precious commodity in The Sandbag House.

A trip to the butchery

When I was in primary school, my mother worked only in the mornings.  The between-monthly-shops happened on a Thursday. One of these included a visit to the butchery.  When we went with my mother, it was a highlight.  The butcher, or Uncle Vic as we knew him, was a hulking Yorkshireman with a twinkle in his eye.  The shop had large picture windows and if he was behind the counter – he usually was – by the time we were through the door, he was handing us kids, a Vienna sausage each.  Yes, those red ones nobody admits to eating anymore and which they made in-house.  We loved them and frequently embarrassed my mother by demanding our sausages if they didn’t appear in time.  They came in long strings…and, in my opinion, made the best hot dogs.

That reminds me of my last birthday party at home and before I went to boarding school:  it was in the early evening and my mother prepared hot dogs and home made tomato sauce for a hoard of 12 year old girls.  A fond memory: more for the hot dogs and sauce than for the party, itself.

Vegetable shopping

When I first moved to Johannesburg, and found an apartment, I had not a stick of furniture, let alone a fridge.  Vegetables actually do manage to survive without a fridge and there was an old fashioned green grocer on my route home.  I think that lovely old man was Spanish.  I clearly remember his little shop:  shelves filled with bunches of carrots, parsnips and spinach.  Bins of potatoes, sweet potatoes and onions.  Loose green peppers and tomatoes.  I could buy one of each or ten.  It didn’t matter.

He weighed my single sweet potato, two onions, a green pepper and three tomatoes on an old fashioned scale, and wrapped them in newspaper.  The bunch of carrots – tops and all – were tied together with string as were the bunches of anything: spinach, turnips, whatever. Yes, then he put all my wares, so wrapped, into a plastic carrier bag for the walk home.

After all, it was 1986.  A time when everyone bought and read newspapers and plastic bags were the best invention since sliced bread.

Compost, litter and plastic

compost binRe-wind fifty-odd years to my first memory of living in a house.  My parents built it, and the first part of the garden to be developed was the vegetable patch – with a compost heap – remember, me mentioning my father and the allotment?  From then on, there was always a compost bowl.  There still is.  All vegetable peelings, egg shells, discarded leaves, stalks and the heel of the bread, all go into the compost bin en route to the compost heap.

When I have occasion to cook in someone else’s kitchen and there’s no compost bowl, it feels, to say the least, weird.  Like something’s missing.

In the early days of my market journey I used quite a lot of single use plastic.  I didn’t like it, but it was easily accessible (for me to buy or get delivered) and it was cheap.  My soups and pâtês were all in plastic.

Shifting to glass

Then, three, going on four years ago (I’m not really sure because Covid’s screwed with my clock and my memory), I changed things.  I realised that the market was a fixture in my life. I really wanted my products – my market presence – to reflect my concern for the planet.  I knew that it was likely to cost me more because not only is glass (and metal for the lids) more expensive, but I’d have to factor in the cost of delivery.  My little home industry would never qualify for a free delivery from a factory that routinely delivers to multinational breweries and wineries.  I knew from a previous life, that even small businesses that would buy several hundred of an item, didn’t qualify.

Jars paper bagsI did a lot of homework:  volume, shape and, of course, cost.  I did spreadsheets.  Thought, agonised and bothered The Husband with my thinking.  I figured I could entice locals who bought, to return the jars and get a discount on their next purchase.  I bit the bullet, ordered and around the time of the year that The Husband suggests we to review my costings, made the change.

Real advantages

As it turns out, not only do regular customers return the jars (locals and regular visitors alike), they bring more.  There has been another are some real advantages that I hadn’t expected:  all the products last longer in glass.

Let me explain –

  • Hot products bottled hot in sterile jars means they’re effectively “canned”.  The shelf life of my chicken liver pâtê has almost doubled since I’ve been potting it.  The soups that used to go into plastic, I now put into old mayonnaise and pickle jars.  They’re also sterilised and I pour the soup into them when both they and the soup are hot.  Then the lids go on.  As they cool, as happens with the pâtê, the jars seal to form a vacuum.
  • Cold products, like the salads or the curries that I sell and which have fresh leaves as accompaniments, also last longer.  When I’ve not sold all the meals at the market, a week to ten days later, I’ve gingerly opened the jars to be pleasantly suprised  delighted at how little the contents have deteriorated.  We’ve eaten them with relish and they’ve saved me from cooking for more meal than one!
  • Berries, like strawberries, also last longer in glass.  Our strawberry patch is little and we have to compete with the birds for fruit.  That means we must often save several pickings to have enough fruit for something meaningful.  I rinse them, not just of the dirt they might have collected, but in vinegar and pop them in a jar and into the fridge.  Again, and at the risk of repeating myself, they stay fresher than in plastic. Even Mr Tupper’s ware.


My awareness of the environment, as I’ve mentioned, goes back to my Dad.  My Standard 8 (year 10) Geography teacher entrenched it.  That year, 1978, I have distinctive memories of my first encounter with the greenhouse effect, heat (and pollution) domes as well as the danger of rising sea levels if the polar ice caps melt too much.

That’s how many years ago?


Nobody was listening.  The world wasn’t listening.  The energy crisis of the same era, rather like now, was an economic rather than environmental issue.  Different from four decades ago, the energy crisis, certainly in South Africa, is partly being used as a way of introducing renewable sources of energy. That’s not enough.

Theoretically, the move away from fossil fuels would see the end of plastic.  But would it?  Nope.  Plastic is recycled and in comparison with a standard human life, indestructible.     And all the information about recycling is confusing.  And plastic – even single use plastic – is incredibly useful.  This Forbes article says it more eloquently and clearly than I ever could.

The intruder

I am often freaked out and angry at the amount of plastic that finds its way into our home.  It’s neither welcome nor do we have a choice.  Products that used to reach the shelves in glass or tin, like Colman’s mustard- and baking powder, are in plastic containers.  Finding loose, unwashed vegetables is well nigh impossible.

Did you know that unwashed potatoes last longer – especially kept in the dark under newspaper – than washed potatoes?  They’re less likely to go green.

Often, there is more than one layer of packaging – polystyrene trays and cling wrap.  Then there’s the vacuum packed (in plastic of course) product that’s wrapped – again – often gently laid on a polystyrene tray and smothered in cling wrap.

Speaking of which, did you know that if you instantly liberate the mushrooms from their plastic and polystyrene prison, and store them in a brown paper bag, they don’t go slimy, and last very well in the fridge?

This begs the question about what happens to the discarded packaging.  Some of it goes into our recycling bins.  Not all of it may:  if it’s contaminated by food, it may not and ends up in landfill.  And that’s the best option.

In my small corner

The magnitude of the problem compounded by how pervasive single use plastics are, might suggest that doing something it at an individual level is entirely futile.  Sometimes I think it is.  Then I think it isn’t.


Fiona's Favourites paper carrier bags I cannot not.  It’s in my genes.  In my quiet way, at the market, and as far as possible, I choose to use paper and glass.  Sometimes, like with pickled fish, I have no choice and every time I make it for the market, I agonise.  Jars, the right size for that product, would make it prohibitively expensive.  One solution – for orders – is to ask customers to provide their own containers.  I do.  They do.

So, at the market, I pack bread, koeksisters and rolls in brown paper bags.  If folk need a bigger bag for all their wares, they can buy a brown paper carrier.  It’s all paper and entirely biodegradable.  Better than that, it’s robust enough to use again. And again.

If folk say, “Oh, I love your packaging,” and ask why I use glass, I’ll tell them.  It’s just my small bit in the quest to be plastic free.

Until next time, be well
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

Post script

If this post might seem familiar, it’s because I’m doing two things:

  • re-vamping old recipes. As I do this, I am adding them in a file format that you can download and print. If you download recipes, buy me a coffee. Or better yet, a glass of wine….?
  • and “re-capturing” nearly two years’ worth of posts.

I blog to the Hive blockchain using a number of decentralised applications.

  • From WordPress, I use the Exxp WordPress plugin. If this rocks your socks, click here or on on the image below to sign up.

Original artwork: @artywink
  • lastly, graphics are created using partly my own photographs and Canva.