If I were to choose…

I participate, from time to time, in the odd blog challenge.  Just because.  There’s a particular one to which I’m quite partial.  Not because I’ve ever won, but because it gets me thinking.  About things.  All sorts of things.  It’s run by an international bunch of guys and gals hailing from the UK, US and Canada.  When I read the entries, one of the things that strikes me is how often there are things that unite the world.  More often than there are things that divide us.

The monthly Your Top 3 has shown, for example, that no matter who you are, or where you live, food is the epitome of comfort.  Often defined by our own experiences and cultures, food is sustenance for the soul.  Now, though, the world is in a very peculiar place and we’re all united in one major concern:  Covid-19.  Many of us have been confined to our homes and estranged from family and loved ones.  Birthdays have passed with virtual celebrations.  I speak for myself when I say, that as we approach being locked in for 50 days, it’s beginning to tell.  The news is never good;  the more the scientists know, the less they know and, frankly, the less I want to know.

A welcome diversion

So, to have something entirely different to contemplate is a welcome diversion.   Not that I participate every month.  I don’t.  This month’s contest made me think, though.

It’s no secret that I’m a great lover of books.  I love books and have a hard time parting with them. Frankly, and I’ve also often said so, I’d rather read the book than see the movie.  This month’s contest is about DVD/TV box sets.  A foreign concept in our house.  Partly because we don’t spend a lot of time in front of the box screen other than in the evenings around/after supper.


If I were to choose three must-have sets, what would they be, and why?

My first two choices are based on my penchant for thrillers and crime.  As well as cooking.  Of course.

Thrilling crime

On thinking about which of these to choose, I was hard pressed between three:

NCIS – the original one.  I still have a school girl crush on Mark Harmon.  A hangover from the days when he was in 240 Robert.


On a similar, but different vein is CSI.  I also prefer the first in the franchise.  I enjoyed not only that each episode stood alone, but that the characters and the relationships developed as the series progressed.  As they do in NCIs.  However, when I really thought about it, there really was only one choice.

The Blacklist

The  Blacklist ticks every box:  complex characters, good acting, even more complex plots filled with intrigue and thrilling suspense.  Reddington is so awful as to be likeable at times.  Liz Keen’s character has developed and become complex and contradictory over the seasons.  She, too, invokes mixed emotions.  Then there’s Ressler’s insanity countered by the good, solid Dembe whose touchstone role, in my opinion, is underrated.

Oh, and there are two other reasons that The Blacklist really does do it for me:  firstly, there is often a hint of international and political intrigue.  Secondly, the plot hovers  – only just – on the bounds of reality.

Or does it?

Getting down and dirty in the kitchen

I quite like watching cooking programmes.  I have to admit that I’ve not seen many lately that have really piqued my interest.  Thinking about it, and looking at my bookshelf, I should be choosing Ed Baines.

I have watched him on TV and follow him on Instagram. I actually met him at the Cape Town Food and Wine show where he also cooked with some of “our” products.  But sorry, loyalty and having clapped eyes on the man, are just not quite enough.

I guess if I were also basing my choice on what’s in my bookshelf, and chefs I’ve met, I should be choosing Jenny Morris.  I have two of her books – I draw on them often.  Especially for Sunday Suppers and when I entertain.  And in the days that email newsletters were a “thing”, I had a subscription to hers.  She (or her son) would send out the recipes she’d discuss on a local radio show.  Jenny Morris lives up to her Giggling Gourmet moniker.  She’s warm and lovely, and when I mentioned that I had two of her books, she impulsively planted a kiss on my cheek!

However, my choice must go to the first ever cooking show that I really watched.

The Naked Chef

It wasn’t so much about Jamie Oliver.  It couldn’t have been because nobody knew who he was.  Then.  I don’t know how I fell over him because the show was on a Sunday afternoon and, in those days, I was often up to my elbows in the garden.  Then, as now, we rarely had the TV on during the day, so it really is a mystery.

‘E was still a young fing just frowing things t’gever in the kitchen.

I liked that.  The food was simple, as was the approach.  He cooked food to share.  I like that, too.  Oh, and I particularly like that he knows the members of Jamiroquai.

This was one of my songs at the time….’twas the year The Husband and I married…




My go-to roast chicken recipe is based on one of these episodes – nearly 20 years ago. On Sunday afternoons, I’d drop the spade or trowel and plonk on the sofa – note book and pen in hand and … The notes, not always legible have made their way into dishes that have become regulars on our menu.  And on my blog.  My summer watermelon salad, about which folk rave, is one of these recipes.

I guess the series could be quite dated now.  Still, though, I’d make a point of watching The Naked Chef again and again.

And finally

If you thought I was taking rather far you down memory lane, I’m not stopping at 2002.

I used to be an unashamed SciFi series fan.  I loved Star Trek.  And when I was at home, would watch it with my dad.  From Kirk to Picard, and everything in between.  I now realise that my father must have been a fan from the days when we still lived in England.  My mother loathed the programme, so he and I would watch it.  She’d retreat to the kitchen.  I admit, though, that I’m not a fan of modern SciFi.  It seems to be a mishmash of modern fantasy, and I can’t really get beyond Dune.

When I thought about a series I’d binge-watched (not that it was a thing, then), the series that came to mind was V: Mankind’s Last StandThe original 1983 series.

It would have been 1987, and I was sharing a house.  In those days one could hire a video player – not just videos – for a weekend.  How we ended up hiring this series, I’m damned if I can remember.  I do remember, though, that it’s the only time I’ve ever spent an entire weekend just watching videos and just one series.  That’s all we did.  Other than go to the video shop for the next tape.

With hindsight, and thinking about the themes of repression, oppression and restriction, it’s not surprising it resonated for me.  The mid-to late eighties were the height of the struggle years in South Africa.  These themes simply reflect the times we lived in, and some of the things we encountered every day.  It was never on television.  It does occur to me that had the South African censors understood symbolism and/or allegory, this series would never have reached the video shops in South Africa.

As an aside (but not really):

Prior to 1994, laws restricting freedom of speech and association were so zealously enforced that films that included mixed race and same sex relationships were banned. Unsurprisingly, the epic film  Cry Freedom about Steve Biko was banned.  As were Hair and The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

I admit that I didn’t watch the more recent remake of the series.  I would, however, watch the original V – for all the reasons I’ve mentioned – as well as for the then rather delicious Marc Singer.  In closing, I also wonder if choosing this series is not, to some extent, influenced by the potential ramifications of the restrictions imposed to stop the spread of Covid-19.

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

Photo: Selma


Post Script

In yet another aspect of my life, I offer

online English tutoring services

every day conversation and formal presentations
writing – emails and reports, academic and white papers
formal grammar, spelling and punctuation
more information here

And then there’s more:

  • If this post might seem familiar, it’s because I’m doing two things:
    • re-vamping old recipes.  As I do this, I plan to add them in a file format that you can download and print.  If you download recipes, buy me a ko-fi?
    • and “re-capturing” nearly two years’ worth of posts because of this.
  • If you’re interested in a soft entry into the world of crypto currency and monetising WordPress blog, use the fantastic Steempress plugin to post directly to the Hive blockchain.  Click on the image below to sign up
  • I’m still blogging on Steem and more recently share my burbling on Uptrennd and with the occasional post on Medium.


The beginning – revisited

When I started this blog, it was on a whim:  the initial thought had been to share ideas about what I cook and/or how we entertain and how, we’re in the process of developing our home and garden in McGregor.


Over the last six or so months, I have realised that Fiona’s Favourites is allowing me to “marry” so much of what it love doing:  cooking, gardening, sharing stories and, most of all, writing.  I’m enjoying this much more than I ever imagined. I think and write for a living.  And I enjoy my work – with all its inevitable frustrations.  However, I had never thought, or allowed myself to think of myself as creative, even though, as a school girl, I wanted to write.  It was a notion that I had long relegated to some far recess of my mind.  What would I, an ordinary woman, in her fabulous fifties write about?  I do not live an extraordinary life.

So, still growing up and learning, from my kitchen, the garden, our furry and feathered friends, as well as from people, and most especially, those of you who have joined me on this journey, I 100_3008realise that I can write about my life.  I write about my life that is filled with extraordinary people who teach me that life is not ordinary, and should not be taken for granted.  No matter how small or mundane, so many experiences add to the rich, colourful, faboulous fabric of life – probably a mishmash tartan of Cameron, Lamont and African.

Since I started this part of my journey, people have been telling me that they enjoy my stories.  Telling stories was not the original intention.  Most of my favourite and fun things are because of people, so it just seems right that they are central to what I write.  Some of you are both the encouragement and inspiration behind what I write and you may recognise yourselves, even if you’re not mentioned by name.

So, Fiona’s Favourites, as I said in my first ever post, is evolving and it seems to be becoming a way of figuratively breaking bread with you, and sharing stories about the extraordinary people who move into, and out of, the circles of my life.