Shadow of Time

Over past few years I have had the joy of reconnecting with people who left my life as I journeyed through it.  The joy has been unexpected.  I am reveling in our shared histories and memories; enjoying rekindling friendships and acquaintances.  Some of these are already part of Fiona’s Favourites as I celebrate milestones and share memories associated with things I cook.  Shadow of Time

This weekend, we went to the opening of Shadow of Time, an exhibition of three talented artists, all of whom have ties with Grahamstown, Estelle Marais, Diane McLean and Sharlé  Matthews.   The title speaks of the long and deep friendship between the three artists, which spans four or so decades.

There were four of us at the exhibition who had been at primary school together:  Diane and Sharlé, along with Wendy, who welcomed us to her home for the weekend.  Three of us, as well as Sharlé’s husband, Mike, were also subsequently at Rhodes.

A couple of years ago, Tom and I had popped in to see Diane in De Rust, where she lives, and a year or so before that, I had caught up with Wendy for the first time since 1975 – it was was just like we had seen each other the day before!  I can’t remember when I last saw Sharlé….other than on Facebook….


Funny the associations we have:  when Wendy mentioned to Sharlé that we would be at the exhibition opening, Sharlé had one instruction for Wendy:  “Tell Fiona not to forget her mother’s fudge recipe!”  I had forgotten that I had taken fudge to school cake sales (my mother was not a cake-baker), which reminded me that I had also sold it as part of bob-a-job when I had been a Brownie (I never became a Girl Guide…) 20140731_103537

The fudge recipe is in my mother’s recipe book , which she acquired in 1961 – before any of us were even thought of.  And as you see, it was often in use – it still is.

What made that fudge so good, was the walnuts that Mum added, and which are not in the list of ingredients!

My memory of both Sharlé and Diane is that they were both good at art.  I don’t remember Diane without a pencil in her hand, drawing something – mostly ballet dancers…. So, through the shadow of time, the four of us, all of whom had been at Victoria Girls’ Primary School in Grahamstown, came together, in Wellington, in the Swartland, some forty-odd years later.



Glorious Gooseberries

In Afrikaans, they are called “appelliefies”, and the direct translation is “little apple loves”.

Cape Gooseberries are endemic and we haven’t planted any in our garden.  They just grow, and are one of the many gifts we receive from our garden.

As a small child, not long after we moved from East London, we would travel from Grahamstown to visit farmer friends for the Gonubie Agricultural Show. And, along with my memories of Dad judging the flower arrangements, my always bidding for the largest egg at the end of the show, watching the gymkhana, and the convoy of cars,  draped with beautiful women (or so they seemed to me) over their bonnets, I remember Auntie Molly’s gooseberry jam.

100_2980These were the memories I associated with gooseberries, until more recently.  I was reminded, by a school friend, that my mother used to make a gooseberry fridge tart, and only when Karen recounted her story, did I realise why I had forgotten:  it was really sour and I didn’t like it.  Nor did Karen;  and it’s her one abiding memory of my mother and a weekend she spent with our family in Grahamstown!

Gooseberries are tart – full of beta carotine and Vitamin C – and they are delicious fresh and in a jam.  With our first gooseberries, I added them to salads and we also had them for breakfast, with yoghurt.

As with most things, one can have too much: even with one gooseberry bush, the berries began to come thick and fast, so spurred on by a fellow villager, I thought I’d have a go at jam.

Making jam with berries is different from making marmalade (more of that, soon) because they don’t need much cooking, and in the case of gooseberries, because they are not just full of vitamin C, they’re also full of pectin.  This means that it’s easy to over-cook your jam and end up with jars of something that’s rock hard, and definitely not jam.  The added challenge of this jam-making session was that I didn’t have –


a) a recipe for Cape Gooseberry jam (Mum’s Good Housekeeping recipe book doesn’t talk about Cape Gooseberries, but it does give the basics of making different types of jams and preserves);  and

b) with just one bush, I had a really small quantity of gooseberries to play with.


This was a test of my ability to work out ratios (which, for someone who did not do Mathematics beyond year 9 at school, is quite hectic) as well as culinary skills:  until this, the closest I had got to making jam, was marmalade!


100_2987So, this is what I learned:  equal quantities of fruit and sugar.  Put these in a pot of an appropriate size and then add a two thirds of the base quantity of water (remember that 100g = 100ml of water), and then cook as you would any jam.  Bring to the boil reduce the heat and simmer until setting point is reached (watch carefully – with a small quantity, that happens more quickly).

To test whether setting point is reached, put a little of the mixture on to a cold, china/ceramic plate and put it into the fridge for about 10 minutes.  If, when you take it out, and you skim your finger across the top, it wrinkles, your jam is ready.

Allow the jam to stand for 10 to 15 minutes and then bottle in sterilized jars and enjoy!

Of course, gooseberry jam can also be turned into a wonderful gooseberry tart – a desert nowhere near as sour as the dessert my mother dished up for our family and poor Karen in the late 1970’s!


21 Today!

Milestones tend to get one thinking and reflecting.  When I posted There’s a Mouse in the House, I was astounded when WordPress congratulated me on my 20th post! Today is a milestone: my 21st post.

It also got me thinking about how I celebrated turning 21.  I chose to have a garden party – at home.


And thinking about that, also makes me realise how early in one’s life, patterns are established:  for me, first prize for my own birthday, still is to be at home, in the garden…

And, just the other day, I was going through my sewing stuff, looking for something, and came across a box of sewing patterns.  Among them was the pattern for the dress that my mother made for me to wear for that birthday party.


My enjoyment and talent for cooking come from my mother.

My enjoyment of entertaining and a good party come from my father.

Together, they threw me a fabulous party – my Mother doing most of the cooking, and Dad making a punch which, as I recall, did pack a punch.


Memories of my first milestone party as an adult, seemed to be an appropriate way to mark this milestone.

© Fiona’s Favourites 2016