When I heard Clare’s accent on the phone the other day, my mind immediately leapt toward South African food. If I discover Clare is from Angola or Ghana or, god forbid, Ecuador or Romania, I will be deeply embarrassed. Until that mortifying moment that I discover my accent-recognition-meter is badly broken, though, my infatuation with South African cuisine will guide my culinary considerations.
In addition to peri-peri sauce (with a focus on peri-peri chicken), my taste buds are hankering for boerswors, a sausage I’ve never tasted but after which I’ve long lusted. According to the South African media outlet, Independent Media/IOL, boerewors, to comply with South African law, must comprise no less than 90 percent meat–beef with lamb, pork or a mixture of the two–and a fat content of no more than 30 percent. If I had the necessary equipment to attach to our Kitchenaid mixer, I long ago would have made boerswors (as well as dozens of other types of sausages). However, I have neither the grinder nor the sausage stuffer. Consequently, I’ve never bought the casing I’d need into which to stuff the ground and spiced meat. But were that equipment and material suddenly appear in my kitchen one day, I’d be able to find the right recipes. I believe I’d be able to make boerswors that would make ex-pat South Africans homesick.
My brief conversation with Clare led me beyond food to culture. Though the memory of apartheid is ugly, the fight against it brewed some remarkable literary talent. I remember watching a play by Athol Fugard, “Master Harold”…and the boys, though I don’t remember specifics about the play. I remember it made me cry. And the remarkable history of Nelson Mandela gives me reason to want to know more about and to see South Africa. And some friends’ recent trip to South Africa, from which they very recently returned, spurred on what had been my flagging desire to see the country. If I’m able to get around by then, we’re going to their house on December 1 to see photos they took during their trip. And one of my partially-written novels is based heavily on imaginary circumstances surrounding South Africa’s now-dismantled nuclear program. For some reason, South Africa—its food and its history and its cultural complexity—has long found a place in my imagination and on my palate. I do, in fact, have a jar of ground peri-peri in my kitchen. And I have had, on many occasions, bottles of Nando’s Peri-Peri Sauce in my refrigerator. I suspect I have one or more of Athol Fugard’s books and/or plays on my bookshelf, though it’s possible it/they were sold or given away in the purge that preceded our move from Dallas to Hot Springs Village.
I prefer writing what I’ve just done to what I wrote in the middle of the night last night. I scheduled that piece moderately depressing bit of writing to go “live” this afternoon about the time I reach Little Rock. Maybe I’ll let it go live, maybe I won’t. Time will tell, as I sometimes say.