A DELICIOUS LOOK AT TRAVEL
From time immemorial food has set the social scene. It’s been a comforter, a treat and a way of sharing traditions and cultures. Now, the idiosyncrasies of cooks and cooking in some of South Africa’s most remote places has been captured in Delicious Travel, a magnificently illustrated book written by South-African born Gwynne Conlyn, who is passionate about the country, its people, and cuisine. Much more than just another cookbook, Delicious Travel offers food fundis a new perspective on South Africa and a delightful peek into South African Society. In Delicious Travel Gywnne, a well-known freelance broadcaster, restaurant critic, travel and food writer, captures some of her wanderings through several remote and far-flung places in the country. Throughout this book Gwynne has managed to put a new twist on some old, tried and trusted dishes. Readers are given new insight into some familiar and well-loved spots, as well as a glimpse of more exotic and way-out places. In her quest to discover what it is that South Africans enjoy and what they consider fine fare for visitors, Gwynne has discovered a variety of eccentricities, many of which will leave the reader giggling., “Great food isn’t necessarily haute cuisine,” says Gwynne. “It’s the ingredients, the cook, the place and, above all the passion that’s put into preparation, that all combine to make each dish a delightful, tasty treat and each mouthful memorable.”
VISIT AN ANCIENT ASTRONOMICAL TEMPLE
See the last solstice sunrise and sunset for 2004 from an ancient stone temple. Historian/researcher Dr Cyril Hromnik invites enthusiasts of history, cosmology, ecology, religion and culture to join him in the Moordenaars Karoo to view the summer solstice on December 17 and 18. “Most people find that viewing a solstice from the actual ancient astronomical temple-observatory from where the ancient Quena (Otentottu) people worshipped it, is a very moving experience,” said Dr Hromnik. “These people were the ancestors of Coloured people who now form a major part of the Cape’s population. Measurement of time is at the root of Indian, Egyptian and Quena religions. Their systems survived geographically at the opposite ends of the Indian Ocean. The chance of seeing proof of this in an ancient temple observatory is most exciting for anyone interested in the origins of old civilisations.” Dr Hromnik discovered these Indo-Quena temple-observatories many years ago. He has spent time studying and testing their functionality. He has proved they still work and those who have joined him to view solstice and equinox sunrises and sunsets in the pristine environment of the Karoo have found each experience a pure joy. The outing costs R120 per adult and R60 per child. This includes entry to all sites, full information and formal guiding and transport to and from the various temple sites in a 4×4 vehicle.
WHO KNOWS THE HISTORY OF THE ROAD TO THE HELL?
Kliphuisvlei and other ruins along the Otto du Plessis Road to Gamkaskloof captured the imagination of Round-up reader Frans Joubert. “I could not help imagining how picturesque little farms once must have been alongside the stream that snakes along the foot of the mountains. I found myself wondering who farmed on this road to The Hell and what life was like for them. Do any of your readers know? There’s a great deal of information on Gamkaskloof, but none on the area just east of it. I’d love to know more.”
A few years ago, Randal Arendse was a Beaufort West street child with a bleak future. This year he received an award from Tasmien Essop, Western Cape Minister of Environmental Affairs, for his efforts in rock art conservation. Randal, now 15, was “rescued” from the streets and sent to Restvale School at Nelspoort, where he was trained as a guide on the rock art site. He loved this and spent hours in the veld searching for engravings. Then he discovered one never seen before. He recorded everything about it, traced it, measured it and developed a little talk about his find. He presented his project at this year’s Caltex/Cape Times Environmental Awards Competition and ended up as one of the highly commended winners. Randal has just completed Grade 9 and “done very well” according to principal Lawrence Rathenham, also curator of the Nelspoort Rock Art Site. Lawrence says: “We are looking for a good school for Randal for next year. He has done so well he deserves to be able to continue his studies.” This is the second award received by Restvale School for its efforts in rock art research.
MORE LIGHT ON CATHEDRAL WINDOWS
The coloured glass windows in Bloemfontein’s Catholic Cathedral also have a Dutch connection. “They were made by Leonardus Albertus “Leo” Monsma, who operated a local company known as Glassparents until 1962 when he returned to Holland. His son-in-law, Tony Nell, reports that Leo also made the huge, magnificent, coloured glass window for the Agricultural Faculty at the University of the Free State. “His specially patented technique, known as the Monsma System, differs totally from that used in traditional stained glass making,” says Tony. “A traditional stained-glass window is constructed from many different pieces of coloured glass, painstakingly cut into to specific shapes and sizes from a detailed drawing. The pieces are then all fitted together – almost a jigsaw puzzle – using strips of lead. With the Monsma system the “lead,” a liquid plastic-based medium, coloured to choice, is used to “draw” the design straight onto the pane of glass. Powdered graphite added to the plastic medium gives the same effect as traditional lead outlining. The coloured areas in between are then simply shaded according to the artist’s specifications in much the same way as a child colours in the outlined shapes in a colouring-in book. For the windows he created in Bloemfontein Leo had the artist’s design drawn to actual size. He then placed the huge glass “window” sheets over the drawing and used cake icing syringes to copy the outlines onto each panel. Once this was dry, he filled in the colours with a special liquid. The final effect is stunning. The windows appear to be made of stained-glass sections. They look very similar to traditional windows, but they have one important advantage. They are much stronger because of being constructed from one pane of glass. Time cannot weaken them. The lead joints of traditional windows deteriorate with age.”
LEADING LIGHT OF THE THEATRE
Some people argue about the beginnings of Afrikaans theatre, but most agree it has Karoo roots. It is generally accepted that Hendrik Andries ‘Tokkies’ Hanekom was the founder. He was born in Beaufort West in 1893 and launched his acting career by performing at hinterland church concerts and auctions. By 1925, he had become a leading light in Afrikaans theatre. He then launched one of the country’s first and most successful theatre groups in 1927. It toured the hinterland, bringing a great deal of entertainment to people in tiny out of the way villages. Hendrik then established a theatre school in Bloemfontein and was set for a tour of Europe when World War II broke out in 1939. This put paid to his international ambitions; nevertheless, his company went from strength to strength locally. Hendrik was the first person to receive a medal for dramatic art from the S A Akademie. The love of Hendrik’s life was Mathilde, a Prince Albert lass, but that’s another story.
JUDGING WAS THIRSTY WORK
In 1867, Governor Philip Wodehouse came up with a good idea to save the virtually bankrupt Cape Colony. In an effort to improve the failing economy, he decided to send products to an international show in Paris. To ensure the success of the scheme, a committee was elected in Cape Town, and supported by hinterland members from as far afield as the Karoo. A Richmond farmer got things moving by sending samples of wheat, barley, sheep tail fat, ox tallow, oil, beeswax, ganna ash for soap making and a bar of “boer” soap. Items from the interior were so novel according to one newspaper report that they were first displayed in Cape Town before being shipped to Paris. The exhibition was a huge success and the South African products were highly acclaimed. In fact, they were so popular that the judges drank 60 bottles of Cape wine and ate all the preserves from the Karoo, while mulling over winners in the various categories.
HOSPITALS AT HANOVER DURING THE ANGLO-BOER WAR
In reply to Jennifer Slade Baker’s question about Hanover during the Anglo Boer War (Round-up No 14) Professor J C ‘Kay’ de Villiers, has this to say: “In November 1899, General Andy Wauchope occupied Noupoort and left a small force at Hanover Road. Hanover was of less importance than Hanover Road, which was on the De Aar-Noupoort railway line. In December 1899, after the battle of Magersfontein, and at the time when Colesberg was still occupied by the Boers, one company of Mounted Infantry was placed at Hanover Road. After the Boers retreated from Colesberg in March 1900, very little happened at Hanover and Hanover Road. There was intermittent troop movement as the commandos of Hertzog, De Wet, Smuts, Malan and others, invaded the Colony. Military and Regimental histories will have to be consulted to discover which troops these were. There was never an offical British hospital in Hanover. From a military point of view, it was not needed. Any units serving at Hanover or Hanover Road and requiring medical attention would have had the standard allocation of Field Hospital and Bearer Companies and these were usually housed under canvas. Another reason why there was no formal hospital at Hanover was probably the close proximity of Noupoort, an advanced hospital base on the lines of communication. Literally hundreds of hospital beds were available there and it was only about 60 kilometres from Hanover Road and on the same railway line. A house in Hanover may have functioned as a temporary hospital and been run by local inhabitants to deal with any wounded after an encounter or, and this is more likely, to deal with patients suffering from some disease of which typhoid fever would have been the most likely. This is, however, mere speculation and difficult to substantiate unless a locally kept diary or the memoirs of a Cape rebel should mention it. I hope that this may be of some assistance.”
THINGS THAT WENT THUMP IN THE NIGHT
Early South African hotels were full of surprises. T J Lucas, a Cape Mounted Rifleman, who disembarked at Port Elizabeth, “a barren desolate-looking place, along an inhospitable shore,” was nevertheless full of enthusiasm. It was 1850, and he had come to this “savage Colony to help maintain order on the border.” Poor old TJ had some unusual experiences during his first night on South African soil. His ship “the ‘India,’ a fine vessel belonging to the Steam Navigation Company” could not dock and “landing was a matter of considerable danger.” Nevertheless, he wrote in Camp Life and Sport in South Africa, “everyone took it good temperedly.” The town, he found, had little to recommend it, but he soon discovered “a very comfortable hotel with a liberal table.” All went well until he retired for the night. “The minute I snuffed the light, the rats came out. They ran all over my legs. It was quite uncomfortable. They made so much racket with their gambols that I woke several times under the impression that someone was moving the furniture. This discomfort, however, did not prevent my sleeping as I am an old traveller. Nevertheless, I do imagine such interruptions to slumber might be disagreeable to a more sensitive tourist. I came into my room in the middle of the next day to discover rats sitting comfortably on the windowsill curiously eying my personal effects. An open window had allowed them access to my ‘diggins,’ right above the stables. This certainly suggested the propriety of inspecting one’s surroundings before fixing one’s locale in a new neighbourhood in a strange land.”
HAIRPIECES WIN THE DAY
Edwin Rogan was a hit in Beaufort West in 1916. Soon after he arrived and set up a hair salon in Donkin Street, he advertised his services as a ladies and gentlemen’s stylist, specialising in the shampooing of ladies’ heads. However, once the locals discovered he was also a skilled hairpiece and wigmaker, his services were in great demand among the fairer sex. This prompted Edwin to offer “hairpieces made up from combings of your own hair, styled in any fashion of your choosing,” reports The Courier.
THOSE WERE THE DAYS
In the early years of the last century many Victorian habits were still a major part of hinterland life. On May 16, 1919, for instance, Mrs M B Robertson, advertised in The Beaufort West Courier that she would be “receiving at home” on her croquet lawn for afternoon tea the following Thursday afternoon. The newspaper reported that a pleasant crowd gathered for the occasion. Refreshments, which were extremely dainty, consisting of tempting petit-fours and the like, were served by a band of dainty little maids with crisp white aprons and caps of crinkled paper. Musicians played softly in the background while the townsfolk exchanged pleasantries. In a later issue Mrs Robertson advertised that her sister, Mrs Butler, from Bloemfontein, would be in the village for two weeks and that anyone wishing to call upon her should leave their card at the Robertson residence.
TRIBUTE TO A TALENTED MUSICIAN AND LOVED MOTHER
A talented and much-loved young woman died in Beaufort West in 1902, leaving emptiness in the hearts of many Beaufortwesters. Catherine Magdalena, wife of municipal auditor James H Aspeling, died peacefully at dawn on November 15. She was a loving wife and mother and a talented musician, according to The Beaufort West Courier of November 20, 1902. Catherine, formerly a Miss Marais, was “an accomplished musician and artist, who studied under the late, well known Signor Maggi, Fraulein Haas and Signor Rolando.” Her talents were in great demand at social events and concerts in the village and her skills “turned many an after-dinner get-together into pure entertainment.” Paying tribute to Catherine, who was only 38 when she died, James said: “She was a quiet, unassuming woman. A true lady whose life was largely occupied with her household duties and the nurturing of her children. She was a model of self-sacrifice, who exuded love for us all.”
As the sun rose on Schotzkloof nine favourite chickens lay on the ground with their heads bitten off! “What carnage and mutilation,” says Judy Maguire. “We borrowed a cage trap and baited it with leftover chicken to catch the culprit.” It worked. Next morning, a large, sleek, well-nourished and bushy-tailed mongoose lay in the trap. “Shame, it’s dead!” wailed a little girl, distressed at the sight of the beautiful creature lying on its back, its technicoloured undercarriage and yellowish, succulent-looking anal scent-gland, on display. “Oh no, its not,” said Uncle Bert, “That’s its trick! This is a ‘kommetjie-pik-my-gat’ muishond. Bird-brained guinea fowls, crows, chickens and the like. think the scent-gland is a lovely big irrestible mealie pip. They peck at it and zap! – up jumps Kommetjie-pik-my-gat and bites their heads off.” To prove his point, he poked gently at the gland with a stick and sure enough, quick as a flash, the mongoose somersaulted up and bit the stick!
ON THE TRAIL OF THE FULL STORY
Fascinated by the mongoose’s trick Judy Maguire consulted Estes’ Behaviour Guide to African Mammals. “It confirms that apart from being a lure, the anal gland is a means of communication and identification,” says Judy. “According to Estes ‘each mongoose has a unique odour profile. The animals do handstands to place anal-gland secretions on undersides of logs, rocks and such. Some mongooses attract birds like guinea fowls by performing bizarre antics, such as chasing their tails. Such clowning stimulates the birds’ curiosity, as well as their mobbing and scolding behaviour, and lures them closer. There is one report of a mongoose killing four guinea fowl after luring them nearer by rearing up, falling about, rocking from side to side and rolling on the ground. The gawking birds just kept coming closer and closer, until the mongoose killed them.” Karoo expert Pat Marincowitz confirmed the kommetjie-pik-my-gat story. “He gave it two slightly more flattering names: Portretgat muishond (portrait-reared mongoose) and ‘tregtergat muishond’ (funnel-reared mongoose). The English name is much stiffer upper-lipperish. They refer to it as the ‘Marsh Mongoose’ (Atilax paludinosis),” says Judy
SEARCHING FOR FAMILY THREADS
Alwyn Smit of Bredasdorp is searching for threads in the rich tapestry of his family history. Many seem located in Beaufort-West. Alwyn is related to the De Jagers of Kuilspoort. His great, great grandfather Matthys Gottlieb de Jager came to Beaufort West in the 1830’s, as a wagon maker. He did well during the Great Trek. Matthys married Antoinetta (Anetta) Elizabeth Weeber. They had 13 children. Among them were Hendrik Johannes who married Johanna Gustava Aspeling, and his brother, Petrus Jacobus who married her sister Anna Margaretha. Petrus’s son Matthys Johan was Alwyn’s grandfather and a cousin to Matt and Clarence, well known De Jager brothers who grew up on Kuilspoort, Alwyn’s research has uncovered links with Lemoenfontein, Elandsfontein and De Hoop as well as with Fred and Bill Rice, Arthur Shute Piers (Hansrivier) and Willie Lotter and the Lund, De Villiers, Dale, Drew, Thwaite, and Weeber families. “There’s a tantalizing tale of Dr Maloney and a British officer, General Cameron, who in his diary Clarence claims met his father, Hendrik Johannes, at Acacia Siding early one morning to go hunting at Brotherly Love.” Alwyn is needs information on Miss Bennett, Miss Grout, David Morgan Philips of Llanlley, (who became headmaster at of Touwsriver) and Mr Meluish, a fluent French-speaker with an MA from Oxford or Cambridge. “They all taught at Kuilspoort before 1896,” he says.
“It is very easy to forgive others their mistakes; it takes grit and gumption to forgive them for having witnessed yours”
Jessamyn West, born into a Quake family, grew up with a love of language, influenced by her mother’s story-telling