Diners Drive-ins and Dives

I enjoy watching Diners Drive Ins and Drives. It’s enough to make a vegetarian like me want to eat meat again. There’s none other like Guy Fieri and those cars he drives – nice, very nice cars!

The variety of food influences in America is vast – Cuban, Mexican, Creole, Italian, Greek and…meat…it’s a meat culture like ours. Life revolves around meat. It all looks yummy (I haven’t always been vegetarian, I still remember what meat tastes like).

Which begs the question – do we have diners in South Africa right now?

There’s a 24hr joint in the Alberton boulevard called Pink Cadillac. It used to be open 24hrs – it now has an opening and closing time. I think a diner should be a 24hr place. Anytime you’re hungry, there’s a place to go. Hungry after a concert – no problem, go to the diner. Hungry after a night out – no problem, drop by the diner. Hungry, no food in the fridge – no problem, there’s the diner. Good home-style food. The Pink Cadillac menu included spaghetti bolognaise and macaroni cheese at any time of the day or night 🙂

We have tons of restaurants and coffee-shops which have an opening and a closing time, and many are in malls. I remember a diner at Bedford Centre years ago who really tried to emulate the diner experience – the decor was all red and rock and roll, complete with jukebox (very 50s), and food was served in plastic baskets. The food was nice, the vibe was nice, but they closed early. So, no satisfying of the hunger after the 10 o’clock show.

Hubby and I found a place, quite by accident (years ago), while aimlessly driving around Braamfontein on a Friday night, hungry as hell. Tucked away at the street level of an office block, fronted with big glass windows, the warm glow from inside invited us in. We walked in and were welcomed by the owner, a big bear of a man – I think it was a Greek restaurant. Or it could’ve been Croatian. Or Italian. I don’t recall exactly. The influence was European bistro-style. There was a row of tables on either side of the narrow space with a corridor down the middle. We had the tastiest meal ever, home cooked by Mamma in the back I am sure. I just know that I haven’t tasted food like that since, truly (outside of my Mom’s kitchen)! We were offered dessert and the cognac was on the house. I half-expected to be offered a cigar. The owner sat with us and we chatted for a long while, I think he found us a bit of a novelty because the rest of the patrons were much older than us, they all knew each other – probably went there every night. Or maybe it was just a front for the mob…:-)

Another wonderful memory, although not of a diner, but of a 24hr food place nonetheless, was Casablanca roadhouse at the bottom end of Hillbrow. I have fond memories of going there after clubbing or a movie, a whole lot of us piled into a skedonk of a car (poor students, more of us than was legal in the car). It was there that I had my first dagwood – the-best-ever-dagwood-in-town, in the world, a sumptuous tower of bread, burger, ham, egg, and other stuff I can’t remember, and a coke! Absolutely delicious, I still remember the taste, enough to make me salivate as I write this.

As I end this post, I am left wondering what a South African version of Triple-D would look like. If the Food Network had to do a South African version of Diners Drive-ins and Dives, where would they go? If you know, share on this site (I haven’t been out much lately)!

I bid you good eatings!

Blogger’s block

 

Writer’s block tip – keep an idea book

 

For a long while I haven’t had anything to write about even though the desire has been there to express something. Not wanting to become a self-absorbed blogger, and wanting to write stuff that others actually search for and read, led me on a path of searching for blog topic ideas and random blog topic generators.

I played around with a few random blog generators and the topics that come up are quite random and simply hilarious. The process of searching for inspiration has led to this post. I can safely say that for today, the desired outcome has been achieved.

Here’s a list of random blog topics from Generator Land – what shall I write about next :-)?

#1 – 6 things I love about vanilla extract

#2 – 8 things I love about cat treats

#3 – What’s better than laundry detergent?

#4 – I want to learn more about The Cranberries

#5 – Some thoughts on bathing

#6 – The future of olive oil

#7 – I wanted to learn more about sleeping

Hmmm…food for thought…

 

Catharsis – revisiting the year that was 2012

Business class to India
Business class to India

In January I went to India where I spent a month. January was all about Mumbai, and Pune where I lived and worked. I had an apartment to myself and commuted to work with a colleague on his motorbike. Experiencing India in all its fullness – the history, beauty and stark reality of masses of people living close to each other – is something that will always be in my heart. I will go to India again, of that I am sure. I have written before that you only get to go to India for the first time once. The next time I go, it will be different.

 

 

 

Home
Home

I spent half of February in India. I experienced a most delightful train ride through the morning fog from Delhi to Agra. After being dropped off at the Delhi station, we were “befriended” by a “policeman” (so he said, I still have my doubts!) who bought us some chai, tried to find out all sorts of personal information about us, and wrote in red pen, in Hindi, all over our train tickets. I was suspicious of his intentions. For all we knew he could’ve written some message that could’ve gotten us arrested or worse, kidnapped before getting on the train. I’ve obviously seen too many Hollywood movies and read too many horror stories about tourists getting scammed in foreign places, but it doesn’t hurt for 2 girls traveling on their own to be cautious. We got on the train and Agra safely, where I experienced the absolute beauty and awe-inspiring splendour of the wonder that is the Taj Mahal.

 

 

My Big Boy
My Big Boy

In March I bought my first bike, a 125cc pitbike which is a lot of fun. It has a 4-stroke motor, 4 gears, is zippy and not too heavy. The one disadvantage is that it is kick-start only, and the black and blue marks on my legs are evidence that kick-starting it is not my favourite part of riding this baby.

Ziplining with Magaliesberg Canopy Tours was an experience to be repeated, in other parts of the country. The feeling of letting go, putting all faith and trust in other people, and the thin cable …represented a freedom of being, a freedom from responsibility and a freedom to connect with nature. The guides were very safety conscious. They returned us safely to the Sparkling Waters hotel and were very knowledgeable about the flora and fauna of the area.

 

 

The Eagles concert
The Eagles concert

April was the month of Easter, family, and The Eagles concert. The day was hot but the temperature quickly dropped in the late afternoon. As we waited for The Eagles to go on stage cold rain came down. No one got upset – the concert was worth getting cold and wet for. The whole stadium waited until the end of concert for them to play Hotel California – it was the last song they played. It was worth the wait! April was also the month of the bike course, and the month where 2 long-lost lovers were reunited after more than 20 years apart. Names shall be withheld to protect the innocent. The whole initial reunion was entirely filmed by yours truly, a memory I hope they will treasure. It was a special moment to have witnessed.

 

 

 

May birthdays
May birthdays

May is the month of my parent’s birthdays, 2 weeks apart. This means lots of family time. The leaves start falling off the trees as autumn in the southern hemisphere sets in. Lots of partying and socialising, lots of good food and drink. Naturally my wardrobe needed to be replenished for winter…

This was also the month where I reconnected with my very first friend in South Africa. We were neighbours in Germiston, and went to the same school. Every afternoon, after homework, one of us used to go to the wall separating our gardens and yell out each other’s name – the daily call to play.

 

 

 

006 drill
My own drill

More birthdays in June, more family time, and my very own drill. I love tools and have for a while now wanted to have my very own drill instead of having to ask my husband to borrow one. At Builders Warehouse one day, I naturally gravitated to the power tools section, and found this beauty in its own carry case. On special! I admit that I would’ve been happy with a kiddies drill, but green is my favourite colour…

As the winter set in, so did my mood. I don’t like the cold. I wish I could hibernate from June to August every year – I’d be much happier.

 

 

 

Arb photo
Arb photo

Pretty eventless July was. In between riding my bike and trying to keep warm I experimented with my camera. I took loads of arb photos, the arb-ness mirroring my boredom. Like a cat, weekends were spent finding pools of sunlight splashed over furniture to sit on, cradling hot mugs of tea in cold hands, iPad and Kindle nearby.

I also visited my nephew’s new school for 2013 (his first year of “big” school, grade RR) and was pleased to hear that they subscribe to the Reggio Emilia educational philosophy. It’s based on the belief that in the early developmental years children’s individuality is formed. It’s principles based, on the interests of children in a self-guided curriculum.

 

 

 

21st birthday party entertainment
21st birthday party entertainment

August, more birthdays, including a 21st birthday party at which I was the photographer. My first gig, non-professional, and I must admit that the photos came out rather nicely.

It also snowed in Joburg in drips and drabs. No soft white deep carpet. Nevertheless some people still managed to build a few snowmen. Very little work got done on that day, childish excitement spilling out in to a formal work setting.

After the snow, the weather started getting warmer and the moodiness of winter started to lift. I bought my second motorbike, a big boy Suzuki GSXR750, original colours, latest model, to ride on the track. Definitely the highlight of the month. How not to feel happy and exuberant after this?

 

 

An 80th birthday party
An 80th birthday party

 

September brought with it warmer weather and an 80th birthday party. The remaining family still in South Africa came together to celebrate this amazing and important milestone. There were speeches, a cake, and as usual I took loads of photos.

 

 

 

 

 

The ubiquitous Cafe Anton in Swakopmund
The ubiquitous Cafe Anton in Swakopmund

October my birthday month. I treated myself to a holiday in Namibia, revisit old haunts and reconnect with old friends. I deliberately flew into Windhoek so that I could make the drive to Swakopmund one of the highlights of my trip. The colours of Namibia change, subtly at first. Windhoek is bushveld and it was very dry. Blackened veld held evidence of recent fires. After Usakos and Karibib it starts to resemble a moonscape. Rocks are carelessly strewn around, barren and seemingly lifeless, like a land God made in anger. As the coast nears, a cloud of moisture starts to become visible in the far distance. The scape starts to smoothen out to beautiful dunes, golden and fiery red, soft sand giving way to harder gravel. The temperature has by this time dropped a full 10 degrees from what it was in Windhoek. I passed perhaps 1 car every 20kms. It was a soul trip lifting my emotions with each passing kilometre.

 

 

 

Linkin Park concert
Linkin Park concert

Lots happened in November. The euphoria of the Linkin Park concert. The hilarity of the ghost bus tour of Johannesburg – midnight at the cemetery in Bezuidenhout Park, a colleague posing, Bollywood style by a crumbling tomb. Visiting Freedom Park and an archaeological site at the Cradle of Humankind. First time at Arts on Main. Family time at Mbizi in Bela Bela.

It was also the month that my Dad spent 2 weeks in hospital, one of them in ICU. It was touch and go, and thankfully he is now over that and was back running the business with my brother within a week of getting home.

 

 

 

Knysna
Knysna

December and the month of Christmas, family and annual leave. I started my 5 weeks of leave on the 22nd of December. We had 2 Christmas celebrations, one with the family in Joburg and the other with the family in Knysna. Both were noisy, voices trying to make themselves heard over the din, making more even more din. The road trip took longer than usual, with enforced detours allowing us to get better acquainted with small plateland towns, and rain making things more interesting. A 5 minute torrential downpour just before Uniondale brought zero visibility. Thankfully  our encounter with the humungous tortoise crossing the road happened when it was dry and visibility was good.

 

 

Inimitable India

The white brilliance of the Taj Mahal
The white brilliance of the Taj Mahal

A year ago I was on my way to India, at this time being driven to the airport for my Jet Airways flight. R 4 000 upgraded me to business class. Being one of 3 people in business class I had my own personal stewardess. After a delicious dinner, I settled in to watch movies in my “seat-bed”, and imagine my surprise when I was asked if I wanted some popcorn! Popcorn and movies…I was blissfully happy for that direct flight to Mumbai. I watched 3 movies!

Sadly, Jet Airways no longer comes to South Africa. I got the best in-flight service, delicious food and a cheap upgrade! Flying to India from Joburg now means a layover in Dubai, something I’m not looking forward to.

I’ve recently found Anthony Bourdain’s books. I’m enjoying them so much I’m devouring them! I’d seen him on the food and travel channels. He’s loud, brash, swears a lot and makes no excuses for it – I enjoy him. He’s travelled the world tasting the foods from different countries. He’s written quite a few books, both fiction and non-fiction. I started with A Cook’s Tour, moved onto Kitchen Confidential (better than reality TV) and according to Kindle, am 29% of the way in to Medium Raw.

Now Bourdain really likes Vietnam, the same way I feel about India. He expresses things so well and a passage from the book reminded me of India:

“The only way to see Hanoi is from the back of a scooter. To ride in a car would be madness – limiting your mobility to a crawl, preventing you from even venturing half the narrow streets and alleys where the good stuff is to be found. To be separated from what’s around you by a pane of glass would be to miss – everything. Here, the joy of riding on the back of a scooter or motorbike is to be part of the throng, just one more tiny element in an organic thing, a constantly moving, ever-changing process rushing, mixing, swirling, and diverting through the city’s veins, arteries and capillaries. Admittedly, it’s also slightly dangerous. Traffic lights, one-way signs, intersections, and the like – the rough outlines of organized society – are more suggestions than regulations observed by anyone in actual practice. One has, though, the advantage of the right of way. Here? The scooter and the motorbike are kings.”

I couldn’t have expressed it better! To truly know a country, culture and its peoples requires total immersion in it. Commuting to work on the back of a motorbike was great – I was at my desk in no time – and was one of the highlights of my day. The only thing that came close to the exhiliration of riding a bike to work was grabbing a tuktuk. The times I rode in a car just seemed to take forever! A 300km trip took close to 8 hours to complete.

India has been in the news a lot recently for negative reasons and I feel truly sad at the tragedy of it all. Not just in India…in South Africa we have the same thing happening.

But this post is not a commentary on this. It is just a small ode to the complex vastness that is that magnificent country – inimitable India.

Bacalhau

It’s a Portuguese tradition to have a salt-cod dish on Christmas Eve. There are as many ways of cooking salt-cod as there are families. In Portuguese salt-cod is called “bacalhau”.

In our family salt-cod has a mixed reception. My Dad loves it done the uber-traditional way – boiled salt-cod, boiled potatoes, boiled onion, boiled cabbage and boiled egg. It’s presented on a large platter filled with the steaming food. Once on the plate, olive oil and vinegar is drizzled over, and some people like putting chopped garlic on as well.

Most of us don’t enjoy it like this because it’s very bland. It really is! I prefer a more eclectic dish.

My hubby made Bacalhau a Gomes de Sa. The “bacalhau” is boiled and the bones taken off. Then the bacalhau is layered in an oven-proof dish with onions, potato rounds, olives and green pepper. Before popping it into the oven copious amounts of olive oil is drizzled over. My hubby caramelises the onion and green pepper beforehand and this lends the dish huge depth of flavour.

Caramelising onions

 

Caramelising green peppers

He doesn’t use as much olive oil as the original recipe – he drizzles over white wine and cream as well. This then gets baked until the potatoes are cooked and the top wonderfully crispy. It’s garnished with sliced boiled egg before serving. This variation went down a treat with our very mixed family.

So as you can see today I had a boring day hence the paucity of material for my blog. Bland just like the boiled variety…

Social Entrepreneur, chief wide eyed in wanderer, wonderer and bottlewasher

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