Tony Jackman’s hearty approach to life and living are perfectly displayed in his gem of a cookbook, foodSTUFF – Reflections & recipes from a celebrated foodie. When he heard that it was to be published, he says it was “one of the best moments” of his life. Here he spills the beans on foodSTUFF’s how and why …
There’s the food that defines you, but there is also a lot of food for thought in foodSTUFF. Tell us about its evolution … what was your intent when you set about creating it?
It’s an old ambition of mine to write food-related books. As long as 25 to 30 years ago, I was keeping recipes aside and occasionally I would approach another food writer (such as the late Lannice Snyman) or publisher about doing a book of some kind.
Just like with my plays – I let a lot of time slip by before getting them on the boards – I got to a point where I said to myself, “Jackman, better get on with it if you’re ever going to do it.”
So I chose a number of themes and wrote essays of the kind of stories I had in mind for a book that would combine recipes and stories about food. I chose the title foodSTUFF because I wanted it to be about food “and stuff”, a word I use a lot. I then sent it to Sean Fraser, a book editor who is very kind and helpful in getting people like me published; he loved it and sent it to Annake Muller at NB Publishers. I got really lucky. Annake knew and loved my writing, read my columns in the Weekend Argus, loved the proposals and sample chapters I had submitted, and off it went.
One day, an email popped in from her saying she wanted to publish but first had to persuade her editorial crew to agree, which they did, and then the tough room full of marketing and money types, and then another email saying good news, we want to publish. One of the best moments of my life. Then in late 2015 I was in Cape Town and had a meeting with her. She told me she wanted more about my life in the book. Stories about life and family and grief and anything else. I came back to Cradock and wrote many more essays, having been persuaded to go deep and honest and really reveal my thoughts about life and living. So it became part memoir, part cookbook.
What do the recipes in foodSTUFF reveal about your relationship with food, making it and creating magic at mealtimes?
The recipes that typify my cooking are the meaty ones – and there are lots of them – and the quirky ones such as my Chilled Spanspek Soup.
I have a hearty approach to life and living, I’m all about heart and hearth, family and friends, pouring a glass, clinking glasses, and talking stories around the dinner table or braaing for hours. I’ll generally be the last one standing.
Some of the recipes are real gems and others are surprisingly simple and homely. How did you make the final recipe cut? Where there criteria?
I selected a number of dishes that I’d like to share and which somehow matched the chapter themes. I sent her a new draft, and then Annake and I would back and forth until she was happy with the mix of dishes. One rule was that there had to be lots of meaty dishes, because that’s what I’m about.
Who are your culinary heroes … and which restaurant would you really like to visit (here or abroad)?
Keith Floyd planted the idea in my head that I could do what he was doing back in the Eighties. Still haven’t lost that ambition. People who know me say I’d be good at that.
My culinary hero is Marco Pierre White. He’s irascible like me, a complex, clever man with a lot of kindness in him, and boy, can he cook.
I’m coming to supper tonight. What’s on the menu? P.S. I love lamb.
On the table tonight will be courgette soup with oregano and garlic, a little lemon and with a spoonful of creamy sheep’s milk feta stirred in at the end, followed by Greek-style lamb shanks with lemon-roasted potatoes and creamed spinach.
I think a couple of scoops of lemon sorbet would be a suitable end, with a shot of Limoncello.
Thank you, Tony. Your book is a keeper. For the perfect supper with friends, here is Tony’s menu selection: Roasted Parsnip Soup, followed by Roast Sirloin of Beef With a Fatty Crust and closing off with Lemon Fridge Tart.
WIN A COPY We have one copy of foodSTUFF – Reflections & recipes from a celebrated foodie (Human & Rousseau, an imprint of NB Publishers) to GIVE AWAY! Simply leave a comment and your address and contact details in the comment section below and like this post. The competition is open to South African readers only and closes on 7 December 2017.