Mood shot from foodSTUFF cookery book by Tony Jackman

In the early 1990s, at the start of my career as a journalist, I was a reporter on The Argus when it was still a respectable afternoon paper peopled by clever, characterful journos. Those were the days! My desk was on the cusp of the newsroom, adjacent to the colourful Tonight section run by the legendary Derek Wilson. On that illustrious staff was Tony Jackman. I’d see him walking the length of the newsroom towards me, knowing that at some point, without fail, he’d glance up, say a shy hello, and move on. Today he’s not only a celebrated foodie, former restaurateur, playwright, writer and the Daily Maverick‘s copy editor, his first cookbook, foodSTUFF – Reflections & recipes from a celebrated foodie (Human & Rousseau) has been published.  The wonderful array of recipes are punctuated with poignant, honest essays on his life’s journey. They are beautifully written and considered, and here is my favourite:

In the Big, Beige Baking Bowl

In the big, beige baking bowl, life is beaten, whisked and stirred, as you try to turn disparate ingredients into something that makes sense. In your moms kitchen there is vanilla and butter and flour, eggs and castor sugar, and a metal whisk to combine them all and turn them into something else in the big, steaming oven. 

In that kitchen, the little boy, now long grown up, sees himself at age six or seven. And he sees Simeon. Simeon is a man who seems very thin and very, very tall to that little boy. Simeon is the houseboy. You know now how wrong it is to call this man a boy, but that was what everyone did; everyone who was white in the town anyway – which was everyone except the houseboys, the only black people in this town of diamond-seeking whiteness, Owambo men hired on six-month contracts and bussed all the way down through what we then called South West Africa to work in the houses of the white families, whose fathers worked on the alluvial diamond mines and whose mothers raised the kids and worked in The Store or the hairdresser’s.

Everybody had one. A houseboy. One who did the washing and ironing, nursed the kids, peeled the vegetables, mowed the lawn.

They wore white aprons that exaggerated their ebony skin. They lived in a compound on the edge of town. Each evening around six o’ clock you’d see Owambo men in white aprons traipsing out of town to the compound, where there were no women, no children, just the company of other migrant men far from home.

Near the big hospital in town, which was for the employees of The Company rather than for the men who worked for the families, was another compound where sick Owambo men would sit on chairs outside dormitories. This was the TB clinic, and the white kids were warned never to go too near lest they catch it.

4 Comments

  1. Penny Middelkoop Reply

    This story resonates with me, as I’m sure the recipes will. Would love to win this book! Thanks

  2. Nonceba Lushaba Reply

    Tony Jackman’s book looks beautifully styled! Reading the piercing poignancy of the extract, it’s clear that the book goes far beyond the recipes. I would love to win a copy because I’m fascinated by the narrative and the linkages drawn with food. I love to entertain and make good looking offerings!

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