If you consider that South Africa started its ‘rebirth’ in 1994 with the election of Nelson Mandela as president, Cape Town is now in her early 20s. And as is age-appropriate, she seems – in culinary terms – to be exploring the world, her identity and the relationship between the two: trying on different personalities – or in this case, cuisines, before settling on her own. There’s freedom in having no firmly entrenched, unifying food culture, and keeping pace with trends is exhilarating (especially after experiencing isolation).
The ‘Mother City' has often been the port of entry for new ideas before they filter inland, and perhaps there will always be a foreign influence on a city that draws more tourists than any other in the country. One thing is for sure – this cosmopolitan village is not a microcosm of South Africa.
Nature spoils Capetonians with sunshine, bountiful produce, mountain springs and close proximity to natural beauty – sandy white beaches and rocky coves are easily accessed for an after-work sundowner, and Table Mountain is a constant beacon.
An outdoor lifestyle is prioritised, as is the casual dining that goes with it. The ultimate expression of the Cape has to be diving for West Coast rock lobster and eating it as soon as it is lifted from the water; legs steamed and dunked in Marie Rose sauce, tails brushed with lemon butter and cooked over coals – and a bottle of Chenin on ice.
Among the food Cape Town can claim as her own, there’s the waterblommetjie (small water flower), or Cape pondweed, which is often slow-cooked with lamb and lemony sorrel leaves – once the sailor’s precaution against scurvy; hanepoot grapes bottled in brandy known as Kaapse...