“No one is born a great cook, one learns by doing.” ― Julia Child
Ukuthanda Ukupheka Cookery Classes were an opportunity for me to combine three of my greatest joys in life – cooking, teaching and people. Although I myself never received any formal culinary training, my knowledge comes from a ravenous love of cooking and baking, as well as my relentless study of cookbooks.
When deciding which recipes to include in my classes, my criteria remains in keeping things simple; choosing those uncomplicated, relevant, tasty ones that would satisfy households of tummies. With the assistance of my Zulu domestic staff I began the translation of these recipes, adapting them into a user-friendly, logical and easy-to-follow style Zulu vernacular. Often involving fiddling, tweaking, fine-tuning, sifting and sprucing the ingredients and method until the recipe arrived at its tastiest version.
The Zulu recipe and its English counterpart are placed side by side in flip-files to facilitate easy cross referencing between the two languages during classes. Back home this offers the domestic chef and housewife the opportunity of working co-operatively alongside one another in the kitchen, effectively bridging the language gap whilst cooking. Almost 200 recipes have been translated into Zulu over the past 20 years.
After my first session of lessons, I presented each of the participants with a certificate of completion. Their enthusiastic and unexpected emotional response was overwhelming. It revealed to me that should the classes continue, the impartation of culinary skills was to become secondary to the necessary empowering and inspiring of these special women to realise the potential they all have.
Wonderful friendships continue to blossom among the women who attend from the various outlying communities, as does a unique and special camaraderie which prevails beyond the boundaries of my kitchen. Time for ministry is set aside at the start of each lesson, opening the day’s class with readings from the Zulu Bible, followed by shared prayer, and sometimes spontaneous, beautifully harmonised praise and worship, a gift for which these Zulu women are renowned, and a rich blessing paid forward to me in turn.
The idea of a cookbook was sparked by requests of friends, and friends of friends suggesting that I consolidate the bounty of recipes, translated and collected over the past 20 years, into one relevant, user-friendly bi-lingual recipe book. This encouragement together with the serendipitous by-products of self-confidence, motivation, sense of purpose and spirited camaraderie generated within the souls of these Zulu women, became the inspiration to create my first recipe book, Pheka Nathi! Cook with us!
I firmly trust that it will reach beyond the walls of my own kitchen, into the homes of many - to teach, to inspire and to encourage further.