“A good cook is like a sorceress who dispenses happiness.” - Elsa Schiaparelli
After graduating as a teacher at the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg, I took up a teaching post at Ixopo High School in Southern KZN. I found myself in yet another small town, this time within view of the majestic Drakensberg Mountains, following in Alan Paton’s immortal words, “this lovely road that runs from Ixopo into the grass covered hills that are lovely beyond the singing of it,” (Cry the Beloved Country).
Little did I know, that this was to be the place I would soon call home, and start a family of my own. It was here that I met and married Ken, a local dairy farmer. This born and bred farm girl had unexpectedly come full circle!
As a new bride and working housewife, living in a very active, social farming community meant regularly catering for functions. Whether hosting guests for dinner, catering for lunches and suppers at the local country club, or baking for book club tea midst the normal family meal routine, I was constantly in the kitchen. All of a sudden I was reaching for “Mom Default Mode”!
MaShandu Dlamini was my very first helper in the cottage Ken and I lived in on Blackwood Farm. Without conscious thought or planning, I followed in Mom’s footsteps, inadvertently continuing the legacy of teaching and training MaShandu how to cook and bake successfully, much to her pride and joy and my delight.
In the years that were to follow, Shandu never failed to impress all those who crossed the threshold of our home with her amazing culinary skills. I remain eternally grateful to her, and all the subsequent Zulu ladies who I have had the privilege of working with in my home. MaSbongile and maMargaret continue to be the oil in the cogs of our busy household, along with MaCynthia and many others who have gone before! Ngiyabonga kakhulu!
The inspiration for running my first cookery classes came as a result of a suggestion from a great friend, Jenni Ortlepp, many years ago. After thoroughly enjoying a dinner party meal prepared by MaShandu, whilst I had spent all day in the city, Jen proposed that I equip the Zulu domestic staff of other local farmers’ wives with the same skills, level of expertise, competence and confidence that I had so enjoyed imparting to my own domestic chef. Jen’s idea inspired me to combine some of my first loves - people and cooking!
With no formal cookery education, equipped only with my teaching experience, a collection of recipe books and love of cooking for family and friends, I dived into my collection of informally printed recipe books. Between the dusty covers were a variety of family favourites compiled by various women’s guilds and school’s parents associations, as well as a wealth of well thumbed, handwritten and stained hand-me- down cookbooks, some dating back to grandmas’ days. I discovered a treasure trove of treats upon which many of my first lessons were based. Ukuthanda Ukupheka cookery classes had begun!
Part 3 to follow soon.