Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Biltong, boerewors and tomato sauce chips

It is not the least surprising that every high street now seems to have a Polish shop. As an immigrant (or even if you are just working in a different country) the most nostalgia attaches to the food you have left behind.

We may laugh at English pubs and cups of English breakfast tea in far flung places but while I feel you should be able to manage in a foreign country for a couple of weeks without the food and drink of home – if you are living there – well that is something very different.

When we first lived in London in the 1960s I was desperately homesick – a telephone call home had to be booked two days in advance and cost £1 a minute (and I was earning £15 a week) so no familiar voices just weekly letters.  Arriving in London in January from a Johannesburg summer was no joke - but all that could be overcome but no familiar food for comfort was eventually very hard to bear.

I struggled at the butcher as many of the cuts of meat had different names (my mother sent me a butcher’s poster which I took with me so he could ‘rename’ the cuts of meat for me.)  But I needed boerewors (a spicy all meat sausage, the main seasoning being crushed coriander). What to do. I bought the intestines (yuck, yuck) rinsed them, mixed the meat and spices and spent ages stuffing the sausages and tying the slippery ends.  It was almost a day’s work and we ate them in one meal.  My butcher took pity on me and in future I delivered the mixture to him on the day he made sausages and he put them through his machine.

Now there are several butcher shops selling South African specialties.  I recently tasted some biltong from Limpopo Butchers in Acton and spent three hours in the car going there and back to buy some more (and boerewors of course).  The traffic coming back was so slow that I opened one bag and started on the biltong – I nearly cried for joy it was so good!! They also had tomato sauce chips (tomato ketchup crisps to you) so a bag each for my children – that’s their soul food memory.  Next time Elizabeth Ann Baby Shampoo for Number two granddaughter and Peppermint Crisps....

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