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Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Pork and Wine

Last weekend, I visited a coffee roastery. Nothing better than the sweet smell of freshly roasted Arabica beans. When I asked the shop owner where the organic beans originated from, he proudly announced they were from the region of the Kivu lake in Rwanda.

Now, this made my heart beat faster (it was probably already doing a few extra beats after my caffeine intake), since my Mother lived the 12 first years of her life at lake Kivu in Congo (the other side of the lake). My beloved grandfather August Pas owned a coffee plantation in the subtropical hills about a day's drive from Bukavu.

Waking up in the morning is something really special now; when I am grinding the coffee beans, the perfume carries me away to the footsteps of my mother's childhood at the shores of the Kivu lake. I think of the  youth memories she shared with us about mangoes she picked from the trees at the age of six. I think about my truly missed grandfather, the great mathematician and teacher, who used to tell us riddles and stories about the Wild Africa (like the one where  they nearly got killed by a Hippopotamus). I am far away from home, yet I am closer then ever to my roots.

On special request, I have published my famous 'Fillet of Pork in red wine' recipe as recipe of the week. See 'Recipe of the week' in the sidebar.

Dear Michelle, you understand like nobody else what the business is asking from us; there hasn't been much room for experimenting with plum tomatoes. And let's be honest, the past weeks haven't really been tomato wheather. But I promise that I will spend some time to try out your submission and publish it with your approval. You are hereby invited to join me in my kitchen and we can even organize a small Tomatina (1 tomato each because the last thing I would do is play with food).

Saturday, 07 November 2009

The smoking kitten

I was planning to write a weekly article about herbs, but I decided to dedicate my time to another, rather unexpected topic: cats. Well, I could write about the culinary use of Catnip, but its use is rather uncommon and limited to soups, sauces and salads. But don't worry; as you will see, this article will contain a culinary term here and there, and I promise: we're not making 'Cat à la King'

One night, I came home from work and it had been one of those days where everything that possibly could have gone wrong had gone terribly wrong. I had been living in South Africa for just over a year, and one of the things enjoy about South Africa is its biodiversity. So, as usual, upon coming home, I would go straight to my garden and inhale the fresh air and the perfumes of indigenous plants and herbs. Having had such a bad day at work, I looked up at the sky and said: "God, give me one good reason to stay in this place". When I lowered my head, my attention was immediately drawn to a whitish, mouse-like creature. After closer inspection, it turned out to be a just-born kitten, apparently abandoned by its mother.

I immediately kept it warm au bain-marie and in a panic, searched the Internet on 'what to do with abandoned kittens?'. So, if you ever find yourself in a similar situation, here is a website that tells you all you need to know: Kitten Rescue. This website saved the life of Gorby. Yes, since it had a little rusty spot on its head we named it after Michael Gorbatchev. While Gorby was happily sleeping on the stove, we went outside, thinking: "Only one kitten in a nest, that is impossible". A thorough search brought us to a second screaming kitten: Ninja (you can see Ninja fully grown in the sidebar of this blog).

We took our two orphans to the Vet the next day, and he claimed never to have seen such a small kittens. Their eyes were still closed. After two weeks of bottle-feeding the youngsters, he ensured us that their chances of survival were very realistic, and that we had made a miracle happen. About five months later only, we encountered the mother and two other kittens of the nest in our garden. The similarities in their appearance were amazing, but one could clearly see the results of the struggle for life in the wild in comparison to the Whiskas treatment at home; we called them Nanji and Gyrbo. Last week, Gyrbo, our feral friend, died.

But the mourning didn't last long. The day after Gyrbo's departure, we found a nest of five kittens in our garden. One of them was smoking a Havana cigar (see picture). You can have a look at their adventures in my Photo Gallery.