Erik's Food Blog - South Africa
One of my most favorite countries. In many aspects, South Africa has more than almost any other country. It has cities, it has beautiful mountains, it has beautiful oceans, it has great food, it has fascinating culture & history, it has wild animals, it has some of the warmest people I ever met, and it is struggling. My heart hurts and swells with pride at the same time whenever I think of South Africa. Shosholoza. I had the honor of visiting South Africa my second time in June of 1994. Search for what happened in a few weeks before in ‘94, listen to the inauguration speech, and watch Invictus. The reality is even more inspiring.
Alright, back to food. Food is amazing in South Africa and it is easily accessible. Just one word, Braais. Visualize a beautiful country, great meats, and hot coals. Given the meats that you can get in South Africa, it easily beats any bbq anywhere in the world. Disagree? How about Springbok on the grill? Or Kudzu? Or the incredible warthog? Okay, little sidetrack. No one does pork or beef ribs better than the US. Sorry, take that, Australia. Relegated to the third place. Oh no, I forgot Brazil, fourth place it is.
Beyond incredible, sizzling meat on grills, another awesome meat South African meat dishes is Biltong, a jerky made from Ostrich (oh yeah, they throw that on the Braais, too, if you like non-fatty, really healthy meat). Biltong (from Ostrich) is how I started to like jerky but trying jerky in the rest of the world mostly does not measure up (we do have some amazing jerky in San Francisco, available at the Ferry Terminal).
And then there is the wine from the Stellenbosch and Franschoek region. Just think Sonoma, Napa, Santa Clara Valley quality but much better looking mountains. It’s a bit like Monument Valley rocks in your wine region. Best of all, it is only a one hour drive from Cape Town or a bit faster if you have a foreign passport and don’t care about having tickets mailed to you. The town of Stellenbosch is really beautiful to visit, like a Dutch village accidentally placed into the hills. I have been good always taking a bottle of Meerlust with me (nostalgia, most likely, but with that name, who would object).
Stellenbosch university's main language was Afrikaans until not too long ago (I am not getting into what that meant, for how long it meant it, and how it endured for quite some time into the very late 20th century).
Whenever I visited Stellenbosch, I had lunch at the Lanzerac vineyard (even though I think it had a different name when I visited) which is the place for a leisurely lunch, great views, great food, and of course, great wines. Enough of wines though, since South African wines are widely recognized around the world.
Next up is Amarula. Its not just comparable to Bailey’s but it tastes better and the story behind it is much juicier. The Amarula fruit grows on trees and fertilizes quickly when it falls to the ground (i.e., turns into alcohol). The problem is that elephants love the fruit and a drunk elephant makes for a great cartoon character, especially when stumbling sideways. However, now remember that a few thousand kilos are crashing through the underbrush and you get the terrifying picture for animals and humans.
Okay, back to food, did I mention that it is game, game, and more game. Cured, grilled, ground, in casings. You've got to experience it. In speciality restaurants in Jo'burg or under open sky next to a huge fire after the Safari's evening drive).
And then, there is seafood. Since we are at Cape Good Hope, where the Atlantic, the Indian, and the Southern Oceans meet. There are lots of currents, cold water, nutrients, etc. resulting in amazing seafood. I guess a good indicator of outstanding seafood is the presence of great white sharks. South Africa has plenty of those and therefore an incredible variety of seafood. Enjoy the beauty of nature and switch between game and seafood. That simple. That awesome.
True PS: For some odd reason, I had really great Portuguese food in South Africa.