Many, many years ago, we gave up Christmas. Not being partial to Christianity, Capitalism or Consumerism, it wasn’t very hard. However, being Cancerian, I do like to lay the table, and celebrating life on Earth can only be a good thing. So, we settled on a Solstice Celebration. I particularly like the fact that the Solstice occurs on different days – this year Thursday 22nd of December – and that it is a natural phenomenon, not man-made. Usually, we simply celebrate the abundance of the season and this year was no different. I had a wonderful time wandering about my veggie garden in the early morning havesting food and deciding what to do with it.
We began with a salad of green and yellow beans, cherry tomatoes (the first on the vines this year), artichoke hearts (the last two on the bush) and new Buffelspoort potatoes, just unearthed. I had been nervous that I would not get any potatoes at all as the plants look really miserable, so was delighted when I ferreted through the earth in my potato tower to find a few! Nothing is more delicious than brand new potatoes, just steamed. They were perfect with the green beans and, particularly, the unusual yellow dwarf variety. Some local duck egg mayonnaise complemented everything beautifully.
Greens are a Summer sensation, so I served up a medley. Cavalo Nero and fennel seeds; pumpkin leaves with tiny green pumpkins; sheep sorrel braised with chilli and garlic. Cavalo nero is the most delicious black kale with very crinkly leaves. It is a winter crop but for some reason mine is still producing despite the heat. I found the recipe for kale with fennel seeds in the River Cafe Cookbook and it is absolutely delicious.
I learned about imifino yentanga (pumpkin leaves) from my Zulu neighbours and now it is one of my favourite foods. Small leaves and tendrils are shredded and steamed or fried – the new tiny pumpkins (literally buds) are chopped and added to for a real treat. This is a great way to curb the pumpkins from taking over my entire garden! The baSotho women who live on the farm taught me about the tiny spear shaped budila (sheep sorrel) – it is Nobuizelo’s favourite. Polenta would be a good accompaniament for the greens, but we ate ours piled on ciabatta I had baked earlier. Some slivers of local goat’s cheese was fantastic with the sharp sorrel .
Usually at this time of year we eat plums, nectarines and apricots roasted and served with dollops of yoghurt. However, I found fresh local blueberries this week and they seemed a perfect match for the newly created mulberry ice cream from Wana Farm, so we ate that instead. Perhaps I’ll roast some fruit tomorrow and serve it on bruschetta?
A wonderful side effect of “not doing christmas” is that there is No Pressure at the time of year when most people are exhausted. Everyone around us is in a panic and we are simply enjoying summer afternoons with a book under the trees. When I think about it, nothing illustrates the absurd (and heading for extinction) position humanity finds itself in, better than the Christmas Chaos.