Building a Nation, Plate By Plate

South Africans celebrated National Heritage Day on the 24th of September. In a country with notorious divisions, yet famous for its diversity and ability to overcome differences to create a peaceful, cohesive nation; celebrating a singular South African heritage can be problematic. Can a single tile in a colourful mosaic be singled out to typify the entire artwork? Definitely not!

It has been a constant debate amongst thought-leaders, politicians and even large brands in South Africa; how do you typify ‘being South African, bringing all South Africans together for a common purpose?’ Despite the warm-and-fuzzy anthemesque adverts for certain beer brands, South Africa is not homogeneous and creating the ideal demographic togetherness, with so many varied cultural preferences, is difficult. So, bring on the food!

There are two things South Africans have in common, irrespective of linguistic preference, cultural ancestry, belief system, whom is chosen to love, or melanin content of the dermis: A moth-like affinity for fire and magnetism towards good, hearty food.

If there is any ubiquitous typecast for a South African, it would be burning wood or charcoal and a meaty meal; we don’t do vegetarian with great finesse. Thus, the National Braai (English: non-gas-fire barbeque) Day moniker, synchronous with National Heritage Day, being a pastime we all enjoy. Bring in Muratie Wine Estate and Du Toitskloof Wines and their hosting of the 2nd annual Cape Cuisine Cook-off on 19 September; celebrating Cape and South African heritage through the fruits of our soil and toil of our cooks.

Although a closed event by invitation only, it is a perfect opportunity to show off what our region is made of and showcase its diverse viticultural and gastronomic heritage. Less so a marketing opportunity and more about getting two exemplary wineries together to celebrate food and wine with some healthy competition; this time, to take on a Cape Malay Curry, a dish with Eastern, Western and African roots, reflecting the diversity of our country.

As quoted from the Muratie and Du Toitskloof joint press release:

Celebrity guests included Benny Masekwameng, highly-acclaimed chef and MasterChef SA judge; Arnold Tanzer, chef extraordinaire and Culinary Producer of MasterChef SA; and Cass Abrahams, well-loved foodie and specialist in Cape Malay cuisine. 

Du Toitskloof paired their Cape Malay curry with their 2013 Beaukett, an aromatic blend of muscat de frontignan, chenin blanc and gewürztraminer. This muscat-scented semi-sweet wine holds a combination of tropical fruit flavours with hints of honeysuckle and rose petals. Crisp and invigorating, this vibrant wine ends with a lovely refreshing finish. The 2013 Du Toitskloof Beaukett is also well suited to pairing with piquant cuisine and retails for about R30.

Muratie selected their flagship Laurens Campher 2012, named after the first owner of the farm, to pair with their Cape Malay curry. This aromatic off-dry wine is a seamless blend of four varietals, displaying lively fresh lemon and lime notes from the chenin and sauvignon blanc and fragrant floral hints from the verdelho and viognier. Elegant and complex, its flavours range from honeysuckle, lime marmalade and pineapple to fresh almonds, all wrapped in creamy oak. Zippy acidity runs through the wine until the eminently satisfying, lengthy finish. The fine balance of sugar and acidity makes for a gratifying fresh style. This wine lends itself favourably to spicy cuisine and retails for about R95.

Chefs Elrine Thomson of Du Toitskloof and Kim Melck of Muratie both displayed their culinary expertise, presenting deliciously spiced curries, after which the guests were called upon to cast their votes for the best dish of the day. Muratie was named the ‘2013 winelands cook-off champion’ having taken the vote by a narrow margin. The 2013 Muratie Du Toitskloof ‘winelands cook-off’ was a follow-on from their inaugural 2012 waterblommetjie bredie ‘cook-off’ hosted at Du Toitskloof where the home team took the honours with a one-vote lead. 

Article (1st half) by Andres de Wet

Team Du Toitskloof cooking up a storm in the kitchen...

Team Du Toitskloof cooking up a storm in the kitchen…

Our special guests...

Our special guests…

Muratie's award winning Cape Malay dish

Muratie’s award winning Cape Malay dish

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Leveraging Seasonal Tourism

In the Cape, we’re extremely adept at doing summer. As a person who is a vehement foe of excessive heat, I don’t quite get it. I understand most enjoy the constant sun and heat of lengthy days; however, we are typecasting the Cape to our seasonal detriment. The Secret Season movement has had a limited impact.

This lopsided view of what quantifies as an asset to the Cape, is evident in Lufthansa, Virgin Atlantic, Edelweiss and Air France withdrawing and many other air carriers offering a reduced service during the austral winter.  Is May to October in the Cape really that bad? Whose view have we listened to on what is good weather and what is not? If it’s our fellow South Africans, then we’re getting the wrong advice from a biased source. The rest of South Africa knows the milder days of bone-dry winters; of course they’d lament ours.

Northern European summers often resemble our good winter days and some countries are crying out for 16°C highs between May and September. BRICS-nations, like India and China, are stiflingly humid and hot during these months and obviously, the Gulf States are like blast furnaces. The Indians and Chinese would relish our off-season. Although our friends from the UAE, Oman and Qatar may not indulge in the wine, they’ll revel in the associated amenities and other tourism activities.

The Cape is one of the few places on the African continent that truly has seasons, and seasons are a valuable asset. Just ask the town of Bright in Victoria, Australia. Its tourism marketing is focused on the town’s plethora of northern hemisphere trees that change vivid shades in the austral autumn, exceedingly rare to see in our hemisphere.

Locally, the West Coast and Namaqualand does this well during the springtime. Granted, some areas of this region can appear pretty barren during the rest of the year; daisies popping up on any open piece of land are a welcome scenic respite and an obvious draw-card.

The Cape Winelands and the Western Cape as a whole, should be making a more concerted and consolidated effort to debunk the myth that seasons = bad. Not that the provincial tourism authorities haven’t tried, but the entire tourism/conferencing industry, and even local governments, need to help in debunking this myth, to build a more calendar-ubiquitous tourism economy.

Seasons offer diversity and choice. Durban may offer ‘South Africa’s warmest welcome.’ However, where we can offer a warm welcome, a mild welcome or a refreshing welcome, Durban only has a warmest and outright sweaty welcome on offer. Seasons are an asset, we should use it.

No insult intended – just not a personal fan of humidity with heat… Some like it hot 😉

Urban and some rural landscaping in parts of the Western Cape have failed to cement this. There has been a huge push nationally to use indigenous trees only. This has often resulted in towns planting Fever Trees and other odd choices as street trees. Guess what landscape designers? A tree knows no geo-political boundaries. A tree, although classified as South African indigenous, if from the Lowveld (or elsewhere in SA), is still as exotic to the Cape as an Oak or Liquidambar. If it’s not from the Cape Floristic Kingdom, to nature, it’s foreign. Plus, the aesthetic treatment given to our Winelands towns is the Phalaborwa-look; neither unique, nor apt. A town good at preserving Wineland’s heritage, is Stellenbosch, ardently preserving the Eikestad (oak city) moniker and using urban landscape as a tourism draw.

Other towns can and must do the same, especially those struggling to get on the tourist map. Let’s leverage every asset we have; the blossoming orchards in spring, the warm, balmy grape harvest of summer, the vivid tones of changing leaves of autumn and the verdant fields and snow-capped peaks of winter. Lastly, we need to sell it!

The passage of seasons near Du Toitskloof Cellar - from the same spot at 9:00am in May, July, October & January

The passage of seasons near Du Toitskloof Cellar – from the same spot at 9:00am in May, July, October & January

By: Andres de Wet