My Blog List

Wednesday, 29 July 2009



Love them or hate them, revile them or praise them – missionaries played an immense role in the colonisation of Africa, as well as in the introduction of European culture, ideas, practices, prejudices – as well as vices, to the indigenous populations which they came to uplift and enlighten. These fervent spreaders of the Gospel, often themselves ill-educated men with but a few artisanal skills, braved a hostile environment among alien peoples whose languages they could not speak, whose customs appalled and whose very mode of existence was an opposite to the settled agrarian life of northern Europe whence these teachers came. They were ill-equipped with materials and funds, practical knowledge and teaching skills – yet they taught their flocks simple agriculture, carpentry, building, language, and later reading and writing. They struggled valiantly to assimilate local languages, in the quest of that Holy Grail – the testament in the vernacular, to make it intelligible to all their parishioners.
Mostly they were supported by wives; often all too short-lived, as they succumbed to illnesses or childbirth. When one reads of the last days of some of these worthy women, one can only marvel that any were to be found who would trek alongside their menfolk into the howling wilderness of the hinterland. Some widowers then married Khoi or slave women, who became valuable aides in the exchange of culture in both directions, however much the practice was frowned on by the government or society of the day.
Above all, the missionaries wrote. Firstly they had to report back to their mission societies, either in South Africa, Moravia or in London, from whose records much of the regional histories can be reconstructed, or if they were fortunate enough to be able to return to their homelands on retirement, they sometimes penned their memoirs. It is mostly from these writings that we know today how life was lived then, how people found food, water and shelter; how they celebrated, how they mourned; how they played and how they warred with each other. Imperfect the records may be, filtered through the dour dogmas of the faiths these men professed, and coloured by their narrow views, but the reader should find information, adventure, natural history, ethnography and yes, entertainment and humour among the ‘missionary labours’.
Georg Schmidt was the first of this illustrious band to come out to the Cape. Although he was not of the ‘official’ reformed church, he was found acceptable to the establishment and settled first at Riviersonderend, and later Baviaanskloof, which became known as Genadendal. Although his baptismal practices brought him into conflict with the establishment, he spent seven years in South Africa, and though his converts were few, his reputation probably eased subsequent entry by other Herrnhut brethren into the country. This simple farmer’s diaries and letters are available in the book Dagboek en Briewe van Georg Schmidt (Wes Kaaplandse Instituut vir Historiese Navorsing, 1981). A hiatus of almost fifty years followed before the next batch of Herrnhuters established themselves at Baviaanskloof, where their work flourished during the changes of government from Dutch to British, not without some suspicion by the European community, but also earning some commendation from notable travellers such as Lady Anne Barnard and the governor, the Earl of Caledon. In 1808 the Moravians were permitted to open a station at Groene Kloof, or Mamre, as it became known.
Meanwhile, a South African Missionary Society had also been founded by interested locals, and the renowned London Missionary Society entered the field. Before the end of the 18th century, two men, Kicherer and Vanderkemp, assisted by Messrs Edwards and Edmonds respectively, went to work in the northern Karoo and in the Eastern Cape. Although Kicherer made much of his work among the ‘Bushmen’, his efforts scarcely reached the few remaining tribespeople, nor did he convert any. He did parade a couple of converted heathen in Cape Town and even Europe, but from the book by Karel Schoeman J J Kicherer en die Vroë Sending 1799-1806 (S A Library, 1996), it would seem as if he had very little taste for the heartbreaking slog of teaching the nomadic flotsam that inhabited the region between the Zak and Orange Rivers, and that he preferred the lecture halls of the great cities. Vanderkemp achieved fame, or rather notoriety at Bethelsdorp, near Port Elizabeth, where he lived and worked in the same humble circumstances as his converts, and even married one – as did one of his fellow missionaries, one Read. The former's controversial career is described in the book Doctor Vanderkemp' by A D Martin (Livingstone Press, 1948).
By 1810 there were a number of workers in the missionary field of the subcontinent; the Albrecht brothers, Anderson, Edwards, Kok and Seidenfaden pioneered briefly in the north, while two men who left a lasting impression on the region, Ebner and Schmelen, also arrived at this time. The former wrote one of the first ‘missionary memoirs’, which appeared under the snappy title Reise nach Sued Afrika und Darstellung meiner waehrend acht Jahren daselbst als Missionar unter den Hottentotten gemachten Erfahrungen ( L Oemigke, 1829). While the book is a chore to read, even to one who has no problem with Gothic font and antiquated German language, in between the pages of pious drivel and biblical references, there are signs of a man with keen observational powers, intellect and the ability to paint a vivid picture of the Namaqualand scenery and people during the period 1812–1820.
During this time, the LMS sent a couple of inspectors to tour the pioneer mission establishments, and to report on how the directors’ money was being spent. One of these was the irrepressible Dr John Campbell, who travelled widely and left an endearingly breezy record of his journey (which predated Ebner’s book by many years). Travels in South Africa (1815 & 1822) proved to be a hit with a public hungry for news of the opening of the pearly gates for the heathen. The book was reprinted several times in the next few years, expanded, and even published in a miniature ‘pocket’ version for the use of scholars and travellers. It remains an eminently readable work to this day, and is even available in a recent reprint.
The good Reverend Latrobe did a similar task for the Moravian brethren when he visited Mamre and Genadendal in 1815. He then penetrated further east and chose a new site for the Enon station in the Uitenhage region. His book, Journal of a Visit to South Africa (1818 & Struik 1969) has endured as a classic work on the Southern and Eastern Cape, as Latrobe was an educated, tolerant, kindly and observant man, as well as a writer of considerable talent. His book is prized for its illustrations, which he takes pains to explain ‘were all made on the spot’ probably using a camera obscura, and though they seem to have been redrawn by others, Latrobe’s artistic talents would appear to have been considerable. The book is essentially a humanist’s record of the people that he met with, their way of living, their culture or lack thereof, described in a gently humorous vein, which should entertain most readers as well as supplying a record of the Cape of the period.
Back to the early workers in the field. Johann Heinrich Schmelen, who accompanied Ebner, as recorded above, worked at various missions in Namaqualand and Namibia during an eventful career spanning some thirty years. Unfortunately none of his writings have been published, and we are limited to the few scraps of information contained in books such as H Kling’s Onder die Kindere van Cham (Nasionale Pers, 1932), W Moritz’s Auf dem Reitochsen quer durch’s Südwestliche Afrika (John Meinert, 2004) and U Trueper’s The Invisible Woman – Zara Schmelen (Basler Afrika, 2006). His main legacy is the mission station and settlement at Komaggas, which survived even the apartheid era as a ‘coloured reserve’, as well as the oldest extant building in Namibia, at Bethanien – the so-called ‘Schmelen House’. With the aid of his Nama wife, he did succeed in translating a Dutch catechism into the Nama language, even though the ‘click’ sounds he transcribed were not successfully rendered in the printing of it. Schmelen’s experiences told in his own words would have made a memorable book, I feel.
The Wesleyans were among the next few prominent churchmen to make their mark; both Shaws – Barnabas and William – were fated to do important work, and to leave written records. Barnabas settled at Leliefontein and started a station among the Nama who had been granted a reserve there by Governor Ryk Tulbagh. He had to contend with the nomadic lifestyle of his flock, and managed to introduce them to agriculture – a not altogether wise choice, with hindsight, since the poor soils, scanty rainfall and growing population made this type of economy unsustainable – even in present times. Shaw wrote a book after his retirement, Memorials of South Africa (Mason, Hamilton Adams, 1940 & Struik 1970), which is almost readable – depending on how interested one is in the practical aspects of changing an entire economy of a people. The mission proved to be an important way-station for missionaries on their way to the interior, and numerous others who worked there left records of their sojourns.
William Shaw came a few years later with the Sephton party of 1820 Settlers, and worked among them for a short time before embarking on an almost fatal missionary venture to the pestilential swamps of Delagoa Bay. He returned to the Eastern Cape and spent the next thirty-odd years establishing a network of Wesleyan missions, of which he became superintendent. He did valuable work in establishing educational facilities, and became involved in the politics of the region in the aftermaths of several frontier wars. His book The Story of my Mission in South Africa (Hamilton Adams, 1860) did not manage to capture my attention in its entirety, though I read a few chapters to get the ‘feel’ of the author. Possibly it would be a different story for readers with a greater interest in Eastern Cape matters.
The next few decades saw a proliferation of missionary efforts. The London, Rhenish, Berlin and Paris Missionary Societies, as well as the Wesleyans, all entered the fray, so to speak, and while relations among these Protestants were usually cordial and co-operative, some sniping and poaching of converts did start. Messrs T Arbousset and F Daumas, from the Paris Society, settled in Basutoland and in 1836 they set out on a journey to explore the regions to the northwest, between the Vaal and Orange Rivers. Theirs was no missionary enterprise – their book Relation d'un Voyage D'Exploration au Nord-Est de la Colonie du Cap De Bonne-Esperance (Arthus Bertrand, 1842) is a work of considerable value as it contains much reliable information on the natural history, as well as on the tribes of the region and their ethnography. While no thrilling read, it is worthwhile to have a look at the modern English reprint Narrative of an Exploratory Tour to the Cape of Good Hope (Struik 1968), especially for first-hand accounts of the founder of the Basuto Nation, Moshesh, as well as the rise of the Zulu nation, Mantatise's Tlokwa, the Bechuana and other tribes they came into contact with.
The year 1817 also saw the arrival of a number of worthy men, among whom several made a lasting name for themselves. One was a callow youth, James Kitchingman, who wended his way toward Namaqualand and Namibia in the company of Robert Moffat. He was one of the less hardy souls who found the tough region and nomadic flock more than he could handle, and he departed within a short time for the kinder climes of Bethelsdorp, where he did considerable work during several stints until his early death. The Kitchingman Papers by le Cordeur & Saunders, eds. (Brenthurst Press, 1976) are a trifle tedious collection of writings which are probably of more interest to historians interested in his correspondents, Messrs Read and Philip.
Moffat, on the other hand, is a completely different proposition. He also earned his spurs in Namaqualand, but before long he was off to Great Namaqualand to the kraal of the Nama robber-chief Afrikaner. After a short and uneasy partnership with the aforementioned Ebner, he explored the country to the east, which later became known as Griqualand. Moffat displayed great leadership in rehabilitating Afrikaner, and by establishing a mission at Lattakoo among the Batlhaping under the chief Mothibi. In 1823 the missionary assumed the de facto generalship of a combined force of Griquas and Bechuanas who beat off a huge force of Mantatise’s pillagers and inflicted heavy losses on them – so altering the balance of power in the entire region. He firmly established the mission at Kuruman, and this became a hub of civilization, exploration and in time religious conversion. He also became a political power-broker between tribes and the British, as well as using his influence to exclude the expansion of the Boers from the republics eastwards and north. His book Missionary Labours and Scenes in Southern Africa (John Snow, 1844) does not make for the easiest reading, as like most of his brethren, he is inclined to sermonise. He does, however, include a wide scope of history in the narration of his personal story, and some of the passages are descriptive writing of a high order, with even the odd humorous glimpse.
It is almost obligatory to mention Livingstone at this stage – connected as he was to Moffat through his marriage to the latter’s daughter. During my younger days I avoided the great man’s writings like the plague. I could never understand why he was called a ‘missionary-explorer’, since those two titles are not compatible. If you explore, you beat your way through the jungles or slog through the sands of inhospitable deserts; if you are a missionary, you stay put, plant pumpkins and pray with the locals while trying to learn the lingo to translate the bible – period. I would have forgiven him the odd weekend jaunt, or 19th century long-leave equivalent thereof, but after he got a whiff of travel fever, he was off trailing that unfortunate woman and kids for a spell, before dumping them in England so he wouldn’t have them hampering those heroic footsteps. So caught-up with his own importance was our Davey, that he forgot entirely to mention his wee wife or his nuptials in what was supposed to be his biography. It took a gentle nudge from his publisher, John Murray, to put that right, resulting in the hilarious situation that subsequent impressions of the book have the thrifty Scottish solution of three page eights following each other, thus obviating the expense of needing to redo the entire typesetting of the book.
All-right, so he did a little dilettante converting when he stopped for long enough, but for a couple of decades he was much too busy earning fame and his place in the resting-place of kings. Then, at a time of having nothing better to occupy me, I read Missionary Travels and Researches in Southern Africa (John Murray, 1857 and dozens of reprint versions) of which I happened to have a tatty copy in stock at the time. To say that I was surprised would be putting it mildly. I was touched by the miseries and heartbreaks of the slavery he describes, I was engaged by his indomitable spirit that persisted against hunger, disease and dreadful travelling conditions, while his descriptions of the country traversed and the people he met with, kept me interested for all but the inevitable ‘and so I preached a sermon and we sang and prayed etc etc’, which was, after all, his stock-in-trade. It was only after reading the work that I could understand how the man had managed to become the beau ideal of missionary endeavour, the champion of the poor, enslaved and oppressed, the teacher of the ignorant as well as the magnetic beacon that would inspire others to plunge into the wilderness that was the centre of Africa. He’s still not my favourite man of the cloth, but hey, he publicised his professed trade better than anyone else did; he awoke compassion in people, and great good came from his life. Try reading him sometime.
By the middle of the 19th century missionaries were two a penny. In addition to those groups already mentioned, the next fifty years also saw the entry into the field of the Americans, the Anglicans, the Scottish Presbyterians, the Norwegians and the Catholics. It would be a very difficult and lengthy process to review the millions of words that made it into print by the efforts of these worthies. A number of them became astute politicians (perhaps they were born to it), and as their circle of influence spread among their parishioners, they grew powerful and assumed duties and rights which were not theirs over their little fiefdoms. They took it upon themselves to travel to the Cape, to lobby the government – yes, even as far as Britain they went, to try to persuade the old queen’s men to annex their sphere of influence, or to declare a protectorate over it. One such man was John Mackenzie, who laboured at Kuruman, a successor to Moffat. His work-rate was prodigious, his influence vast, but the various books written by him and about him are more of a picture of political machinations than missionary work with human beings. The volume written by his son, entitled John Mackenzie, South African Missionary and Statesman (Hodder & Stoughton, 1902) has a fitting epitaph for him: ‘to have been the man who first forced Great Britain to face her God-given task of controlling the destinies of the entire region from the Cape to the Zambesi’. Ja, well, no, fine – didn’t Mr Rhodes have similar ideas? If Mackenzie influenced the southeast of Bechuanaland, his colleague J D Hepburn struggled to play a meaningful role towards Lake Ngami. His book, Twenty Years in Khama's Country (Hodder & Stoughton, 1895) gives an interesting picture of the country and its people, but the poor man strove in vain to come to terms with the powerful chiefs like Moremi and the almost legendary Khama, and finally he had to decamp back to Britain to nurse his disappointment.
I have kept my most favourite piece of missionary literature for last. One Benjamin Ridsdale, a young Wesleyan minister, arrived in the Cape at the end of 1843, and he was almost immediately despatched via Leliefontein towards Nisbett Bath (Warmbaths, Namibia ) with his wife. Here was a lad with a cheerful outlook on life, who was not shy to enthuse about having a picnic in a lovely spot, or describing his antics when they had to cross the Gariep on a swimming log. He claimed to have been the first to sail on the Great River in a boat assembled by him with whatever materials he could find, and powered by a scrap of sheeting flapping in the breeze. The young minister slaved away in the torrid heat, often sustained by no more than a bowl of milk that someone saw fit to give him during the day, and the pair endured for four years before his health could no longer take the strain. Ridsdale and his wife had endeared themselves to their flock during that time by unselfish devotion, hard work and a real effort to understand their nomadic ways, and the scenes he describes of his departure in a mutual flood of tears is quite touching. His Scenes and Adventures in Great Namaqualand (T Woolmer, 1883) has become a prized rarity available at eye-watering prices, but for those who can put up with it, you can buy a horrible softcover scanned reprint from Kessinger, USA, as I did. – just to have an occasional read of a few pages of thoroughly heart-warming stuff.
This essay is not a history of missionary endeavour; neither would I condemn their efforts to obtain basic human rights for the fragmented, downtrodden and displaced people among other, strong, traditionally ruled nations in the subcontinent; nor is it an endorsement of the perceived benefits of conversion to another belief-system and a break-down of traditional ethics and morals. Rather, I hope to have given the interested readers an idea of what they are likely to find between the covers of the books written by some extraordinary – and some very ordinary people – who were also pioneers, travellers, explorers, ethnographers, biographers and historians, without whom the early literature on the Dark Continent would be much poorer.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009



I have a secret addiction - cookery books. I must confess here and now that I don't actually READ them, page after page, but rather prefer to handle them lovingly, to flip through the pages (often stained with spatters of grease and droplets of food) picking up a word here and there. Once my attention has been captivated, I dwell lovingly on a whole recipe, combine the ingredients in my mind, savour the aroma, imagine the taste, sigh contentedly and pass on to the next culinary delight. It is rare that I cook a recipe exactly as it appears in a book. Since I am perforce a bachelor, my shopping is not terrible methodical, and too often I find that I haven't got one or the other ingredient called for - so something else will have to do; at times a dish ends up being something completely different from what had originally been intended - occasionally resulting in a serendipitous combination that is consigned to the 'Repertoire de Moi'.
South Africans are spoilt for choice. We are placed at the crossroads of the greatest culinary migrations of mankind; our population has been swelled by cooks from all over the world flocking to our shores in their droves. The foodstuffs that are available consist of indigenous crops, classical European staples, exotic Middle and Far Eastern spices and fruits, as well as the cornucopia of the New World. What more could one want? From 1890 onwards, a steady stream of cookery books became available, from the simplest primer for the newly-wed to a book featuring fancy restaurant dishes.
Aunt Allie Hewitt's ground-breaking book, 'Cape Cookery - Simple but Distinctive' (Darter Bros, 1890, & D Philip, 1973) claims to have the distinction of being the first in line, though I would ascribe that honour to A R Barnes' 'Colonial Household Guide' (1st ed Darter Bros 1889)which predated the former by a scant year. No matter; Allie's book is delightfully introduced by her grand-nephew, Robert Ellis, and he paints a loving picture of the little, fierce old lady slaving away over her hearth. While the fish recipes (mostly of the boiled variety) don't exactly stimulate the gastric juices, when it comes to the meat dishes, she comes up trumps with (now) exotic foods like korhaan, porcupine or beef muisjes. Her bredies, 'bobotees' and 'sassatees', mutton hams are sure to be of interest to those who wish to taste the early Malay influences on Cape cooking. The choice of vegetable dishes is slim, it seemed to have been a case of 'rys en aartappels' with the odd stewed-to-death veg melange added on Sundays and feast days. However, when it comes to sweet dishes, she really shines. 'Macaroons for a regiment' starts with 500 almonds - you can imagine the rest. There are Most Bolletjies, Matabele and Boer's Birthday Cake and a wealth of konfyts, chutneys and the like. Altogether a worthy book for any serious collector of the genre.
The book mentioned above, 'Colonial Household Guide' by A.R.B (Mrs Barnes), who refers to herself as a 'housewife of the Colony', contains a wealth of information for even the most inexperienced cook. Starting off with good Olde England standard fare of the times, such as a cuppa tea, a boiled egg, potato chips and bubble & squeak, she swiftly progresses to more ambitious projects such as kidneys and ham, stewed oxtail and even exotic stuff such as Scotch Haggis. Obviously Mrs B. was raised in the school that thought Brit was best, especially when it came to cooking. She does, however daringly branch out a bit with some local fare, such as 'cabbage brede', 'wild buck to roast', 'baba' (barbel fish, which she claims is similar to eel, and I concur heartily), but almost all the dishes contain only the main ingredient, fat, water and salt - possibly a dash of pepper. Her vegetarian side dishes are several pages of European veg, invariably followed by the word - 'boiled'. Where she does open a window into the past is with her pastry and bread recipes. Again she starts with basics - the construction of an outside oven, the firing of it and temperatures needed to achieve optimum results. A number of yeast and sourdough recipes follow, as well as one for unleavened bread.
There is a wealth of recipes of Victorian sweets, from puddings to tarts, buns to cakes, biscuits to compotes and jellies. In this subject she is most diverse, rounding off her list of delights with some fine pickles and preserves. From creation to destruction. The reader can pick up handy tips on the extermination of all manner of creepy crawlies and fungi, as well as the eradication of spots, stains and rust-marks, after which she gives a beginner's class in how to 'Cowdung Wash' your kitchen floor for that aromatic antiseptic look. Mrs Barnes would instruct the newcomer to the colonial kitchen in such arts as 'drenching horses through the nose, without killing them' or more robust pastimes such as 'killing tigers', and occasionally she comes up with bizarre abilities, such as how to make ice using hot water and refined nitre (??). This one I'd really love to try and I would appreciate it if one of my chemically inclined clients could elucidate how this process works. Many pages are devoted to the ills that would have inflicted the colonists, and especially their children, and there are a goodly number of simple remedies to aid the reader.
While the book has only a curiosity value as far as most recipes go, the whole gamut of tasks that are taken for granted in the late 19th century kitchen are a true eye-opener, and I can heartily recommend the good lady's work to all enquiring minds as well as those who enjoy a good laugh. Nonetheless a valuable social history document.
The next culinary writer whose work appeared in print, Hildagonda Duckitt, wrote two books that have remained classics for more than a hundred years. Her first, 'Hilda's Where is it of Recipes' ( Chapman & Hall, 1891), was the result of collecting recipes, both local and English, in ingredients and flavours, from among the extended circle of acquaintances which frequented her social circle. Her cooking skill, simple descriptions and mouth-watering results must have gladdened many a family's table at the Cape. Her second book 'Diary of a Cape Housekeeper' ( Chapman & Hall, 1902) is a much more personal document, which allows us a peek into the Cape Kitchen at the end of the 19th century, as well as sketching life on the family farms at Constantia and Grootte Post, between Mamre and Darling.
Hilda divides her culinary year into seasons, and recommends fitting dishes to suit both availability and climate and she does not shy away from advising you to wear your winter flannel underwear in July, while March is described as 'often very hot and trying' - and so it would be if you are slaving over a huge cast-iron stove in a farmhouse kitchen. Nor does she disappoint when it comes to a few hints on invalid care - in fact she recommends that every woman who expects to live in some out and beyond place, should 'spend a few months previously in nursing training, so as not to be entirely ignorant of the elements of what good nursing means!' She obviously had a tender heart for the beasties too, since she has included a chapter on 'to spare animals unnecessary pain', ie how to kill anything from a crayfish to a calf. In this book she has become more chatty and for anyone interested in the art, it is a pretty good read, even if only taken in small doses at bedtime. For those interested in Hilda's background, Mary Kuttel, one of the descendants of the Melck family, who were great friends with the Duckitt's, edited a little Balkema reprint of selections, entitled 'Hildagonda Duckitt's Book of Recipes', which is a little easier to find than the original books.
A little oddity is next. The printing firm D F du Toit and Co, in Paarl, were the publishers of the first dictionary of Afrikaans - then a language in the process of being born - when they issued the 'Patriot Woordeboek' in 1904. However, they published a recipe book a few years previously in the same language. It was entitled 'Di Suid Afrikaanse kook- koek en resepteboek, byeenversameld en geskrywe deur mejufvr E J Dijkman' (Patriotpers, 1891). The only copy I have ever seen had no title page, nor a front or back cover, the spine was missing as was the last page or two - but it still found a home with a client who was as mad about cookery books as I am. Unfortunately I can't recall much about the contents, except that the recipes tended to be good, plain burgher fare, imported from Europe in the main, but showing a few glimpses of country life and culinary arts that were transmitted back into the cities after the great era of pioneering had passed. This little volume was also reprinted a number of times in the Cape Dutch/Afrikaans language, and even in the changes of the title one can see developments in spelling that occurred during the period 1891-1922. The book proved popular and was either translated or rewritten by the redoubtable Mrs Dijkman herself in the English language under the title 'Mrs Dijkman's Cookery and Recipe Book' (Paarl Printing, 1905).
From the relatively large numbers of cookery books that have passed through my hands since I became interested in the art, it would almost seem that Mesdames Barnes, Hewitt, Duckitt and Dijkman satisfied the market for advice in the kitchen during the last decade of the 19th century and the first decades of the 20th century. I have only come across two new publication on the subject in the latter period - Mrs M ( P W) de Klerk's 'South African Cookery Made Easy' (Juta, 1912), and F G Oakley's 'Homestead Cookery '(Maskew Miller, 1917). The former is full of standard starchy fare, cakes, biscuits, puddings, breads and the like, with only a hint of the exotic such as 'Mossbolletjies' or 'Boer biscuits' - until one comes to the selection of Breakfast dishes, when she surprises with offerings such at 'sasaties', 'hotom' (actually just plain flour porridge) 'poor man's friend' (quite an elaborate dish, I'd say) and 'Turkish Dolmans'. Some of her tips on curing and smoking of meat and fish are not to be despised, while her cool drinks and liqueur recipes leave one a little puzzled, since her 'Apple Cider' contains nothing even vaguely resembling that fruit as an ingredient, nor does Boston Cream contain any of the latter part, as one would expect.. As refreshing drinks, one can imagine better solutions than Toast Water, Lemon Kale or Oatmeal Water for that hot summer's day - but then possibly our taste-buds have been altered by global warming. Mrs de Klerk also does her bit for the health of the nation, advocating such remedies as 'a bottle of gin combined with the grated peel of a black radish and a bunch of stinging nettles' for the agonies of gallstones. Hm, yes, I'd say the gin alone ought to do the trick of putting one into a stupor. She has advice if you should swallow anything from a wasp to a coin or a fish-bone - or if you need to loosen a rusty screw - Mrs de Klerk is at hand.
Ms(?) Oakley's ingredients, though, have a much more local flavour. We find Cape crayfish, kabeljau and snoek in the first few pages; Rhodesian eggs, ostrich, penguin and plover eggs just a few pages later. Here is treasure indeed among the unassuming pages. Even her vegetable dishes are full of innovation: beetroot fritters, celery cheese, curried cucumbers and vegetable curries make an appearance, while carrot and parsnip salad is another unexpected dish. Fruit salads appear among the traditional puds, and even treats such as marula jelly, 'kie apple chutney' and paw-paw seed pickle (this one I've got to try out!) among a host of interesting concoctions. She concludes her really interesting little book with two unusual items to try, namely condensed milk and melon butter, before she adds the obligatory few household hints - but one can see that her real enthusiasm is for cooking. Reading through these recipes was a revelation to me, and henceforth I shall dip into Mrs Oakley's work more often.
We have come to an end of an era. World War I has come and gone, and so has the good life for many people, in Europe as well as the colonies. Presumably recipes have adapted to the times - no longer would they start with the familiar Victorian or Edwardian phrase "Take five dozen eggs…." and so on; families were smaller, ingredients became more diverse. Sometime in this period, a volume appeared by a lady with the imposing name of Susanna Johanna Elizabeth (nee van Hoogenhouck) van Tulleken. I have been absolutely unable to find any record of the first editions of her 'Practical Cookery Book for South Africa', which was in its 28th edition by 1951, or of the Afrikaans edition entitled 'Praktiese Kookboek vir Suid Afrika' of which I have a copy, sans title page, but with a foreword by Isie Smuts dated 1922, in which she applauds the first appearance of the book in that language. Possibly some of my learned clients in the library business can remedy my ignorance in this regard - I've not been able to trace her in SABIB.
Gen. Louis Botha cake, Gen Hertzog teekoekies and Gen Smuts teekoekies all certify the good lady's patriotism, but the local flavours only really start among the seafood dishes, where crayfish, snoek, even unspecified 'riverfish' and a dozen recipes using oysters, which are fried, poached, braised and stewed to a sanitised death, which would lack appeal to modern palates, I would think. Her poultry recipes are fairly standard, but I would mention that in her book, as well as many of those previously mentioned, pigeon features quite regularly in dishes. Looking at the huge flocks populating our cities, I do wonder that no enterprising restaurateur has stationed hordes of small boys armed with 'catties' to supply some of this 'unnatural bounty' to the tables of the discerning diners. She offers a plentiful selection of meat recipes, mostly fairly standard fare, and here I see biltong make an appearance, as well as wors - but either 'net wors' or 'bees en varkwors' - not a boerewors recipe in sight. Her veg dishes show some interesting variations the modern vegetarian would approve of. Among bean fritters, a dozen dishes using green mealies can be found, kale, marakkas, spinach, parsnips, kohlrabi, pumpkin and aubergines are all used to varied and good effect - a good balance to the inevitable stodgy meat and starch components of the meals. There is a plethora of sweets, conserves, pickles and sauces - too many to mention - but then there is soap as a separate subject. I was surprised to read about all the varied materials one could use, ie potatoes, prickly-pear leaves, ostrich eggs, pumpkin, resin, sour milk and even mealiemeal porridge! After a quick gallop through the pages, I can well see why this remained a firm kitchen favourite for many decades.
Another writer made her appearance during that period. The modestly entitled 'Household Science Cookery Book' (CNA, 1914) by Porterville lass, Jeanette C van Duyn, was obviously intended as a serious contender on the cookery scene. Its material was painstakingly assembled by the author while she wrote a column for the Transvaal Agricultural Journal. The first edition's three-hundred page content had swelled to six hundred pages only six years later in a subsequent edition, and Ms van Duyn wrote a whole slew of other learned works on preserving, canning, sweet-making and so on. Where or how Ms van Duyn metamorphosed into Mrs H M Slade, I cannot say, but 1936 saw the 6th edition of her work under a new title, 'Mrs Slade's South African Cookery Book', under which name it appeared until the late 1950's, after which the good lady had another change of name and the book became 'Mildred Slade's Cookery Book' (Timmins, 1976). In general, I would say that van Duyn/Slade's work is clinical, focussing on correct preparation, classic dishes, with very little 'homey' flavour, though I did find a Boerewors , Pierneef biscuits and the odd interesting combination like beet and pea salad. A worthy teacher of the culinary arts she may be, but her tomes, to my taste, lack the 'sizzle of the steak'.
So we come to a new chapter in the culinary arts in South Africa. I am not suggesting that there were no chefs active in the subcontinent, but rather that there was no male star on the firmament until C Louis Leipoldt wrote his 'Kos vir die Kenner' (Nasionale Pers, 1933). In this guise I first came across the man in Lawrence Green's books a goodly number of decades back, for Green was a foodie of note, and the gastronomic expertise of Leipoldt and his Congolese assistant Tito, features in half a dozen or more of the writer's works. It was only relatively recently that I actually held a copy of this precious and rare work of Africana in my hands for the first time. Suddenly I was in a different world. Leipoldt didn't try to teach you basic cooking - he assumed you knew how to do that; he wanted to teach you to appreciate, savour, capture the nuance, enhance the flavour - and try the odd ingredient you had never considered as a comestible before. In a brusque preamble the author states that as most culinary terms have Latin and French origins, he will explain these terms, and in fact he creates an entire Afrikaans vocabulary to encompass the processes of the art. Then a short injunction to warn against the substitution of substandard or lesser ingredients - and we are off into the mysteries of soupmaking.
Almost immediately the recipe for 'Suringsop' and 'Wateruintjiesop' catches my eye. Not your everyday ingredient, even though the tart leaves of the Oxalis species is well-known to most of us who chewed them as children, and some of us might have even rinsed the little bulbs before we popped them into our mouths. Nor does the chef shy away from the indigenous foodstuffs, which have been a mainstay of the Khoisan people for thousands of years. Though possessing a strange smell (which should be ignored), there are half a dozen dishes containing tortoise or turtle meat (which is not to be recommended as the beasties are protected species nowadays), monitor lizard is deemed fine fare, though he seems to have missed out on snakes - most likely so as not to offend the more delicate sensibilities of his readership. Flamingo breast rubs shoulders with Frascati eggs, penguin jostles with pilaf, while the common tinned sardine can be found as a starter - or as a savoury after the main course. The man blows away any preconception you may have had about what is and what is not fitting. Who would dream of deep-frying paw-paw pieces in batter ? Would any cook believe that mustard, sugar, vinegar, ginger, nutmeg or tomato sauce were all fit accompaniments for a piece of avocado? Almost every other page delivers a culinary knock-out blow.
As Lawrence Green noted, Leipoldt's knowledge of local fish and the dishes one could conjure up from them, must have been enormous. From the now almost unknown Dageraad, 'Bottervis', 'Kliptong' and Maasbankers, the author urges us to try even such bony offerings such as Yellowfish from the rivers, or in contrast, a sumptuous, steamed crayfish pudding. His treatment of octopus and perlemoen is much gentler than I have read elsewhere, as he speaks of 'tapping it gently with a wooden hammer until tender', before simmering it gently for an hour over a slow fire. Neither the garden snail nor its relative the alicrock are ignored, and mussels are prized along with raw oysters. A few wise words on wine and its indispensability on every table and in every kitchen follow among a number of other drinks recipes - not least among which is one for 'Wine and Milk' which are boiled together, after which it is left to cool, the clear liquid on top is poured off, and the remainder is drunk (??) For all South Africans who are able to read Afrikaans, and who are curious and adventurous in the matter of food and its preparation, I can really recommend this as a book which can be browsed through for years. There is, of course, also a smaller work in English by Leipoldt, entitled 'Leipoldt's Cape Cookery'. The manuscript was discovered among his papers by his executors after the writers death in 1947, and this was published in 1976. Most of the material has been gathered by the author from other sources, and he states that the recipes have already been used in his previous book. Of interest is his introduction to Cape Cookery and a page or so on the Malay influence - which he was able to appreciate at first hand, since he had travelled widely in the East.
This is where we must stop for now. My original intention was to introduce a few of the earlier 'kitchen goddesses' and their works, and instead I have rambled on until the 1970's. On my desk more than a dozen cookery books have been piled for over a week; next to them eight weighty volumes of bibliographies and a few other works of reference had also to be consulted. Enough – but here are still many more worthy writers' works to be discussed. So we shall have to make another date for a further stroll through the kitchen bookshelf.