My eerste Engelse poging
Just as we’ve borrowed from the French and Latin lexicons to furnish our vocabulary, there are a few words from the German language that have found their way into the mouths of English speakers. We throw “uber” around, stripped of its umlaut, as if it’s always only been a ride hire app, and kitsch doesn’t just refer to that Tretchikoff painting at Delaire Graff. One such word that always comes to mind is heimat.
Heimat refers to a place towards which a person has a strong feeling of belonging, and usually a deep-rooted fondness. For me, this place is Stellenbosch, and I was absolutely heartbroken the day that I had to leave. While I was driving on the N2, I cried for most of the way to my mother’s home. I suppose that the reason why it hit me so hard was because this is the town in which I grew up. I moved here with my mother when I was 19, leaving all of Bellville and its Ford Cortina’s behind; this is the town where I cut my teeth and learned that drinking on an empty stomach really isn’t a good idea.
Nowadays, I spend my weekdays in the shadow of Table Mountain where it always seems to almost want to rain. I like to call my mother’s abode “House of the Rising Damp”, where it takes about two to three days for my woollen polo neck to dry after it has been washed. The days that I spend in the Southern Suburbs can be rather dreary, but every Thursday there’s a glimmer of hope once more because, on Friday evenings, the City of Oaks awaits my return!
What makes my weekends in Stellenbosch even more special, is the opportunity to invite friends over for dinner, as I did this past Saturday. With my best friend in town, I decided to host a butter chicken evening. Everyone had their own “something” to bring to the table – I was particularly excited about two cheeky olive ciabatta loaves from Woolies – but the main event was, of course, the butter chicken. Even though I made the meal and would love to take credit for it, it should actually go to the masala I used.
Tucked in a Bird street passageway between a seedy backpackers and an Ackermans outlet, there is an eclectic haircare and spice-shop that stocks Amina’s Wonder Spice Butter Chicken Masala. As delicious as this masala is, it can only be bought at select places; i.e. the aforementioned shop (the Spice Emporium in Claremont sells it as well, but, disappointingly, doesn’t stock any of the shampoo or hair extensions that can be found at the spice merchant in Stellenbosch). The unsettling thought crossed my mind as to what would happen if I didn’t make it to the back-alley spice-shop in time (it could’ve happened, as I had a facial scheduled late that morning and my specialist spice purveyors, not feeling too industrious over weekends, end their dealings early on a Saturday). My plan B would’ve been Ina Paarman’s Butter Chicken Mix-In-Sauce, which is an easy, if lazy, alternative, but lacks that tasty “Wonder Spice” kick that will clear away any sinus problems and misconceptions about pre-bought masala being inferior to cooking from scratch.
That evening, as a 10-hour-long crackling fireplace YouTube video looped on the smart TV in the background (fake it ‘til you make it, right?), it was time to eat. With an abundance of red wine and coriander, we gathered around the wine-stained dinner table and talked about everything and everyone whilst we feasted upon piquant Durban heritage. Of the three packages of chicken fillets that I used, very little was left by the end of the evening, although, admittedly, we might’ve been a bit over-eager in buying two enormous containers of fresh coriander.
Thankfully, there was enough left the next morning for me and my other half to enjoy for breakfast (there’s still coriander left, if anyone is interested), but, as the day went by, the end of my Stellenbosch weekend was looming once more. One would think that after ten months, I would be accustomed to it by now, but whenever I get into my car and leave the mountains and historic oak-lined streets (and obviously, bae) behind, I can’t help but experience sehnsucht – a yearning and wistful longing.
Only five days until the next weekend!