The South African Series

The Pursuit of Chocolate is the Pursuit of Happiness

Whenever I feel down, I medicate myself with food. And whenever I feel especially down, chocolate serves as my one true panacea. The range of emotions I’ve felt in my first few days in the country – which included elation, disappointment and despair, all finally culminating in a certain ambivalence – have forced me to seek out culinary and confectionery healing.  Now that I have absolved myself from any duty towards solving any problems, no matter how miniscule, I am finally free to enjoy my vacation and that means eating, and eating in abundance.

There is no better place to feed oneself than in this corner of South Africa.

The portion we stay in is part of the garden route, and that means an abundance of wine, cheese, meats of all kind, fresh vegetables and chocolate of all designs on your plate within mere hours of production. As anyone who has lived close to their food source will tell you, there is absolutely no replacement for fresh fare. It makes eating a delightsome event, rather than an obligatory one.

I personally began my quest for an oral orgasm at Sedgefield Market earlier this week and have not stopped since. My first indulgence was a traditional farm breakfast, which included a rasher of bacon, a side of sausage, scrambled eggs, cherry tomatoes, and nutty toast. I then moved on to freshly squeezed lemonade and samosas prepared right in front of me. Once I had satisfied my savory senses, I moved on to the sweets.

cheesecakeStall after stall, sat all manner of brownies (as big as your head!), fudge of the dark chocolate and caramel varieties, pies, pies, and yet more pies, and cheesecake, each begging to be ravenously devoured. Oh the things I did to that cheese cake. That four inch deep, 3 inch in diameter, topped with strawberry shmear cheesecake…

Of course all this eating has wreaked havoc on my waistline; but I couldn’t care less. I could help my cause by drinking water, but that has proven difficult seeing as there is so much rooibos tea to imbibe. And not that imitation crap we get at Publix either! You can taste the earth in this tea. It’s warm, hearty and filling.

This might look better in Instagram sepia, but trust me, the was the TRUTH.

This might look better in Instagram sepia, but trust me, the was the TRUTH.

Did I mention the ostrich, by any chance? Not only do they make excellent belts and purses, but it turns out ostrich makes a delectable fillet as well. I had mine with some sort of squash pie, chips and cabbage. Everything comes with chips in South Africa. That’s the Dutch influence I suppose.

The face of a woman who's eaten way too much

The face of a woman who’s eaten way too much

Speaking of influence: one of the most positive things to come out of the Indian Ocean and Dutch slave trade (when they brought a few million Asians and Indians to South Africa as slaves and conscripted soldiers) has been the cross-cultural influence on food. You’ll find some of the most authentic Thai food you could ever stuff in your face in this part of Africa, peppers and all. Last night, we ate tapas at a Greek restaurant in Cape Town, and Mexico (strangely) has a pretty substantial influence here as well.

But even better than the eating is the shopping.

South Africa has quickly emerged as one of the finest and most luxe fashion centers in the world. I have the personal belief that there are as many fashion magazines and editorials as there are citizens. One pleasure that I indulged in, and that Marshall financed, was a genuine red ostrich leather handbag. I can’t show it to you yet, because it’s being specially made direct from the factory and will be ready for pick-up this Friday. They’ve even promised to personalize it with the letter ‘M’ somewhere on the bag. *Insert high-pitched, girly squeal here.*

The factory, called Der Lederhandler, was an accidental find. We happened upon it on our way to Oudsthoorn, which exists as both ostrich and ‘Klan’ country. Apparently, it’s one of the oldest and most historically racist cities in the nation. Like George Wallace was an icon in these parts. We didn’t see any racists though. I guess they had shut up shop for Sunday.

Anyway, I met three wonderful colored women at Der Lederhandler: Jocelyn, Ophelia and Anne-Marie who made absolutely sure that I did not walk out of that factory empty handed. In addition to my special order purse, I got some brown leather sandals that fit my foot like… a glove? Do we wear gloves on feet? Whatever the case, my foot slid right in. I felt like Cinderella with size 10 boats.

IMG_3174Later today we are going to attempt to ascend Table Mountain (which is a lot taller and bigger than I remember from last time; But then again I wasn’t considering a climb, was I?) and then taking a tour to Robben Island, where Mandela was imprisoned for 20 years. Did you know that he spent an additional six years at Pollsmoor Prison after being transferred from Robben Island? Apparently, he and other senior ANC leaders were having too much influence over younger activists who were being ferried into the prison camp. What a crime…

Okay MOM Squad! This post is coming to you early so that you can begin your prayers. Pray that neither the mountain nor the Robben Island tour breaks me. And pray that if either of them do, that I would make it safely to one of the three chocolatiers I saw on Kloof Nek Road last night…