And now for a look at less weighty (but more edible) issues. Snoek is
a fish; rooibos is a tea. Braai
is what you might like to do
with snoek... but you'll
probably need some pudding afterwards.
Rooibos tea comes from berries rather than leaves, and hence has a very
distinctive flavor. It's best drunk late in the afternoon or, in my case,
late into the evening. Despite its apparent lack of caffeine, it's
South Africans take their tea seriously. It's available anywhere
you go, including many offices that have "tea ladies" whose
sole job is to serve tea to the office workers.
is the tea served at the Kohler residence; "Vir
mense wat omgee vir hulleself" is Afrikaans that translates to "When you
know what's good for you." Rooibos is, in fact, very good for
you; people have been known to bathe in it to cure skin conditions
and many hospitals bathe newborn babies in rooibos tea. How did I
survive so many years without rooibos?
After a Saturday visit to the District 6 Museum with my friends
the Ronnies, I accompanied them for a bit of "snoek hunting,"
as I've decided to call the art of
snoek for supper. The snoek fish ("snook" in English but of course this
isn't part of England anymore) is second only to rooibos tea in being the
pride of locals, but it is not nearly as easy to obtain as rooibos tea.
after it is caught, the snoek is an elusive creature, and only a
would dare tread into a supermarket or other organized store in search of
snoek, as such snoeks are likely to be over-aged and over-priced. The one
exception to this rule is Snoekies (yes, Snoekies is the name and snoek's
their game), a store that sells only snoek... whole, cut up, smoked,
export, wholesale, retail, you name it, they've got it.
Even after it is caught, the snoek is an elusive
creature, and only a fool would dare tread into a supermarket or other
organized store in search of snoek.... the real snoek hunters take to
But even Snoekies is the domain of lesser snoek hunters... the
snoek hunters take to the streets. So, having tried snoek for the first
the previous night and wanting to be a real snoek hunter, I urged my
to help me obtain more snoek and off we went on our quest. Early
surveys of roadsides where snoek is likely to be found turned up only
citrus fruit, but we were not deterred. We took a left at the next robot
(traffic light) and headed straight into a sandstorm. Being real snoek
hunters, we weren't hindered by such an obstacle, and soon spotted what
appeared to be piles of fish at a park in the distance.
Early surveys of roadsides where snoek is likely to
be found turned up only citrus fruit, but we were not deterred. We took a
left at the next robot (traffic light) and headed straight into a
examination revealed three piles of fresh snoek conveniently refrigerated
by gale-force winds, and three shivering snoek salesmen certainly eager to
find some snoek hunters to take the day's catch off their hands so they
could go someplace warm. One had even set up a fire in a barrel. The
three-salesman situation, of course, created a bit of an awkward situation
as they were naturally a bit pushy, but we asked around about snoek
prices, and eventually decided to get two snoek from salesman number two.
He whipped out his knife and masterfully beheaded our snoek, carving them
up in seconds before wrapping them in a copy of the Cape Argus and placing
them in the trunk of the car.
Our mission accomplished, we headed home, reviewing a few of the
finer points of snoek hunting. Such expeditions must be before sundown,
the snoek goes soft later than that, and the acceptable window is even
smaller in summer, when good, firm snoek is only available in early
before it succumbs to the sun's deadly rays. Bargaining is possible but
always required to get a good deal on snoek, and prices fluctuate from day
day anyway depending on how much snoek the dealers have managed to catch
particular day, often going as high as R50 but sometimes as low as R10 per
There is in fact more to snoek hunting, but it is
masters of the art; my friends and I are but novices. In the end, I'm not
learned any useful life lessons appropriate for a journal such as this
my snoek hunting experience, but it was certainly fun and an important
of local culture; most importantly, the snoek is quite tasty when fried or
smoked. Two snoek turns out to be enough to feed a family the size of
Khayelitsha* (they're around three feet long), so there is now plenty of
at my house and I am sure I will never go hungry as long as I keep my
for snoek and rooibos tea.
* Township near Capetown. Population: 1 million.
Once you've got all that snoek, what are you going to do with it? A
braai, the South African barbecue, is the solution.
involves cooking the meat on an open charcoal grill that everybody
sits around having a conversation. This makes the process of making
dinner a lot more social. Fortunately the old adage of "too many cooks
spoils the broth" doesn't hold here, and braais typically produce an
assortment of delectable grilled meats. I found braais especially
nice in the South African winter, which is just cool enough to
make sitting around a fire in the afternoon a pleasant activity.
A braai involves cooking the meat on an open charcoal
grill that everybody sits around having a conversation. This makes the
process of making dinner a lot more social. |
Most Americans (including me) have historically thought that pudding
is a sweet, gooey
concoction featuring vanilla, chocolate, and sundry other flavors. We
sadly mistaken. In South Africa, pudding is typically the combination of
something Americans would call dessert (pie, cake, etc.) and a thick layer
of warm custard. The result is typically better than Americans' pudding