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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

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 strangely addictive.

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.

Pictured above 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?



Snoek Hunting

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 the streets.
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 obtaining a 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. 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, 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, dried, export, wholesale, retail, you name it, they've got it.

But even Snoekies is the domain of lesser snoek hunters... the real snoek hunters take to the streets. So, having tried snoek for the first time the previous night and wanting to be a real snoek hunter, I urged my friends to help me obtain more snoek and off we went on our quest. Early
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.
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.

Closer 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, as 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 afternoon before it succumbs to the sun's deadly rays. Bargaining is possible but not always required to get a good deal on snoek, and prices fluctuate from day to day anyway depending on how much snoek the dealers have managed to catch that particular day, often going as high as R50 but sometimes as low as R10 per snoek.

There is in fact more to snoek hunting, but it is understood only by masters of the art; my friends and I are but novices. In the end, I'm not sure I learned any useful life lessons appropriate for a journal such as this from my snoek hunting experience, but it was certainly fun and an important part 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 snoek at my house and I am sure I will never go hungry as long as I keep my taste for snoek and rooibos tea.

* Township near Capetown. Population: 1 million.


Braai

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.
Once you've got all that snoek, what are you going to do with it? A braai, the South African barbecue, is the solution. 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. 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.




Pudding

Most Americans (including me) have historically thought that pudding is a sweet, gooey concoction featuring vanilla, chocolate, and sundry other flavors. We have been 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 OR dessert.

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