i sit at a coffee shop to escape the noise but it is louder here. the coffee is not good. i miss you. i take myself out on a date. i bring my book; ambitiously shovel a large forkful of my too-hot meal into my mouth and then have to spit it out into a napkin. everyone’s eyes on me. tears prick at the back of mine. i drop my chopsticks. where did this clumsiness come from? there is a man sitting by himself too, staring at me behind dark sunglasses. i feel naked. i sink further down into my seat, book straight up to my nose, a constant dreamy barrier between myself and real life. always has been, always will be. i imagine other people watching me. do i look happy? confident? scared? clever? sad? i imagine how another writer, obviously someone deeply in love with me, would describe how i look, sitting here, alone and escaping the world by immersing myself in the midst of it.
today is not going so well. there was no yoga or a long walk; no daily planner and no green juice. mama left. the house is upside down and i have a list of things for work i need to tick off, but my notepad is hidden under pieces of scrap paper, a dirty dinner plate and countless empty coffee cups. my mama left. did i say that already?
i didn’t write yesterday. i slept in because my mom is here and i was so excited at her arrival and showing her around that I was exhausted and slept though my alarms. we awoke to a sick little lulu and had to take her to the vet in town where the receptionist knew two of my favourite primary school teachers from treverton – such a small world. lulu shivered and shook. every time we take her out i think she thinks we are taking her to get groomed and she hates that. anyway the doctor gave her antibiotics and painkillers for her infected abscess and when he tried to give her biltong afterwards she tried to bite him. Well, gum him. we looked so funny with our fluffy white child. we were so worried about her; mom reckons we’ll be wrecks of parents if we’re that worried about our little dog. if i ever have children they’ll be bubble wrapped and home-schooled. mom and i took a drive out on the R44 to her hometown. she showed me where she used to keep her horse and told me about how she used to ride down the middle of the R44 to get to the Stellenbosch Riding Club from Somerset West for horse shows. Way less cars back then, obviously. They also used to ride on and around neighbouring farms. There were no fences keeping people out back then. We went to Strand and parked the car and took a little walk on the beach. the sand is white and soft, soft, soft; not coarse and hard and brown like in KZN. Funny how the texture can change in just a few hundred kilometres of coastline. The water was the most brilliant blue and so much warmer than camps bay and clifton. it is school holidays, so there were stacks of teenagers and families on the beach. the waves are totally playable, so i think it will definitely be my new choice of beach. perhaps even my very own promenade if i wake up super early in summer. we dipped our toes in the memories of mom’s childhood. she used to take the train from her home in somerset west to Strand and then hang out all day at the beach (if she wasn’t riding) with her friends, swimming and chatting up boys. if it got too windy she would tan on the roof of the lifesaver hut to avoid the stinging sand. one day she fell asleep in the sun whilst studying for a biology exam and burnt herself crisp. in those days there were no cellphones so you had to prearrange a time and a meeting point for your parents to pick you up if there was no train and by god, did you get in trouble if you weren’t there waiting and ready to go. we took a drive to my granny and grandpa’s old house in strand; the house i visited when i was a baby. it is a tiny little house with a postcard-size lawn and my mom laughed about how my granny used to moan about having to cut the grass. she showed me the hill where the brakes of my grandpa’s old beetle failed while she was driving down it with me in the backseat. she told me how sorry she used to feel for us farm kids in the midlands who had to rely on our parents (i.e. her and dad) if we wanted to do anything or go anywhere. we were so sheltered and our parent’s friends were our friends, even if we had nothing in common. we couldn’t just walk to our friend’s house down the road or catch a train to the beach. i got all wistful for a childhood i could have had, living in a little house close to the beach, riding a bicycle to school, spending holidays in my cossie by the sea, getting up to all sorts of mischief because I could venture about without the assistance and permission of my parents. my mom showed me the corner cafe where my grandpa used to buy his newspaper and cigarettes every evening on his walk home from the train station and she laughed about how he would have hated to see how built up the area is; all suburbs of one big city now really. It’s funny how times change; how precious our living space and our children’s stomping grounds are, how big our homes and gardens have become but how our scope for roaming has whittled down to practically nothing, save a lope around the mall. we blame it on safety and security, but is it all a figment of our imagination; are we prisoners of our murky past? i wonder if our kids will be chauffeured about in their bubble wrap, ferried from school to ballet to swimming to piano and back to the safety of their big home. Or if they will catch a train to the beach and ride horses down the main road and through neighbouring wine farms? I fear it may be the former.
I re-read my post
and i thought
where was the
Where is the whimsy
between what was
and what will be
is my mind so quick
that a momentary
how one day it is all so fast
and the next so slow.
today I want stillness.
a shared smile.
between you and
Because what we know
Of it all.
this dreaming sleepy life
this beauty and frightful
the scarlet flesh under the skin
the worm in the soil
before the butterfly
the knife in between the shoulder blades
clean and sharp
And so painfully sacred.
Image by Kate Martens
i sit here now about to write whatever comes into my head for this practise of October where I hope to write something here every day and i think is anyone really interested in what I’ve got to say? do they really want to know that my yoga practise this morning was slow and lazy and I couldn’t do many of the poses because I tweaked my hammy during a drunken game of the cereal box at a bachelorette party on Saturday night? (top game by the way, you should play it). do they want to know how I drove up to langebaan through malmesbury on saturday and then back down yesterday on the coastal road and how beautiful it was and how big open spaces make my heart sing? do they want to know about how seeing the farms and all the cattle and the sheep made me sad because while big open spaces are beautiful it’s also where the evils of livestock farming are hidden? i passed a dairy farm with six fields crowded with limping cows, except they weren’t really fields because there was no grass. they were lying in fields of mud, their distended tummies carrying babies they will never be allowed to bond with, their swollen udders covered in shit, the milk within them destined to nourish the bodies of human strangers and not their own calves. and people drink that? and eat that? that pain and misery? it blows my mind the things i used to shut my eyes to and it sometimes frightens me how illuminated it all is now and how i can’t understand why people would still want to ignore it when life can be so much better for so many more beings – both animal and human – if we all just gave a bit more of a damn. does anyone really want to know about my fast against slaughter on Friday and how it brought me to my knees, physically and mentally? Not eat anything for a day? Hmmm easy, i thought. Anorexics do it all the time. The headaches and the nausea crippled me and I was in bed by 3pm. every time i thought about how hard it was and how much i wanted a cup of coffee or a slice of toast or even just a goddam mint to such on, i was reminded about the millions of animals that have to endure this excruciating pain every day, day in and day out, sometimes on ships to foreign lands, for weeks on end. except that at the end of their enforced fast, they have their lives taken away from them, while i got to gorge myself on my favourite spicy tomato and chilli rice. does anyone really want to know about these dark things in my head? sometimes i don’t even want to know. we must all be positive and happy and thankful and grateful and i am these things i am the luckiest girl in the world but i want to do more. i will do more. does anyone really want to know that on friday, which was world farm animal day and gandhi’s birthday, it was my friend Rory’s birthday? he would have been thirty two. i thought about him many times that day and messaged my friend Andy a lot. they were soulmates the most real soulmates you could ever have seen with your own eyes in real life. i often wonder what he would have said about this all.
i suppose maybe it doesn’t really matter what people want to know now. it’s what i want to be remembered and this is why it’s here, written down in this blur of jumbled letters and words. it’s about what i want to know.
today i let myself sleep in a bit. i giggled with my husband in bed as he asked Siri to “message Kez ‘I love you babe'” and Siri sent it to our builder… whose name is Wegner. We argued over who would make coffee. He lost. (high five self). we walked the dogs and the sun was shining and it was lovely. The cat came with too. I got hot and tied my jacket around my waist. Lulu ran onto the island in the middle of the dam and chased the mother ducks off her nest of eggs. I saw red and called her a bloody naughty little shit. They were marched home rather promptly after that. The dogs I mean. They are battling to adjust to this new space, I think. The german shepherd needs more exercise but we are so busy with the new business that a twenty minute walk in the morning is all we can manage right now. every day I ask Andy to book her into an exercise/obedience class – she loves any one on one time with him. and every day i wonder how people have children and dogs and cats at the same time. they all need so much attention. the cat loves it here though. the guests adore her. I’m just waiting for her to drag a massacred rat into the breakfast room. After our walk i fed the dogs and washed lulu in the pool. we ran out of dog food and so we feed them abby’s cat food for breakfast. whoops. Bad parents. I had a shower. it was luke warm because i forgot to check if the washing machine was on. it was! then i made the bed and put the dog’s beds outside to air because it rained yesterday and everything smalls damp. the land is so dry and the dam is so empty – the rain didn’t touch sides, it seems. I got dressed and did my hair and makeup. my tummy growled and i realised it was half past nine already and i hadn’t eaten breakfast… again. there is no space in the kitchen right now – Andy bashed down half the cupboards yesterday because the builders are supposed to be installing an extractor machine. All the cupboard contents are now on the counter tops and Zayleen was using every other spare surface to prepare breakfast for the guests so I decided to get out of her space and out of the house and eat breakfast at my meeting with a friend. We went to blue crane and butterfly in dorp street. i like it there because they make soy milk cappuccinos and hummus toast and the staff are so friendly. except for that one guy. he never smiles back at me. maybe he is sad. i was there half an hour early whoops. it was so nice to get out of the house and catch up with someone who is in a similar life situation to me. before i knew it it was 12 and we said our goodbyes. i walked around the streets for a bit by myself. i stood under a big old oak tree’s shade for a while and just breathed in the calm of solitude. I picked up some gifts for a friend and then andrew messaged me a shopping list of things we need for the guesthouse, including eggs. I hate buying eggs or cheese now that i’m vegan – even if i know it’s not for me. it feels very wrong in the tips of my soul. i bought the most expensive organic and free range eggs i could find. i miss our chickens. then i remembered about the dog food so i stopped in at the pet shop. the staff there remembered me (probably because i referred to the lighthouse toy as a big dildo last time i was there) but it made me feel all local and homey and we had a lovely chat about our furry animals. the nice lady also told me she is starting a grooming parlour for dogs, which i’m pleased about because i don’t like the place in town that we took lulu to last week. there was something not nice about it. i remembered i must get more food for the koi fish too. i’ve never had koi before. i wondered if the pellets were vegan. Probably not. Probably made up of ground up fish. i was too scared to check the ingredients. on the way home my friend Gemma messaged me to say she is coming to visit which will be lovely. i miss her. it seems like light years ago those days when we used to sit outside at the old restaurant and drink cosmopolitans. were things more carefree back then or is it just the rose-tinted hue of time gone by that makes it seem that way? i got home and just sat in the car by myself for five minutes, bathing in the silence and the warmth of the sun. do you ever do that? just gather yourself in the car for a few minutes before you go into your house? i carried the groceries and dog food in – it took three trips. the kitchen was still a mess – the extractor guys had still not arrived, and will probably not come today. i had a little meltdown. it seems that just as things start to settle, something else happens to rock my world. i guess that’s what moving and fixing and changing things is all about, though. sometimes i want to run away to a neat little apartment with white walls and lots of light. Just me. And my desk. No mess, no clutter, no fighting dogs. lulu and millie keep having little altercations, especially around doorways and their food bowls. it’s stressing me out a bit but I know its because Millie needs more exercise. i unpacked the groceries as best i could in the upside down kitchen and then sat down to check client emails and messages. i started writing this post. i want to write something every day for october because i feel like i need to find my writing legs (feet? fingers is probably better) again and i remember being taught or reading somewhere that if you are battling to write you must just sit down and write by stream of consciousness and get everything in your mind out on paper, with no editing – no matter what. so this is what i’m doing now. sorry dear reader you will have to bear with me. it’s half past four now and i have to take the staff to the train station. every day we pick them up at 8 and take them back at 4;30. it’s a bit of a hack cos we always have to make sure we are home at these times no matter what. oh well, this is the way things used to run here and they are not happy about change. change is scary. i will write more when i get back and try not to look back on what i’ve said until i’ve finished my day. i am back from the train station. it took a while and i got suck in traffic on the way home so i listened to some lovely voice notes from my best friend Andrea in London. she sings to me. i love it even though she did not miss her calling haha. got home to a poor mole running around the house and into the walls. the cat never kills or eats moles. she brings them into the house but she never finishes the job. maybe they don’t taste nice or maybe they are not challenge enough for her. maybe she feels sorry for their blindness. i will find a box now and take him (or her) outside. andrew is still not back. my friend just sent me a picture of her baby in her old wedding veil with her pug looking grumpy in the background. it made me laugh! there are guests outside around the koi pond with their own baby. my dogs are now barking at them. i don’t like the sound of barking. it makes my hairs stand on end. the baby is crying now. whoops. now she is laughing. sounds like me today. up and down. up and down. i think i have written enough now. time to feed the dogs; maybe do some work; make some supper, read my book. what a day it was. happiness, moaning, grumpiness, complaining, laughing, joking, dreaming, wishing, being grateful, wanting more. the human condition in a nutshell and that’s all we really have is this day; this moment in this day until we fall asleep and visit the depths of our true selves and then we wake up and pretend to be real and fight the demons all over again in a day which is the same as today only in a different shade of light.
So we have been in our new space for just over six weeks now, but to be be completely honest, it feels like much longer. But in a good way longer. The farm and our life in the Midlands seems like a distant, hazy dream – you know the ones where you wake up all groggy as if you were were visiting a different spiritual plane and now you’re back in reality? That’s how it feels when I think of our old home and it’s probably because it didn’t really feel like home in those last few days when I was packing up all alone. There was so much to do and so much to think about and organise that I didn’t really have time to say goodbye. I remember walking through the house, turning off the lights and closing the windows after the movers had left with all our worldly goods, and it felt so surreal. All at once it was both the home we had lived in and laughed in and made love in and fought and cried in; but it was also just another set of walls under a roof. To be fair, I didn’t allow myself to linger; I couldn’t face the memories that would slowly start to seep into my skin.
And so we left, my brother and I, with three dogs and a cat in a car, and headed off on our reverse trek over the Drakensberg Mountains. Arriving at our new home in the twilight of the Cape winter was a little soul-rattling. That first night we stayed in a spare guest room with said three dogs and Abby Cat, as our furniture had not yet arrived. I let Millie out in the middle of the night and she fell into the guesthouse pool; cue both hysterical laughter and hot tears of frustration-relief. These last few weeks have largely smelt a lot like wet dog! The second night we attempted to sleep in the restaurant building where we had originally planned to live whilst renovations to the guesthouse were taking place, but the pungent smell of old burnt cooking oil and the sight of cockroaches in the drains soon pooh-poohed that idea! And so we have ended up in the guest manager’s house which is in a bit of a state (think no light fittings, peeling plastic flooring and tiles falling off the walls), but it’s clean and warm and has four walls and a roof.
From the moment we arrived, it was straight to business. If you haven’t already gathered, Andrew is running a guesthouse in Stellenbosch (have I told you that? I forget now if I have or haven’t) and the previous owner was supposed to not take bookings for our first two months – enabling us time to paint, fix, re-brand, unpack, settle in, build fences, setup reservation programmes and websites and employ new staff. He neglected to do what he promised and so we hit the road running, having to house and feed and attend to guests whilst trying to unpack and “settle in”. This settling-in thing is becoming a bit of an elusive concept, although I am still seeking its security… when does one become “settled in”? Starting off our move with guests to look after, dogs to control and staff to manage resulted in a quite a few tears, a large amount of shouting matches and blaming and a whole lot of unpacked boxes. My in-laws were also here at the same time and we were all sharing a kitchen, along with the staff, so that kind of accelerated the stress levels, especially since I’m a noise-sensitive person who cherishes and I mean, cherishes, her personal space. Looking back, I was actually a bit of a wreck! Thanks to my brothers and my friends who all took me out and kept me sane and reminded me that, this too, shall pass.
So whilst I was sobbing in showers, Andrew was out and about and on the go 24/7, which would frustrate me even more. I was all, why is he not commiserating with me??? This is because Andy is a do-er and a fixer and an organiser. I’m more of a contemplator, moaner, “I told you so”-er. I’m good at reflecting on shitty situations, I’m just not good at being in them. And yes, I can freely admit this now. I’m thirty and have lived on this earth long enough now to know what my strengths and weaknesses are. So whilst builders were banging around in our ceilings until 12 pm every night and the dogs were barking at any little noise, I desperately tried to remain sane. As the days have become weeks, I have discovered exactly what makes a good day and what makes a bad day for me. Here are my tips for surviving the settling-in phase after a big and stressful move:
I’m just going to straight out and say it: I MISS MY EARTH ANGEL very very very much. My life is just not the same without my monthly reboot and repair session with Colleen from Midlands House of Healing. I thought I would be able to make it up to the Midlands in November for a friend’s wedding but now that’s not going to happen and already I’m scheming about when next I can get back up to see Colleen’s lovely new space and hop onto her massage bed for some magical healing! Colleen and I both know what kind of person I am (highly-strung, emotional, sensitive to change) and so we agreed to do some distance energy healing just before I left for overseas and for the first couple of days after the big move. Distance Healing you say? Well, in a nutshell, distance energy healing is reiki performed on an individual by a reiki master from afar. Colleen sent energy and love to my inner child (that little girl is always seeking approval and trying to make everything perfect); to my adolescent self (oi vey, enough said) and to my adult self (she of the great creative insecurity and self-doubt). She also sent energy and healing to my partnerships and to my physical body, which probably explains why I’m still married today and also the great desire I had to get back on my yoga mat pretty soon after we arrived. On about the fourth day of distance healing, a greater sense of calm came over me as well as a sense of acceptance. This was the day that I finally got over myself and the fact that our bathrooms are peach and brown, got out of bed and pretty much unpacked boxes for twelve hours straight. I guess I have discovered a few new things about myself with this move; largely that when faced with big life changes, my body goes into some weird grumpy primal instinctive mode and I find myself lashing out at anything or anyone who threatens my desire and mourning for the old familiar. If you happened to be in my war path over those first few days, I send my humblest apologies (mostly to you, my darling husband). Only once the voices of my perfectionist inner child, grumpy adolescent and insecure adult were all silenced, did I realise how love and acceptance can only come from being loving and accepting, and things started to calm down. And boxes were unpacked. Thank you again Colleen for bringing the sanity back to my life. I feel you – even from afar.
Get into a routine as quickly as you can
I very quickly gathered that unlike life on the farm where I had very little other human interaction or interference in my home, the only way to survive my new busy surroundings, was to adapt to them. If I wanted to have a hot shower, I had to get it done before or after working hours (no more freelancer lunchtime showers) as our bathroom shares a geyser with the guesthouse laundry. I also learnt rather fast to walk the dogs before 8, which is when most guests are up and about and also when we have to fetch the staff from the train station. My dogs are impossible if I don’t walk them at least once a day, so sorting them out before the day starts really helps me ease into the day. The fresh air does wonders for the headspace too.
Start the day off with Yoga
I cannot explain the difference to my attitude when I start my day off with yoga. As soon as I had enough free floor space to roll out my mat, I was straight into downward dogs and tree poses. “I’m sorry for what I said before I yoga-ed” is basically my mantra. It takes effort to put your alarm clock on and get out of your nice warm snuggly bed in the dark (oh and man, did the Cape dark mornings take some adjusting to), but it’s so worth it. Ask my husband. Hah!
One box at at time, one room at a time
Lol. Let’s just say I did not practise the whole packing and labelling of things properly and I regret it so much! With limited time and no help, I kinda just chucked everything into random boxes with vague labels like “Andrew’s shit”. (shout out to mom for helping me label a couple of boxes appropriately on the last day) When it came to unpacking, I spent a lot of time running around the new place placing random items in their right place instead of just putting the boxes labeled “Bedroom” in the bedroom et cetera et cetera. Make sure you label the contents of every box rather specifically (the vegan hunt for the food processor was not pretty, I can tell ya!), as well as which room they need to be unpacked into. This is probably Moving 101. I just wish I had paid attention to these tips before. It’s good exercise though, getting everything wrong and muddled up, and I’m pretty sure I’ve lost weight with all the running around… except I can’t check because I still have no bloody clue where my bathroom scale is!
Before the immensity of everything gets you down, get out the house. Even if just for a quick drive. You will come back feeling re-energised and ready to tackle life (ie: more boxes, stinky dogs, noisy staff members). Thank you so much to Jonathan, Megan, Tash and Graeme, Chereen, Jackie, Zan and Trevor and Sally and Rob for inviting – and sometimes forcing – us to get out and about and thinking about something other than builders and all the different shades of grey you can get (there are a lot more shades of grey than you would think… perhaps if I had finished reading that crappy book, I’d understand the metaphor she was going for now). Eternally grateful to all you lovely folk for looking after us – I think I’ve repaid Tash and Graeme so far in funny voice notes. Andrew could use a bit more of this out and about stuff, but he’s a little ADD and is completely project-obsessed at the moment! As I type this, he is right now up a ladder with his new “light-hat” from Builder’s Warehouse fixing something. Yaaaaaa. The struggle is real. He did get his first five star review yesterday so the man is fired up!
This is fine talk coming from the girl in desperate need of a haircut/pedi/bikini wax, but take it from me – you need to do it! Even Andy has managed to fit in a haircut – and Lulu is going for hers tomorrow. I’m just hanging back hoping Tash will book me in with her guy. The one big treat I did have, which I completely loved, was attending a yoga class last Saturday in Stellenbosch with Yoga With Nicci. My teacher was Victoria, a dreadlocked, tattoo-donning steamcat who I’m now a little in love with. That morning to myself – nourishing my body, mind and soul with deep breaths and silence – was so delicious. I got home, climbed into bed and took a big whoooosa for the rest of the day. It was well-needed. Don’t feel guilty about taking time out when you’re settling-in, as much as you’d like to get everything done straight away. In the words of my grandpa Mac, “staddig oor die klippe”.
So that’s the last few weeks in a nutshell. On Friday, for the first time, I began to see fragments of me and him and us and our life together. For the first time, being here really started to feel like home. In a weird way, it feels like it always was. Perhaps this really is where we are supposed to be? At least for now? Throughout all the drama and craziness, I have not once thought that we’ve made a mistake in moving here and I have not wished to be back on the farm, as beautiful as it was… and this brings me comfort. I do not miss the small town shenanigans, the screaming of the factory-farmed pigs next door, the unforgiving dirt road and the heaviness of a dark history I can’t quite put my finger on. I’m tuning into the sunshine, letting my feet sink into the soft sand, thinking in another tongue, breathing in the scent of spring jasmine, sampling the local nectar and, most of all, giving thanks. Because this life is so damn lovely.
The well known and beloved South African food shop, Melissa’s, has just launched their online store – which is pretty much the best news for a pyjama-wearing, freelancing hermit like me. If I could do all my shopping online, I would. Oh wait, I live near a city now – I can! *adds to growing list of reasons to love new home* I was also very happy to find out that a number of Melissa’s amazing sauces and dressings are vegan and are such great additions to some of my staple veggie meals. The dishes in this post are all super easy and delicious – not to mention perfect if you’re having meat-eating friends over for a dinner party and you want to ensure that they leave feeling super-full and satisfied (and, of course, raving about your food). Alternatively, the salad makes a great lunch on it’s own, the nachos are fab for when you’re having peeps over for drinks and the bolognese is perfect for an easy midweek home dinner.Before I get into the food, can we just all take a moment to appreciate Melissa’s beautiful packaging? If you know me, you’ll know I’m a massive fan of illustration and pretty wrapping paper, so friends and family – expect your gifts to all be wrapped in this for the next year. Actually, just expect Melissa’s hampers. Pre-packaged and prettily wrapped already, it’s a no-brainer for any last-minute gift (which, let’s be honest, most gifts are). From birthdays to mother’s and father’s days, or even a little me-time spoil – Melissa’s has your back.
This first recipe is one of my favourites and a lunchtime meal I have at least twice a week. I’m always on the lookout for yummy dressings to jazz up my salads and this Pomegranate and Cranberry White Balsamic Vinegar is a new favourite.
Chickpea and Quinoa Salad with Melissa’s Pomegranate & Cranberry White Balsamic Vinegar
1 can of chickpeas
1/2 cup quinoa (I used red quinoa)
Baby spinach leaves
Bring the red quinoa to boil in a pot filled with 1 cup of water. Allow to simmer until cooked (about ten minutes). Drain any excess water and allow to cool. Drain and rinse chickpeas throughly. Chop your tomatoes, cucumber and yellow pepper as desired and place in a mixing bowl with the baby spinach and rocket. Add 2 tablespoons of Melissa’s Pomegranate & Cranberry White Balsamic Vinegar and mix gently with a wooden spoon. Place on plate as desired (I used a rectangular serving plate) and then cover with quinoa, chickpeas and sliced avocado. Finish off with a generous slug of the vinegar over the top and serve.
This next recipe is one that I’m really excited to share as I am a massive fan of Nachos – always have been, always will be. The only problem with eating vegan is that nachos now have to be served sans the cheese… or do they? I found a fabulous recipe for a vegan ricotta cheese from the Thug Kitchen cookbook which works marvellously alongside the guacamole and Melissa’s delicious Tomato Salsa.
Nachos with Guacamole, Vegan Cheese and Melissa’s Tomato Salsa
Smash 2 avocados with lemon juice. Add salt and pepper.
Vegan Cheese (recipe from Thug Kitchen)
1/4 cup hulled sunflower seeds
1 block tofu
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
Pour the sunflower seeds into a food processor and blitz for 2 minutes.
Take tofu out package, and drain of any excess water. Add to food processor and blitz with sunflower seeds until smooth.
Place mixture in a mixing bowl with the lemon zet, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and garlic. Mix in gently with a wooden spoon. Stir in the nutritional yeast slowly. Done! (I add in chopped basil or coriander leaves for extra yumminess, but that’s purely up to you). Place in fridge until cool.
Place the guacamole, tomato salsa mix and “cheese” into separate bowls and serve alongside your choice of nachos. Yum!
This dish below is adapted from one of my favourites from the Deliciously Ella cookbook. It never fails to disappoint, and may I just throw it out there that some meat-eaters (ok, just my husband, but he is a chef so he counts as like ten meat-eaters) have agreed that it’s actually better than regular bolognese! I used my absolute favourite Melissa’s product for this one – I eat it with a spoon right out the jar – the Slow Roasted Marinated Tomatoes to add extra flavour to this dish.
Lentil Bolognese with Melissa’s Slow Roasted Marinated Tomatoes
3 large carrots
1 jar of Melissa’s slow roasted marinated tomatoes
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
1 packet tomato puree
2 tins of lentils, drained and rinsed
Peel and grate carrots.
Add the carrots, the jar of slow roasted marinated tomatoes and crushed garlic to a large saucepan with the tins of tomatoes, lentils and 2 cups of boiling water.
Stir everything together, bring to the boil and then allow to simmer for 45 mins, stirring now and then,
Once it’s almost ready, cook the pasta al dente and drain. Place on dish and spoon bolognese over the top (or, alternatively, mix in with the bolognese and then serve).
You can order all of the Melissa’s products used above from their online store. Happy cooking! Let me know if you try out any of the above dishes – I’d love to know how you found them.
** The vegan cheese recipe is adapted from the Thug Kitchen cookbook and the lentil bolognese is adapted from the Deliciously Ella cookbook – both books are essential to any vegan’s bookshelf, in my humble opinion. **
Note: I wrote this post a few weeks ago and it kinda got lost in my drafts as life got busy. Yesterday morning Andrew and I watched this really, really beautiful heartfelt clip by Kalel and I felt inspired again to share my thoughts and words on where I am right now. Also, this post is not meant to attack or make anyone feel bad – it’s just my honest reflections and observations since that wonderful day – the 3rd of December 2014 – when I decided to stop consuming animal products.
So it’s been just over nine months since I made the decision to become vegan. Enough time to nourish a whole other being into life! Man, have I learnt a lot in these nine months – about myself, about other people, about the world we’re brought up in and the way we live our lives. People warned me in the beginning that it would be hard, and whilst I still am one hundred percent behind the statement that going vegan was the easiest decision I have ever made in my life, some things have stayed the same and most things have changed. I’ve had to grow a thick skin. I’ve had to breathe a lot and learn to ignore a lot. Dinner parties and social gatherings around food still make me nervous – I never know if fellow guests are going to take offence or not to the way I live my life and having to be ready to defend yourself 24/7 can get exhausting. I’ve had to practise understanding and compassion on a level I never thought possible, because goodness – if you’re vegan, you’re not allowed to be angry… you must always be seen to be kind and understanding and accepting. If you get mad or hurt and tears prick in the back of your eyes at the injustice of the way animals are treated, then you’re just plain “weird” or “extreme”. I’ve had to grit my teeth and smile through many a silly argument. I’ve had people tell me, on discovering that I don’t eat any animal products, that they would never be my friend or invite me over for a meal. Yet, at the same time, some of my favourite people to eat with (Ands and Nix – looking at you girlfriends) aren’t veggie and are always hugely supportive and understanding. I’ve had the entire way I live, and have lived my life, put under a magnifying glass – sometimes by complete strangers. Every single decision I make and every word I say, has to be constructed carefully – and it is tough work. But, really, truly, I’m still little ol’ me – dirty-minded, sarcastic, foul-mouthed, fun-loving, deep belly-laughing, crazy-nutter, dorky Keri.
Becoming vegan has required more discipline than getting a degree, maintaining an intense health programme or even sometimes tending to the budding seeds of a young marriage. It’s the biggest commitment I’ve ever made and it has brought out both the ugliness and beauty in every moment I’ve lived and every person I’ve interacted with over the past few months. I won’t lie, I’ve often thought about how much easier it would be to put the blindfolds back on and return to “normality”… but that normal is no longer my normal. And it can never be my normal again, not knowing what I know now. My eyes have been opened and my heart has been ripped out about so many things – largely about how the world, society and tradition functions around food and the treatment of non-human animals. I’ve started recycling, being mindful about food wastage, seriously questioned starting a family of my own and I have read and watched and studied SO many documentaries, papers, books and articles that I swear my brain is about a zillion times bigger now. It’s unstoppable and every day feels like I open up new pages to a secret book we really should all be reading. And hard as it may be, I will never ever close that book.
In a nutshell, nine months down the line, these are the things I know for sure and what being vegan means to me:
ANGER SOLVES NOTHING
Knowing the truth about how animals are bred and farmed and killed makes me angry (and sad). Bringing it to the attention of others who would rather not know this information, makes them angry. VERY angry. And yes, of course there are some wonderful farms and butchers who breed and raise and kill animals the “right” way… but they are very few and far between on this planet of ours. Ninety-eight percent of the meat sold and consumed around the world is factory-farmed meat. What I have learnt through numerous discussions with many people is that we can all (largely) agree that animals should live a good and kind life on nice big farms with lots of space and access to light and fresh water and natural food. We all agree on this – we share videos against animal cruelty and the terror of factory farming and how bad it is for the environment… but, unfortunately, not many of us will stop supporting these practises financially. Many may speak about it over their “ethically-farmed” wagyu beef burger at a fancy restaurant whilst sitting with their veggie friends – but the next day they’re off buying Eskort bacon, without a second thought, in its convenient plastic packet from Pick ‘n Pay, for their Sunday fry-up. And that is what really angers/saddens me. Unfortunately, the way it is right now – factory farmed animals, and the chemical and hormone ridden flesh butchered from their bodies – is cheap. Getting up every Saturday morning and going to the farmer’s market to buy “ethically” farmed pig/beef/chicken for the week is not that easy (and pretty expensive). We have been conditioned to a life of ease – and that includes convenient meat, dairy milk and cheese – at the price of animals’ welfare. So while many will argue that “not all” meat is factory farmed, we can also safely say that “not all” people will ensure that the meat that they are consuming is not factory-farmed. The truth is that we can get angry about our food choices, or how someone tells us how to eat our food and live our lives, but that anger is not going to help the silent victims or solve the very real problem that we are, quite simply, killing ourselves and the earth by continuing to eat the amount of animal products we are currently consuming. Everyone needs to stop being angry and rather be constructive – listen, learn, read, take action.
HATRED TOWARDS VEGANS IS REAL
This was a big learning curve for me, because whilst I was the biggest meat eater on the planet before December 2014, I never really had a problem with vegetarians or vegans. Their lifestyle was never an issue for me (although I probably felt sorry for them and all the steak they were missing out on) and I never took offense to their line of thought – probably because, deep down, I kinda agreed with them. Since I was a little girl, I remember driving behind trucks packed with pigs/cows/chickens/sheep off to the slaughterhouse and thinking, “I shouldn’t be eating them”. I pushed that thought away for twenty nine years. Many people and many non-vegans have spoken out vehemently against the idea that vegans are hated, but a few recent threads on social media, several real life interactions and a couple of tweets in the past few months have really taken my breath away. People (and intelligent people for that matter) declaring things like “this is why everyone hates vegans” and “let’s band together against the vegans” and “fuck vegans. I’m going to go eat a steak wrapped in bacon and sprinkled with chicken nuggets right now” quite literally broke my heart. It’s not at all funny. It’s hugely insensitive to the thousands of animals locked up in tiny crates in dark sheds who are unable to even turn around, never mind run in a field, as they should. Never in a million gazillion years, even as a former fillet steak/calamari/roast chicken lover, would I ever have thrown out such brash statements against a group of people who are, quite obviously, animal lovers with their intentions in the right place. It kinda reminds me of people who were anti-apartheid and anti-slavery being ridiculed and labeled as “nigger lovers”. Fighting for the rights of other beings, no matter how “extreme” you think it is – needs to be celebrated, not condemned. Also, whatever anyone says to try and justify eating animal products is not going to change my mind about it. I’m cool with being being hated because I’m compassionate. It’s a path walked by many before me.
First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win.
– Mahatma Gandhi
Animals are living, breathing beings and just because some people feel very strongly about the value of their lives on this planet, does not mean that those people are terrible human beings. Vegan-bashing is deeply, deeply shameful behaviour and I, personally, would have been highly embarrassed to put out statements like that – even when I was a full-on meat-eater. Please stop defending animal abuse – because slaughtering an animal – even if it is for your food – is still abuse. I’m 100% positive that if a cow or pig or lamb or chicken or fish could speak human, they would pretty much say, “hey, please don’t kill me, I just wanna go live in the field/sea with my mates until I die of natural causes”. It is well-documented that cows cry actual real tears in the line up to their slaughter. There are plenty of videos and countless reports of ex-slaughterhouse and farm workers online if you want to check it out. I grew up on a farm and have lived on a beef farm for four years. I know what I saw and heard and felt, and an anti-vegan argument from a city clicker living in a Cape Town or Johannesburg flat, far removed from the reality of where meat really comes from, makes me see red. And for the love of god, please don’t argue that plants have feelings too. Plants don’t have eyes and they don’t bleed, shit or fuck. A mere two hundred years ago, non-Caucasian people and women of all colours were thought of as nothing but property – they too had no choice in how their lives played out. Seventy-odd years ago, Jews were rounded up and treated just like we are treating factory-farmed animals today. Women in Saudi Arabia have only just been allowed to register to vote. Think about it. Really – think about it. Farming animals is just another form of slavery. Just because they don’t speak human or have the brain power and hands to make weapons, does not make them our slaves. And as for the evolution excuse… I think if you were confronted unarmed in the veld by a lion or a grisly bear you’d change your mind very quickly about who really is at the top of the food chain. The wheel turns. And I want to be on the upturn in my lifetime.
IT’S ABOUT INTENTION, NOT PERFECTION
I can’t tell you how many friends and acquaintances I have who are changing the way they eat but are too scared to call themselves vegan, or even vegetarian, because of the judgement they may receive. And, getting to the other side… as much as I love being vegan and can confidently say that I wake up every day with the intention to live as kindly as I possibly can in every way, there are always people just waiting to watch you slip up – and they are both vegans and non-vegans. Yes – I have eaten a tiny bit of cheese since I’ve been vegan. Yes, I may have unintentionally eaten something with egg or cream in it (damn you sneaky bread rolls) or drunk wine or beer that is not vegan. Yes, I use my leather handbag every now and then (I had it before I was vegan). I’m not a saint, and never will I be, but I will never intentionally, and with my own money, buy anything made with animal products in it, ever again.
If I’m invited to a dinner party where wine is served that I’m not entirely sure is 100% vegan, or if the host has catered for me as best he/she can, but has added feta cheese to the salad, I will not fold my arms and refuse to eat or drink anything. I may push aside the cheese on my plate, but I won’t add fuel to the fire by asking if everything is vegan. So at home I eat and drink vegan completely and when I eat out I stick to vegan choices as much as I can, and if I’m invited to a dinner party, sometimes I have to suck it in and eat vegetarian (and deal with the inevitable tummy-ache the next day). This is SA, not LA, and many people here have never even heard of the concept of Veganism. I’m not going to be the one who makes it sound like a complete chore. I choose to not eat dairy and I have not touched a piece of animal flesh in nine months, but I also won’t be that person who turns ten people at a dinner party off becoming vegan because I cause a scene if the meal has some cheese on it (yep, picking it off discreetly has become a fine art). And, for anyone asking, I still buy and feed my cat Hills Science soft food because we got her before I went vegan and cats need meat to survive. As for my dogs, transitioning them to a vegan diet (completely possible) is still on the cards – largely because my husband is not vegan, and as much as I wish I could, I can’t force him to follow my lifestyle choices, although he probably eats vegan fifty percent of the time now. I don’t feel that any of the above makes me less of a vegan – I’ve opened my eyes to the truth and am doing the best I can, every day, to set it right in every possible way I can.
VEGANISM IS NOT A BELIEF
My absolute pet hate is when people say that my being vegan is a “belief ” and then liken it to religion (this is usually done by atheists or people who look down on religion. Just for the record – I am not at all anti-religion and I totally believe in my God). But abuse and slaughtering animals in not a belief. It’s not something I chose or imagined to be. It’s very real. As far as I know, religion is labeled a “belief” because people cannot physically comprehend God or Buddha or Allah (or whoever floats their boat) with all of their five senses. I chose to be vegan because of concrete, tangible facts – I have seen and heard and smelt and felt with my own ears and eyes what I have growing up on farms. And with one click of a button you can see and hear and feel for yourself the very real ill-treatment of farm animals on YouTube. I have yet to see evidence of God or Jesus or Allah on a YouTube documentary. So please don’t tell me that you respect my “belief” in being vegan and that I should respect your belief in eating meat – because it’s not about belief. It’s a very real thing that is happening to billions (yes, BILLIONS) of animals every year. It is not imagined, it is not something written about in ancient texts – it is happening right here, right now and right under your nose. You just have to open your eyes to see it. Simple. Please don’t reduce millions of animals’ painful existences and every day suffering to an unseen entity that relies on belief to exist.
And while I’m on the belief subject, another pet hate is when people tell me that I should not share stories about going vegan or facts about animal agriculture because those facts make meat-eaters/farmers/chefs etc etc feel bad and that I should rather just “live and let live“. The irony of this phrase does not, I feel, need to be expanded on here. If you don’t get it, please email me and I will explain why this is a “fucking stupid thing to tell a vegan” (my meat-eating brother’s words – not mine). As long as I continue to get messages from people every week thanking me for sharing the material and information I have, the longer I will keep doing so. If it offends you, perhaps you need to think about why that’s so.
LOVE CONQUERS ALL
I have thought many, many a time, that, well, maybe if I don’t have kids, then I don’t have to worry about the earth’s future; let me just live my life and eat all the cheese, and it’ll be good – it’s just little old me… what difference am I really going to make?
But then, I simply pull it back to love.
Because becoming vegan is the ultimate declaration of love a human can make: love for all other animals (obviously), love for our children, the environment and mother earth (watch this if you think I’m smoking crack) and most importantly, love for our fellow human beings. I refuse to give up on us a species and I refuse to give up on this planet. I believe in happy endings and in fairy tales. And this refusal to give up is at the heart of every vegan person. The certainty that we can make a difference – that our children and grandchildren can live their lives on earth as we do now – perhaps even better – because of the choices we make now. Choices made in love, choices made in respect, choices made in compassion – choices made from the depths of our hearts.
I won’t give into the darkness.
With every breath of every waking day, I am fighting against the current prediction that our children will live in a dark world, void of the sea, wild animals, deep jungles and fresh water. Deep down I believe in miracles; deep down I believe in human intelligence and kindness and reasoning and, deep down, I believe in the love that exists between all beings when an eye meets an eye and a soul speaks to a soul and an unspeakable understanding is felt far beyond words and time. I believe in love and I believe in hope and that is why I am vegan. Not to annoy, not to anger, not to question lifestyles or to judge choices, but to ensure that I play my part in moving forward together on this beautiful planet – hand in hand with complete faith that this beautiful, amazing, and wondrous space we call our home will be ours for as long as our own children can breathe and love and make children of their own.
Images: Kate Martens Photography
London is Paris’ vegan-friendly healthy cousin. While Parisians consider black coffee and a cigarette perfectly fine for breakfast, London is all about acacia bowls and green juices. Or at least, that’s what I gathered from the places we visited. Two out of the three restaurants we went to were raw vegan and the other place I was lucky enough to try out was Vx aka Vegan Cross, where I sampled a very not-raw yummy cheese quesadilla (oh, the dripping, melty yumminess of vegan cheese) and a delicious chocolate blueberry cupcake. There are so many other vegan places to try out in London that I wish I had been there for an entire month – with a pot of gold! And don’t even get me started on Whole Foods Market. People of the first world, you should be so grateful!
Wild Food Cafe is situated in Covent Garden and opens at 12pm sharp – make sure you’re waiting at the door if you want to grab a table straight away – there was already a queue forming when we got there at 11:50am. The service was fantastic and the food arrived in very good time for a place so packed with customers. My salad was delicious and jammed full of the good stuff! I could easily have had another one – but then I am just a big pig. Andrew had the burger (of course – which I’m not completely sure was raw, I probably should have taken a photo! Whoops) and proclaimed it to be really tasty and filling. I just had to have a slice of the blueberry cheesecake because you don’t really find vegan cakes of any sort in SA pretty much ever, and I wanted to weigh it up against the one I have made before. It was really yummy – not too sweet and very moreish and kind of similar in taste to the one of my own creation. I should totally open a vegan restaurant. Ha! Nama in Notting Hill reminded me a lot of the amazing Raw and Roxy in Cape Town’s Woodstock region and so of course I loved it! Their sushi rolls in particular were fabulous and they also offer great tapas, raw pastas and all kinds of desserts. I had the basil pesto pasta (surprise, surprise) and Andrew had the tapas platter which was just exploding with flavours of all sorts. Nama also offers courses in raw food cooking as well as catering for functions and events. Just imagine hosting a big vegan birthday party – and not having to do all the cooking! Heaven.
It felt so much easier to be a little plant muncher in London and I must admit that it was a bit of a comedown to come home (kudos to the freaking fantastic vegan meals on British Airways though – I was so impressed!) to only one great vegan salad option at Woolworths (good lord, that grain and lentil salad is a lifesaver) and one or two vegetarian or vegan options, if you’re lucky, on many a restaurant menu around the country. I have faith though that we will very soon be catching up to international standards as more and more awareness around food starts happening in South Africa. I have already noticed – in my nine short months of being vegan – the change in perception of a plant-based lifestyle and the eagerness of people to find out more about it. There is so much opportunity here in SA for both vegan products and eateries and I predict a big boom over the next two years or so. You heard it here first – get on it.
Thank you to my lovely fellow veggie friend Andrea for taking me out and about – can’t wait for our next adventure!