I was introduced to cookbook writing 21 years ago when I read 'People’s Food: Portuguese Regional Cooking' (1996) by Mimi Jardim.
Reading that delightful collection of recipes from the Iberian Peninsula provoked in me a wish for a book that would explore the rich food traditions of black people in South Africa and neighbouring countries.
Fortunately food writer and cookery expert, Dorah Sitole, surpassed my wish and expectations when she published 'Cooking From Cape to Cairo: A Taste of Africa' (1999).
These two reference works remain part of my treasured collection. Since then I haven’t read another authoritative book on this subject. That is, until the emergence of this landmark work. Written in a conversational, sparkling and enthusiastic style, it is an eventful and thoughtful gastronomic journey of a foodie.
Khanyisa Malabi shares innovative and imaginative recipes inspired by heritage food from her rural upbringing in Limpopo, and childhood experiences with her grandmother’s cooking. The dishes range from the simple African traditional to the sophisticated cosmopolitan ones that can be ordered at upmarket restaurants.
At first glance, the designer handwritten prose she had devised to share personal reflections may appear strange and unattractive, but this unconventional approach provides an earthy, genuine and intimate touch to the text. And, once you get used to it, you will want to read it again and again. Her slender but elegant calligraphy is the stamp of this book’s uniqueness.
“Food is excitement, it is living – our joy, our tears, the truth, our tradition,” she writes.
In her own words, the book captures experiences of her own life and bold images of food.
“My own story is a legacy of living, a leap of faith beyond survival and recognition but a means of experiencing what really fulfills us, when we can do what we love and live the way we like. But it is mainly the legacy of love that inspired me and enabled me to find that sweet spot where I met the woman I am.”
This is more than just a collection of cooking recipes, menus and baking tips. It is a quintessential coffee table book with stunning photography, biographical vignettes and motivational wisdom informed by a purposeful and goal-oriented life as a mother, entrepreneur and cookbook author. It is an exquisite work of art that combines fine writing with a culinary philosophy.
Not surprisingly, most of the high quality photography is about her mouth-watering dishes, while a few could have been lifted from her photo album. They reflect her life as a proud mother, appreciator of fine dining and a fashionable dresser.
In the final analysis, this book is a unique and valuable contribution to cookbook writing in South Africa. It claims its place among the cookbook classics I mentioned in the opening words. If you are a food enthusiast with a penchant for a purposeful life, then this book is a collector’s item.