Cape Town: At the Edge of the World

Getting out of Lagos was a Homeric epic.  Traffic and the airport was our Scylla and Charybdis, and Penelope, our stewardess, awaited us in the airplane, fearful we would never arrive.  We weren’t sure, either.  After a two and a half hour voyage across Lagos (for what should have been thirty minutes), it took us three and a half hours to traverse the airport’s line labyrinth and board the plane.  Nigeria has perfected the art of airport frustration.  The wait for the check-in counter alone was 90 minutes, and the technology they were using seemed no different than when I flew to Disney World in the fifth grade.  The Herculean labor of reaching the maroon uniformed woman at the entrance to the check-in corral was crushed by something very unexpected: as of June 2015, children travelling into or out of South Africa must come with an official copy of their birth certificate.  Without this, you cannot fly into the country, no exceptions.  No one had mentioned this new regulation, and we were scheduled to board the plane in mere hours.  For a moment, there was a silent panic between Sarah, Adrian, and I.  I looked beyond the check-in guard to a South African woman ahead of us, a mom of one of my students, who had been eavesdropping. “You’re fucked,” she whispered knowingly.   Continue reading

The Supermarket Chronicles IX: Where’s the Beef?

While in Cape Town, South Africa this week (more of our vacation adventures soon), we were exploring the city’s scenic waterfront looking for something to tide us over in the afternoon before dinner.  In his typical Britglish, Adrian was feeling “peckish”.  We bumped into the exceedingly trendy Waterfront Food Market, a large, open brick building with a number of artisanal food venders.  You know, the type of place where hipster sellers are tripping over themselves to be food cool and try to outdo each other with words like “vegan”, “organic” or “raw”.  Spinach and artichoke heart samosas, homemade ginger and lemon yogurt, Indian dal empanadas, fancy infused vinegars in oddly shaped bottles, blah, blah, blah.

Cooking on the braai

Cooking on the braai

In the back corner, however, was Kubu, a kiosk specializing in venison, which in Africa means game meat.  Adrian and I immediately ordered one of everything and Sarah, appalled, diverted the kids to get ice cream so they wouldn’t see what cute African animals we were about to eat.  They grilled our selections inside, and the large amount of meat cooking at the same time soon fillied the lower part of the building with smoke.  We smiled devilishly as venders selling vegan desserts frowned with disgust.  The meat was served with chakalaka, a spicy South African vegetable relish.  We met up with Sarah and the kids moments later at a picnic table outside and dined under the bulk of Cape Town’s Table Mountain, beginning our survey of African meat.  Here’s a quick gastronomic review:

Ostrich:  More dense and steak-like than chicken, but with a chickenish taste.  One of my favorites.

Crocodile:  Rubbery and tough.  Not one of my favorites.

Zebra:  Filled with sinew and not very flavourful.  Lots of chewing with difficulty swallowing.  May not have have been the best cut of meat.

Warthog:  Tender and delicious, like a gamier flavor of pulled pork. My top choice.

Springbok:  A moist, flavorful steak.  For those of you that don’t know, we’ve been avidly following the rugby world cup.  As a Wales fan, I ate this cut of meat like a rabid dog after last Saturday’s game.

Kudu:  More dense and gamier than springbok.  Also very good.

Impala:  Very dry- I had to swill it down with sips of water of each bite.

By the time I had finished, I was full enough to feel like I really had eaten a safari.

This fearless gull kept trying to steal something from our plate

This fearless gull kept trying to steal something from our plate