A blast from the past: Baked Alaska

I suffer from a fairly serious case of arrested development, in that my tastes in clothing, music and food have barely changed since the ’80s. In fact, some of my clothes, shoes and CDs aren’t only in the style of that period, they’re actually from that period. I don’t think I own any actual food from the ’80s, although the rarity with which our gigantic family fridge is spring-cleaned means that there’s an outside chance that a tin of something ’80ish (say, white asparagus) lurks somewhere in its innards.

047So I had great fun writing an article for Crush! Online about my parents’ dinner parties and fondly-remembered dinner-party dishes from the late ’70s and ’80s. I included a recipe for Baked Alaska (which was a favourite of my mother’s) – thanks to Jane-Anne Hobbs for resurrecting that memory and her amazing Irish whiskey ice-cream, which I nicked from her gorgeous recipe book, Scrumptious.

COVER-28_FINAL-1024x768Because I was walking in Die Hel at the time the latest issue of Crush! was in production, my friend and Crush! designer Petal baked the Alaska for the cover photography – and what a fantastic job she did!

Joey’s big day out

017Joey the Dalmation-Dobermann is 4 years old and has never been to the seaside, so his mum Alexi and I put him and Balu into the car yesterday and headed for Yzerfontein. Alexi was a little concerned about how Joey may react to all that wide-open space, but when we got there and let him out the car, he did what all dogs do when they get to the beach: he looked around with an expression that clearly said, ‘Oh my gaawd! This is HEAVEN!!’ and began running amok.

To be fair to Joey, running is more or less his natural state – he stops only to eat, briefly, and to sleep – and I use the word ‘amok’ to mean less ‘mad with uncontrollable rage’ (which is its Malay translation) and more ‘mad with uncontrollable joy’. If there were an English word for ‘mad with uncontrollable joy’, I’d use it, but there isn’t. Or not one as nice as ‘amok’, anyway.

Joey, who’s afraid of water, showed no interest whatsoever in the sea; and he had one moment of anxiety, when he suddenly came upon a large rock studded with lots of mussels. He stalked it in a nervous manner and then, when it didn’t try to eat him or run away, chose sensibly to just ignore it.

Other than that, he had a wonderful time, running-running-running along the +-4km seaside trail. Where the path narrowed over the rocky areas and Balu got in his way, he simply and effortlessly jumped over her. Balu’s Border Collie instincts made her try to herd Joey – an utterly fruitless exercise, like trying to herd liquid mercury.

It was a grand day out in one of the Western Cape’s most beautiful spots and in lovely weather, and it’s safe to say that Joey is a convert to romping along the beach.

018• Alexi is moving house soon and can’t take Joey with her, so she’s looking for a new home for him. He’s a friendly, intelligent, obedient dog, with the high-energy disposition of both breeds (he’s a cross pure-bred Dalmation and pure-bred Doberman), so needs plenty of space and exercise. He loves people and is good with other dogs. If you or anyone you know wants to adopt this handsome and affectionate dog, please email me at traceyhaw@mweb.co.za.

No, Ferrero Rocher. Just no.

004Further to Isabella’s exciting news that Ferrero Rocher had brought out a giant version of itself for Easter and our musings as to whether the outsize choc was really a single huge Ferrero Rocher (which would be first prize) or a big Ferrero Rocher containing lots of little ones (which would also be, you know, really nice), Isabella went out and bought one.

The disappointing answer is that it’s neither.

And even though, apparently, the label states that this is an ‘interpretation’ of the classic choc-fondant-filled Ferrero Rocher with its characteristic central hazelnut, it’s still a major let-down.

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Airbrakes and airheads

Sutherland is an unusual little village in middle-of-nowhere, South Africa. It’s known for being the host town of SALT, the Southern African Large Telescope – and, as a result, every little eatery and sleepery (and there seem to be as many of them as there are stars in the sky) is named after some heavenly formation: Galileo Cottage, Starry Night Guesthouse, Halley-sê-kom-eet coffee shop…

043Sutherland is also known for being the coldest place in the country (temperatures there dropped to -16 ºC in 2003), and it snows almost every winter. My friend B and I were there in early autumn, but already the evenings were very cold and the morning air very crisp. B commented on the unusual cloud formations above the town, and I was able to tell her they were contrails (short for ‘condensation trails’), because I saw the same formations in Holland a couple of years ago, and asked someone about them then. They’re basically engine exhaust vapour trails that form behind aircraft (and I love that Wikipedia gives them a Latin name: Cirrus aviaticus). In the picture above, which is of me drinking champagne out of a tin ‘Sutherland’ souvenir mug with SALT as a backdrop, you can clearly see some contrails in sky.

That evening, B and I went to a talk on the night sky, and the lecturer, a jovial fellow called Jurg – an entrepreneur extraordinaire and apparently the de-facto mayor of the town – made a little joke about the contrails: ‘You guys will have seen the trails in the sky,’ he said, ‘which are formed when planes brake as they’re approaching Cape Town International Airport.’

B nudged me and whispered, ‘See? They’re formed by brakes, not exhaust fumes.’

Because we were sitting in a darkened lecture hall, she wouldn’t have seen my eyebrows doing the Dance of Disbelief across my forehead, so instead I whispered, ‘Really? REALLY?!

It took her a few moments, but then she twigged, and she laughed.

On the weekend I was telling this story to my daughter – usually an intelligent young woman, but pregnancy has mushened her brain somewhat – and when I’d finished, she looked confused. ‘But then how do planes brake in the sky?’ she asked.

Oy vay.

And it got worse. My friend M, who was visiting from England, told a blonde-moment story about her daughter, who, in discussion with someone about having gammon for Christmas dinner, remarked that ‘it’s always good to have a nice piece of fish at Christmas’. We all fell about laughing at this, then my daughter sent us off the deep end by adding scornfully, ‘Everyone knows that gammon is a bird.’

To round off this day of gormlessness, my daughter then excitedly told me about the outsize Ferrero Rocher chocolates that were on sale over the Easter weekend. ‘And I think they’re genuinely big Ferrero Rochers,’ she said, ‘rather than a big Ferrero Rocher package with lots of little Ferrero Rochers inside.’ Then she paused and thought for a moment before adding, ‘Hang on, where would they get a hazelnut that size?’