A tribute to Lannice Snyman

Lannice Snyman, South African culinary legend, died in the early hours of Sunday (May 9). Her good friend Heather Parker pays tribute.

by: Heather Parker | 10 May 2010
 Lannice Snyman

This comes as a shock to many in South Africa’s foodie community for Lannice, though a public figure, had preferred privacy in her battle with stomach cancer

It is a great loss. Lannice, known to many because of the decade she spent as cookery editor for the Sunday Times, was also an ex-restaurateur, author and publisher, consultant and critic, magical storyteller, and one of South Africa’s best-connected foodies. She holds several honorary qualifications, is the winner of innumerable awards, and is a renowned food judge, including being the regional chairman for UK-based Restaurant magazine’s The World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards.

She is known for being acutely observant, with a tongue as sharp as a knife. She was as intolerant of fools as she was of fakery. A Lannice put-down was unmistakable. But it was rare, because she was also warm, generous, curious, a great believer in constructive engagement; and her wonderful sense of the ridiculous extended also to herself.

Lannice lived and breathed the love of food, and the love of life. She could pop behind the counter of her indoor-outdoor holiday home in Cape Infanta – where, given half a chance, she could spend weeks without putting on anything more serious than a sarong – and come back a few minutes later in a faint cloud of herb oil, presenting us with a lunch as beautiful as a painting: a pastry canvas for artichokes and cherry tomatoes and olives, caperberries and mushrooms and translucent folds of prosciutto. The culinary complement in the Snyman household included her husband, Michael, a genius with an open fire, and a smoker; and one of her daughters, Tamsin, who has followed in her mother’s footsteps and has her own catering and consulting company. Life in Lannice’s circle was a respectful but enthusiastic feast.

She was author or co-author of more than a dozen books which, together, pretty much map the South African culinary landscape. Her first book, Free from the Sea, has gone into twelve reprints since its 1979 launch; and has sold more than 100 000 copies, as has Braai in Style (1983).

Her most personal book was probably the delightful Posh Nosh, published in 2005. It is subtitled “Fabulous food for family and friends”. The two categories – friends and family – tended to blur, at least in the minds of those of us lucky enough to be familiars in her homes. It was easy to think of Lannice as a mom, an older sister. Sometimes even as a younger sister, because she had a youthfulness which clung despite everything. Posh Nosh is a love poem to her husband and home, her herb garden and her daughters and friends, her memories.

The last self-written book she published was Tortoises and Tumbleweeds (2008), sequel to the international hit Rainbow Cuisine. It is a journey through the rich diversity of South African cuisine, embracing the past, and reinventing it.

Lannice was lucky in her birth, in meeting the man she was to love her whole life when she was only 13, lucky in the friends and family that enriched her life, in having work that was also her passion, and in being free to pursue it on her own terms. But she also had rare courage as anyone who knew her could testify. And that’s her legacy: passion and hard work are a good start, luck is brilliant, but the courage to engage with the world in the way she did, is rare.

She was massively inspiring, and absolutely unforgettable. She was always fun, and she died decades too soon.

She leaves her husband, Michael; daughters Courtenay and Tamsin, and her first grandchild, five-week-old Trinity.



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