Michael Snyman died suddenly this week of a heart attack.
Friends, family and the foodie community are in shock, for although Mike was showing the strain of his grief over the death from cancer of his wife Lannice in May this year, he was a lean, fit, strong man. Last Friday, he was down at Wild Woods Restaurant in Hout Bay, hanging out on the balcony of the restaurant where his friend, chef and proprietor Pete Goffe-Wood, celebrated the day with a lamb on the spit. He was chatting about his upcoming trip to Europe, looking forward to a change in scenery after a year of sadness.
Officially, Mike was a builder, with a particular love of joinery – he was a great carpenter, and proud of it. But off-duty, nothing got him going like food. Mike was a braaimeister – former head of the SA Braai Association, and winner of several braai championships. He was a legend for his smoked fish, and could pull a trick with pork and a fire that could make you weep. He made feta for fun. At the family’s holiday home at Cape Infanta, Mike’s oyster and mussel hunting licenses were up to date, and well used: he was a fisherman and hunter of the rocky shores, who honoured everything he caught by preparing it with respect and skill. Nothing made him happier than giving pleasure to others in this way.
In fact, Mike was happiest pottering around at Infanta, in the company of his adored wife, and his daughters, Tamsin and Courtenay. His uniform there was a tan, a pair of shorts, and a most disreputable pair of takkies. The kitchen clock had stopped at around 11 o’clock, which meant – according to Mike – that it was always time for a margarita. The extended family – guests and cousins, colleagues and neighbours – often had margaritas for breakfast there. It’s an excellent kick-start to a holiday day.
Michael was a dignified, scrupulous and kind man, generous with his time and attention, a great friend, and a great hugger. He was dashing, and an enormous amount of fun, and his capacity for love seemed endless. If there is one thing Mike will be remembered for, apart from his ability to turn a lump of wood into art and a fish into the food of the gods, it will be for how thoroughly, completely, generously and utterly he loved his family.
He leaves his daughters, Courtenay and Tamsin, and his first grandchild, Trinity.