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5 Things that often confuse foreign people about South African food

Our British wine editor just can't understand why we eat meat off a bone and add cheese to everything!

by: Cathy Marston | 01 Jun 2017

We foodies are always up for a good debate – generally over a lovely meal and a few bottles of vino. But sometimes these debates can get hectic, passionate and even (dare we say it), violent!

People have incredibly strong feelings for their food and how it should be cooked. Recently we’ve talked about whether you should keep your tomato ketchup in the fridge or the cupboard and this article from the UK Guardian although a few years old, is STILL sparking debate in my household!

I think it becomes more important when you start trespassing on another culture’s cuisine as I recently discovered when my son and husband made me a milk tart for Mother’s Day. It was their first attempt and was particularly lovely so we posted pictures on social media only to find we’d unleashed a food war.

They had made the milk tart with a biscuit base instead of puff pastry and Facebook did NOT approve. I put it all down to jealousy because we were eating the tart and not them, but it got me thinking because although I’ve now been in South Africa for 17 years, there are still things which I don’t get about your food. Here are a few things that puzzle me.

1. Lemon Meringue Pie
A similar debate to the one above but this one DEFINITELY has to have a pastry base. I mean really – who are these people advocating biscuits? It’s not a cheesecake you know! (READ: Where to get the best lemon meringue pie in SA)

2. Boerewors
I’m not the biggest fan of this and the main reason is that you Saffas just don’t cook it enough. Brought up in the UK, my mantra is ‘a good sausage is a burnt sausage’ and the pallid, grey, under-cooked boerewors I see at every braai really doesn’t cut it. Let’s not even start on the texture…..

WATCH: How to make a boerewors phyllo wheel

3. Apricot Jam with everything
I recently made my first Malva pudding – it felt a bit like 3rd Grade science class making a volcano out of bicarb and vinegar but it worked out nicely. My question is, why bother with the apricot jam? It’s a tiny amount, mixed up in a huge amount of cake batter – do you really need it?! And don’t get me started on apricot jam and fish…

4. Cheese with everything
A scone goes with butter and jam. A muffin goes with coffee. Neither needs a pile of grated orange rubber to complement them. And feta! Someone once described feta as the slut of the South African cheese world and it’s true – barely a salad comes out without chunks of salty mush decorating the plate. I quite like feta but not on everything – some restraint please!

5. Meat on bones
You Saffas do like eating with your fingers, don’t you? A stew is something you eat with a pile of creamy mash, or fluffy rice and in order to eat that – you need a fork. What is this obsession with tiny bits of meat clinging resolutely to large and gristly bones which have to be gnawed off as if you were a hungry puppy? Cutlery. It’s a great invention, you should try it sometime.

These are a few things I don’t get about SA food – oh and don’t even get me started on the wrong names for things (a Crunchie is a chocolate bar, not a tray bake of oats, syrup, nuts etc. That’s a flapjack and what you call a flapjack is a pancake. Not a crumpet, because a crumpet has little holes all over it and goes into a toaster before being slathered with butter and jam. Tsk tsk).

I’m not saying I don’t like SA food – actually, I love a good Malva pud, although you do know that custard should be served hot, right? But to me, these things are just weird. Am I the only one?

What do you find weird about other people’s cuisine? Do you find things weird about your own cuisine?  Let us know in the comments section below!


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