Birds, Ouma’s Cookery Book, Raymond Blanc with Covid: are we changing?

We are back in Lockdown here in Canberra, as are many states of Australia. The Delta variant is a tough one, and Paul and I thank our lucky stars we are vaccinated.

The good news is, spring is on its way, and with it, come the birds. I took this photo of the Sulphur Crested Cockatoo from my study while I was typing. He/she has decided to walk along the road rather than fly. It could be that the roads are so quiet now, but as regular readers of this blog know, Cockatoos are a law unto themselves, and he is on a mission.

There is something endearing and reassuring about birds arriving in the garden during spring….. life goes on in the usual way, regardless of Lockdowns.

This Juvenile Kookaburra is a very welcome visitor, especially as a family of Kookaburras come to our garden every year in August, they are not regulars. I would like to think it is to show off the new baby, but in reality it is probably because we have plenty of birdbaths and veggie beds with worms in them.

The parent Kookaburra is taking his time at the blue birdbath.

Just before Lockdown began, we started moving all our books from a shelf near the kitchen. I pulled out a very old copy of my mother’s book, called Ouma’s Cookery Book. The first edition was published in 1940, in Pretoria, South Africa. My mother bought the seventh edition of this book in 1958. My sister-in-law has a recent edition. A publisher’s dream!

The book was compiled originally from recipes donated by women in South Africa between the first and second world wars. The first editions featured war-time recipes and gradually more recipes were added with each new edition. It is much more than just a recipe book, it has practical information on how to make do and feed a household, when times were tough. It is also full of quotes and comments and interesting social history, more relevant today with our current pandemic.

My mother, who’s own mother died when she was young, no doubt learnt all she needed to know from this book, especially when she and my father lived on a farm in a remote part of central Africa.

It is lovely to see Mum’s handwriting, she has hastily written her Lemon Delicious Pudding recipe, very popular with the whole family

Sadly it has been many years since I have used a recipe from this book, and it is only now that we are in Lockdown that I have time to go through it, and enjoy all the quotes, and perhaps try a recipe or two. (If I’m successful I’ll let you know)

I have also been reading an article in the British Edition of Country Living called To the Manor Reborn. It is the story of Raymond Blanc, a Michelin star chef and restaurant owner in London, who is recovering from Covid. He has had to work very hard to recover, and says during his recovery he thought of food and gardens, and remembered his childhood near Besancon in eastern France, where the family lived off homegrown vegetables and the odd rabbit.

The experience of Covid has changed his ideas of food.

‘I think the environment is going to define very much what we eat from now on, post-pandemic we’ll be all looking for local produce, there will be a re-discovery of lost skill. My mother created the full foundation of my food philosophy. She taught me about the soil, the environment, about joy, about sharing, about teaching.”

Since being interviewed, Raymond’s elderly mother died, and he has written a book called Simply Raymond: Recipes from Home. The book is dedicated to his mother.

It will be interesting to see how this pandemic changes us. I think there is already a rising interest in locally grown food, and we plan to increase our own garden beds with more of our produce in mind.

No matter how you get your food, the pandemic has shown me that sharing that food with friends and families is surely one of the most enjoyable experience in life. The recipe I distinctly remember as a child from Ouma’s cookery book was Koeksisters, a kind of doughy plait, exploding with syrup. Not the most healthy dish in the world, but a lovely plate to share with friends and family. South Africans are famous for their coffee, and I’m sure these Koeksisters are meant to accompany coffee or a Rooibos tea.

Koeksisters Recipe: photo by Introducing South Africa

Thank you for reading my blog today, and best wishes to everyone. May your garden, and your food and family and friends, sustain you during these Covid days.

21 Replies to “Birds, Ouma’s Cookery Book, Raymond Blanc with Covid: are we changing?”

  1. So sorry you are back in lockdown but at least Spring is on the way giving hope. The cookbook you refer to sounds fascinating, good luck with trying a recipe or two.

        1. Yes, Ouma’s cookery book has some fascinating recipes from before the war. I’ll have to try vegetarian Bobotie.

  2. Oh that is serious torture having to look and not smell or taste those koeksisters. Such wonderful memories of Africa – koeksisters were a key ingredient of the agricultural show – and that elicits another whole round of memories and smells.

  3. The photo of Koeksisters made my mouth water even though I’m not really into very sweet things any more. What a treasure your old cook book is. I’m sure there’s a recipe for Bobotie in there. I used to make a delicious vegetarian version. Your bird photos are lovely as always, Gerrie. Hope your lockdown doesn’t last too long. We could do with a good lockdown here in Florida as well as other states in the US, but that won’t happen and we’ll just ‘merrily’ jog along with people protesting masks and vaccines and continuing to spread the virus.

    1. There a two Bobotie recipes in the book, and my cousin’s family welcomed us with a lovely slightly changed recipe, which they have kindly passed on. I would love to have a vegetarian recipe too. Yes, I can see you would be frustrated by people complaining about masks vaccines etc. In Sydney and Melbourne people are starting to complain about Lockdowns…you couldn’t win really!

  4. Cockatoos are wonderful, but can also be a menace in the garden. Recently we’ve had quite a flock of them visiting, and I rather wish they wouldn’t as they are so big and damage our small trees.
    I like Ouma’s cookbook. What a treasure to have rediscovered.
    Good luck and say safe in Canberra. (We are in strict lockdown too).

    1. Oh yes, cockatoos are an absolute menace in the garden, especially in spring. We are always chasing them out of our flowering trees. During Floriade one year I saw a cockatoo walk along a row of tulips and it lopped every single tulip off and discarded it! Villains! Good luck in your Lockdown, ..the best place to be is in the garden!

  5. I have some of my Grandmother’s cookbooks, and they always make me smile with their common sense answers and simple but delicious recipes. Love your birds! I’m sorry you are in lockdown and wish we were. It’s rampaging through the US and almost no one is paying any attention. Lots of folks got a taste of normal and they’re full steam ahead regardless of the numbers which are climbing every day. Stay well, and enjoy your new found recipes and your garden visitors. I made zucchini coffee cake this afternoon and have dinner in the crockpot. 🙂

    1. Thanks Judy, yes I love the common sense and practical tips in old cookbooks. Sorry to hear that Covid is going through the US at such a rate….in Australia the Lockdowns this time round have been much harder, first to contain the virus, and second people are not as cooperative.(seems crazy to us!).
      In the meanwhile, our homes and gardens are lifesavers, your zucchini coffee cake sound lovely, I’m off to make a date loaf from my Ouma’s cookery book!

  6. We are not in lockdown but the Mayor of Chicago just mandated that all city employees must be vaccinated and the Governor has done the same for state employees working in congregate settings – prisons, hospitals, etc. The idiots are fighting it. I think if they were burning alive they would be against fire extinguishers. I just got a third shot, myself, because of the chemo. Anyway, I do love your birds. Do they migrate within Australia, or go north to SE Asia?

    1. Yes, we have our own idiots who would fight against fire extinguishers even if they were burning alive! The government here was slow to start vaccines this year, but is now aiming for 80% people to be vaccinated in each state before opening up to the outside world. That might take some time! Great to hear you have got the third shot, well worth getting a booster…hope the chemo treatment is manageable.
      Some of the Aussie birds migrate ..it is a mix. We have many more Sulphur Crested Cockatoos in Canberra since the bushfires, and once they realised how good suburbia is, they’re not going anywhere! I should do a post on that one, and find out more about the other birds movements in winter.

  7. Yes, it’s always good seeing nature doing it’s thing despite covid and lockdowns. That cockatoo had me smiling. Oh, that juvenile kookaburra….sighs. I’m so grateful to have seen them in the wild, What an interesting, practical cookbook, it must have been lovely seeing your mums handwriting again. I didn’t know Raymond had covid, I always watch his T.V show and enjoy his clean and often simple recipes. Yes, I agree with him, times are changing and many now want to be far more self-sufficient. Glad you are both double jabbed, here’s to things calming down. I expect all hell to break loose here soon.xxx

    1. It is interesting for me to know Raymond has a TV show, I’ll have to search for it. (we now have so many streaming channels, we’ve never watched as much TV as we have this year!)
      and yes, I thought I would like his cookery book. We are definitely going to grow more of our own food this year.
      Isn’t the baby kookaburra just the cutest thing? I love the way he/she comes right up to the plum tree which is near the kitchen window.
      I think the UK has done well with vaccinations haven’t they? We had a slow rollout, and hopefully we’ll get that settled this year. I hope you don’t get this Delta virus, but at least you are vaccinated. Enjoy your wonderful garden and produce.

    2. It is interesting for me to know Raymond has a TV show, I’ll have to search for it. (we now have so many streaming channels, we’ve never watched as much TV as we have this year!)
      and yes, I thought I would like his cookery book. We are definitely going to grow more of our own food this year.
      Isn’t the baby kookaburra just the cutest thing? I love the way he/she comes right up to the plum tree which is near the kitchen window.
      I think the UK has done well with vaccinations haven’t they? We had a slow rollout, and hopefully we’ll get that settled this year. I hopefully with your vaccinations you won’t be affected by the second wave. Enjoy your wonderful garden and produce.

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