Age is a funny thing. You don’t feel old, you may not look old, but every now and then you have a flash of realisation that the world has changed so much since you were a kid that you must, to some extent, be old. Or at least older than some people! I look at my young nephews aged 4 and 7, and how much TV they watch (and they would watch a whole lot more if mom and dad would let them!). If I were to tell them that there was no TV in South Africa until I was 7 years old, they would look at me with blank incomprehension. No TV? What did you do?! And mentioning the fact that there were no remote controls in those days but that you had to get up and go and adjust the volume button by hand would bring waves of helpless hilarity. Funny Aunty Jeanne!
I also remember growing up in a world where there were: no shopping malls; grocery stores that would still let you phone your order through, select and pack your goods for you, and deliver them to your door with a smile; aeroplanes where you could smoke all the way from Cape Town to Cairo; and no McDonalds until I was in my 20s (a blessing, if you ask me). Clearly I grew up in Atlantis – or I may as well have. The world I knew has sunk without a trace!
We finally did get our first proper shopping mall in my city when I was just entering high school, and Greenacres was conveniently located a 5 minute walk from my school. My brother’s school finished about an hour after mine, which meant that my mom and I always had an hour or so to fill after she picked me up, and seeing as my mom would have held an Olympic medal in shopping, the mall seemed the obvious place to go. By the time we picked up my brother at 3, he would have eaten lunch and it would be too late for us to go home and make lunch for ourselves, so more often than not, we ended up eating at the mall. The eating options were limited in those days – a Wimpy (burgers), a second outlet that I can’t recall now, and a new place called Juicy Lucy.
I think it was the lure of freshly squeezed juices that first brought us to their take-away counter, and soon it became or regular lunch venue – to the extent that the staff knew us by name. Juicy Lucy always used to (and still does) focus on wholesome food as opposed to burgers and chips, so my mom did not feel she was feeding me total junk. The watermelon juice was legendary and there was little better on a hot summer afternoon. But when it came to food, there was only one choice for me: a Cheeza*! This cheese-lover’s delight was a slice of rye bread topped with a mixture of grated Cheddar cheese, tangy mayonnaise, and an optional ingredient (I recall mushrooms, spring onions or salami). The whole thing was then popped into the (super-modern and progressive!) microwave on its polystyrene plate, to be returned to you in a few minutes as a bubbling cheese duvet of deliciousness. To me, it was perfection on a plate, and the minute my mom relented and bought a microwave for our kitchen, we started making a version of these babies at home.
Today, the world has changed unrecognisably – and not always for the better. Port Elizabeth seems to have a shopping mall on every corner. Kids spend more time watching TV than playing outdoors. McDonalds has colonised every suburb. Nobody knows their grocer by name. But I am pleased to say that Juicy Lucy is still selling their freshly squeezed juices - and still selling Cheezas*, albeit now with far more interesting toppings!
Sadly, the Juicy Lucy franchise does not extend to the UK, but that’s no problem – I’ve been making my own Cheezas* at home for years! Nick and I spent this past weekend doing some Spring cleaning at home and lunch needed to be a quick and filling affair. And when I remembered the Twitter discussion I had had earlier with my fellow #Cheesesluts Nina of My Easy Cooking, Marisa of The Creative Pot, Nicola of Wots for Lunch? and Colleen of Browniegirl, challenging us all to make something cheesy for the weekend, I realised that lunch could only be one thing: salami Cheezas*!
For the #Cheeseslut in all of us
SALAMI CHEEZAS* (serves 2)
2 slices of good brown or rye bread
1 cup (or more!) grated mature Cheddar
3-4 Tbsp tangy mayonnaise (use Crosse & Blackwell if you are in South Africa)
1 spring onion (green and white parts), finely chopped
1/2 cup diced salami
In a bowl, mix the cheese, mayo, salami and spring onion well.
Spread a little butter on each slice of bread (optional, but it helps keep the topping in place as you spread it). Spoon half the mixture onto each slice and spread as evenly as possible, ensuring that you cover the bread right to the edges. Place the slices on individual plates and microwave separately for 1 minute each on high, or until the cheese in the centre starts to melt.
* Cheeza is a registered trademark belonging to Juicy Lucy.