Another week, another meme! This one has actually been around for a while but between my and Ilva‘s hectic schedules she only recently managed to send me the questions, and I have only just managed to answer! The idea is that you volunteer to be interviewed – which I did, and so the lovely Ilva has sent me the five burning questions that she has always wanted to ask me 🙂
1. I’m curious about the differences between the English spoken in South Africa and in the UK. How do they differ?
Well, at first you don’t think they’ll differ much because we were an British colony until quite recently. But it is only once you get over here that you see the subtle differences. I say subtle because the differences are not nearly as noticeable as with American English. Our spelling has remained British (we still remember that there is a “u” in words like colour and odour and fervour; and we fly aeroplanes not airplanes) and we adhere more closely to British pronounciation (think aluminium, lieutenant and schedule). There is also a far greater variation in regional accents in the UK than in South Africa. I can just about hear if somebody is from Johannesburg, Cape Town or Durban, but here in London, even people from north or south London have different accents! And we won’t even start with Geordie, Brummie or Scouse accents…
Some figures of speech that I took for granted in SA either don’t exist in the UK or have a different meaning. If I say “that repairman knew his stuff – he was really jacked-up”, people in London look at me very strangely (they might understand clued-up better). And of course the famous example is the liberal South African use of the phrase “just now”. If you ask me to do something and I say I’ll do it “just now”, I could mean anything from “in a minute” to “when I feel like it” to “I don’t really want to do it and I hope if I avoid it long enough you’ll stop asking”! To an Englishman, it usually means “in the recent past”, as in “where has she gone? She was here just now”.
As far as vocab goes, South Africa’s rich mix of cultures and languages has meant that we have all sorts of words that simply do not exist in the UK. Here is a brief list of my favourites, some of which are slang:
babbelas (from Zulu) – hangover
bakkie – a pickup truck or utility truck
bergwind (from Afrikaans) – an unseasonally warm, dry wind blowing off the interior towards the sea
braai (from Afrikaans) – barbecue
bru (from brother, bro) – mate, as in “howzit, bru”
china (from Cockney rhyming slang “china plate) – mate, friend
donner (from Afrikaans) – to beat up as in “careful – he’s going to donner you!”
eina (from Afrikaans) – ouch
fundi (from Zulu/Xhosa) – expert
howzit (how’s it) – how are things going; hello
kak (from Afrikaans) – crap
kiff (from Arabic) – excellent, cool
kugel (from Yiddish) – an overly-groomed and materialistic young Jewish lady. Like the Sloane Rangers in England, they form their own social stratum in Johannesburg!
laanie; larney – well-to-do, fancy as in “that was a larney party at the embassy last night”
lekker (from Afrikaans) – nice, good
naartjie (from Afrikaans) – fruit like a tangerine
takkies – trainers or sneakers
robots – traffic lights
shot – well done as in “shot, bru, for passing your exam”
yebo (from Zulu/Xhosa) – yes
2. What’s your favourite food?
Oooooh, not a fair question! Too many to choose from!
As far as cuisines go, I have always loved Italian food: I love the vibrant tastes and the focus on fantastic ingredients, and the rustic simplicity. In recent years, though, I have become equally fond of Spanish food, for very much the same reasons. I love the strident flavours and because I love picking at lots of little different plates, I adore tapas. And after a visit to northern Mexico in 2005, I am now also hooked on Mexican food, but the Real Deal – not Tex-Mex!
As for individual dishes or foods I love, the list is ridiculous. A good cassoulet sends shivers of ecstasy down my spine. Foie gras was a huge revelation to me when I first tasted it, and now I’m hooked. Almost any thin-crust pizza (Roman style) gets my vote, but particularly a quattro formaggi. A buffalo mozzarella and basil pizza from Luzzo’s in Manhattan will also do the trick 😉 There is little as satisfying as a good Caesar salad, and with a seared salmon steak on top it makes the perfect meal. I am crazy about delicate deep-fried courgette flowers, stuffed with goats cheese and drizzled with honey. Tacos al pastor, cut off the rotisserie in front of you, with fresh pineapple are fantastic. And when I’m feeling homesick, nothing encapsulates the taste of home for me like boerewors.
As far as individual ingredients are concerned, my eureka moment was when I first tasted Jamon Iberico de bellota (cured ham made from pigs fed on acorns). The perfect marbling of the meat, the melt-in-the-mouth texture, the smoky-nutty flavour… It was sensory overload. I adore and miss plentiful, cheap creamy avocado pear, mashed on toast with a little salt and pepper. Fresh cherries are the poor man’s best luxury. Broad beans have just completely won my heart, especially when mixed with the aforementioned Jamon Iberico 😉 Cheese of almost any description is my weakness, particularly hard cheese like pecorino, but I do remember some creamy brie with truffles that blew my mind. A good pistachio ice cream is a joy and my gold-standard to determine whether an ice-cream parlour knows their stuff. And Berthillon’s salted butter caramel ice cream is God’s gift to the ice cream world.
3. You travel a lot and I wonder which means of travel do you prefer? (I mean, train, air plane, donkey, bike -you name it) Fast or slow?
Generally, fast rather than slow! If I could invent one thing, it would be a teleportation device that would beam me to my destination in seconds, without all the hassle of modern travel! There is no glamour left in flying and although it’s the method of travel I most often use, it is also my least favourite. However, when you only have so many days of holiday a year and you need to get to the tip of Africa to see your family, flying really is the only way. My current favourite airline is Swiss, but my best ever experience was a Grand Class flight on Austrian Airlines.
Travel by boat is really only something I want to do on rivers (or maybe in the Mediterranean/Caribbean) where I can go ashore almost every day. It is a fantastic way to see lots of places without having to unpack and repack all the time, but I get seasick, so an Atlantic crossing would be out of the question without lots of Avomine 😉 I also get bored and claustrophobic on boats, hence the requirement to go ashore often. But river cruises are a different story and I would do one a year if they were a little more affordable…
In South Africa, I love driving long distances as the roads are good and relatively empty and I usually know where I’m going. Driving in the UK us a lot more stressful because even great big roads tend to have roundabouts on them and it takes you ages to get anywhere. But of course the advantage of driving is that when you see that farm stall selling fresh asparagus, you can just pull over. We’ll be driving from London to Austria soon and I can’t wait!
Given a choice I would probably travel everywhere by train. You get to see the countrside, you can enjoy a meal at a proper table and you can sleep in a proper bed. I have happy memories of travelling from Port Elizabeth to Johanesburg by train with my family as a child, taking two days to get there and loving the whole adventure. The person who builds a high-speed track from London to South Africa, and puts a luxury train into service on it, would be my hero.
4. Is it exploring a place that attracts you or the actual act of travelling?
As I said above, the actual act of travelling is usually unglamorous and stressful these days, so I guess it’s exploring a place that attracts me. But on the other hand, I tend to return over and over again to favourite destinations (like Paris). In those cases it’s no longer the exploring that appeals to me, but the luxury of familiarity with a glamorous foreign city. My favourite thing about visiting a new place is not knowing whether I will like it and then after about 24 hours starting to form an opinion of it, based solely on what I have experienced, as opposed to anybody else’s thoughts. I mostly travel with my husband and I do find, though, that we have very different ideas about travelling. He likes to make a list of all the most important sights and then is willing to dash around at Mach 2, barely stopping to eat, in order to feel that he has sufficiently “done” a place. I, on the other hand, feel the need to sit still in a new city, breathe in its smells, taste its wine and watch its people in order for my brain to process where I am and to fix my own personal feelings about the place in my memory. I am never happier than when I’m travelling, listening to the call to prayer in the spice souk in Dubai; walking on Venice Beach, LA before breakfast; watching the Alhambra change colour in the setting sun; or eating ice cream on the Spanish Steps.
5. What made you start a food blog?
I love eating. I love writing. I love an audience.
Want to join in? It’s really easy to participate, and for a change, I don’t have to tag victims – you volunteer to take part and I’ll do the rest.
1. Leave a comment here saying, “Interview me!” (and please make sure you fill in your e-mail address in the appropriate box!). Alternatively you can e-mail me on jeanne AT 501 DOT co DOT za with “Interview Me!” as the subject line.
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. I promise it won’t be anything tooo personal, but we gotta keep things interestng too!
3. You then compose answers to the questions and post them on your own blog, and pls send me the link so I can link to your answers.
4. You must include this explanation of the meme and offer to interview someone else in the same post as your answers.
5. And when others contact you asking to be interviewed, you will take on the role of interviewer and e-mail them five questions.