About Me

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Hello! Welcome to my online travel-food-life journal/virtual scrapbook. I am a poet, playwright, journalist, editor and basic jack-of-all-trades writer. I was born in El Salvador and raised in Minnesota. I have just returned home from a year and a half in South Africa.

19 May 2011

A Chorizo by another name ... makes Commie-Pirate-Love-Cat Chicken Pot Pie

Here's another little update on our food adventures ...

So, this is what you find when you go hunting for Spanish Chorizo in Cape Town:

I was all, OK, so it looks like chorizo, through the packaging (hey dude, stop staring) it kinda smells like chorizo ... but "caurisco?"  Hey, what's life without a few culinary risks, right?

Thankfully, it was indeed chorizo, and with it, I made a quick eggplant and chorizo dish with rice ... not so pretty, but so yummy!

Then there was the pea and potato curry (from Evita's cookbook):

Here it is with Raita (Greek yogurt, grated cucumber and cumin) and fresh Naan from a place up the street.
And when we tired of curry leftovers, I turned it into my own creation, 
"Curry Pie!":

Super easy to do with pre-bought puff pastry.

Here is a Salvadoran seafood stew that Aaron made:

 It's got green and red peppers, mixed olives, onions, lots of garlic & seasonings and a mix of calamari, mussels and prawns.  DROOL.

Another Salvadoran meal, Chuletas Entomatadas - Porkchops in Tomato Sauce.

A delicious arepa -- which is my current solution to my need for corn tortillas -- I'll explain my increasingly frantic quest in detail later ...

Speaking of ... here's a quick lunch which consisted of a reheated fried fajita-taquito-enchilada thing and salad.  My bastard taquito thing was a desperate attempt to use up a pack of TEN DOLLAR flour tortillas before they went bad, cuz I wasn't about to throw away $10 tortillas!  Hey, any enterprising tortilla makers out there?  Get your asses to Cape Town!

Another quickie lunch, chickpea salad (half-mushed can of chickpeas, diced carrots and green pepper, olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, lemon juice and red wine vinegar) and poached chicken.

Some churros y chocolate I got at a local restaurant called Sofia's - verrrry good!

And last, but certainly not least, indeed, I would say it is the Pièce de résistance: our "Commie-Pirate-Love-Cat Chicken Pot Pie":

Aaron loves a pie -- Shepard's Pie, Cottage Pie, a Chilean "Pastel de Choclo", any kind of fruit pie of course ... so, in good wifely fashion, I acted as his sous chef as he prepared his masterpiece -- our very own Chicken Pot Pie!  From scratch!  Well, except for the pastry, which was once again puff pastry -- hey, don't judge.

Here is it naked, in all it's gloriously creamy made-with-homemade-chicken-stock-that-I'd-never-have-time-to-make-at-home gravy.

Then we got creative with the crust.

And ooooh, look how purrty it came out of the oven.

Yes, that's a hammer and sickle (guess who put that on?)

And take a guess at who made my cute kitty a bad-ass pirate cat.  Yeah.

So anyhoo, it tasted as good as it looked.

All I can say is:

18 May 2011

Election Day

Today is election day in South Africa, it is what in the U.S. we would call a mid-term election, with local seats up for grabs.

As a complete novice, I can't begin to adequately address the complex, polarized and racially-charged world of South African politics.

So I thought I would mark the day by honoring the courage it took to bring democracy to all citizens in South Africa.

Down at the end of our block is St. George's Cathedral, Archbishop Desmond Tutu's church. In the base of the Cathedral is a small museum which honors the 1989 "Peace March."

On September 13 of that year, 30,000 people from a diverse cross-section of the city marched in support of peace and the end of apartheid.

It is a small, but incredibly powerful display, with pictures and video from the day. 

The photos gave me the shivers.  One in which a marcher is carrying a sign that reads "bread not bullets" almost made me cry, as it is the same message carried in signs in El Salvador during the civil war, and is the theme of one of my favorite poems by one of my favorite poets, the Salvadoran Roque Dalton.


And as I sat and listened to the speeches that were made at the end of the march, I got the same goosebumps I always get when I hear Martin Luther King's "I have a dream speech."  It was the same kind of a moment here in South Africa, a little over 21 years ago.

I sat there and really "got" that if I had been in South Africa  at that time, as a "coloured" person, my civil rights, my White husband ... all would have been in jeopardy.

It was an inspiring and humbling moment, for sure.

Here is what the display says:

1989, 6 September, Cape Town:  The brutality and violence that escalated throughout South Africa during the 1980s culminated in the deaths of yet another 23 people at the hand of the apartheid police force ... The people were boycotting the tri-cameral parliament election.  That night Archbishop Desmond Tutu retreated into his chapel to pray and emerged with a call for a march.

And we came, from all corners of Cape Town:  labourers, factory workers, domestic workers, students, teachers, artists, governmental officials, office workers, clergy, professionals, mass democratic movement cadres:  all activists for change drawn together by a common vision of a more just and compassionate nation, on the day we marched peacefully through our City.

What was to be remembered as the "Peace March" set in motion similar marches across South African and hundreds of thousands of people signaled with one voice their demand for an end to the violence and a change to the social order.

And here is Roque Dalton's poem, in English and its original Spanish:

"Like You"
By Roque Dalton
(Translated by Jack Hirschman)

Like you I
love love, life, the sweet smell
of things, the sky-
blue landscape of January days.

And my blood boils up
and I laugh through eyes
that have known the buds of tears.
I believe the world is beautiful
and that poetry, like bread, is for everyone.

And that my veins don’t end in me
but in the unanimous blood
of those who struggle for life,
little things,
landscape and bread,
the poetry of everyone.

"Como Tú"
Por Roque Dalton

Yo como tú
amo el amor,
la vida,
el dulce encanto de las cosas
el paisaje celeste de los días de enero.

También mi sangre bulle
y río por los ojos
que han conocido el brote de las lágrimas.
Creo que el mundo es bello,
que la poesía es como el pan,
de todos.

Y que mis venas no terminan en mí,
sino en la sangre unánime
de los que luchan por la vida,
el amor,
las cosas,
el paisaje y el pan,
la poesía de todos.

17 May 2011

I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree ...

OR: A little celebration of Mother Nature in all her South African glory!

So 2 weekends ago we went to an ecology, biology & sustainable environment expo at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens.  While there we were able to tour around some of the gardens (not all because it's so flipping huge.)

I've been meaning to post about it since, but I took over 300 pictures and I've had to go through them & edit!  In fact, this will be the first of several posts about Kirstenboch because there's just so much.  So in this post, I'll cover the grounds and gardens.

The reason that I took so many pictures is that just about every plant I saw was entirely new to me.  As I mentioned previously, South Africa's flora is utterly unique. 

A place like this reminds you of how important bio-diversity is and makes you stand back, a little slack jawed, at the sheer beauty around you.  Reminds you how precious it all is.


And just from an adventuress-kind-of-a-way, it was amazing -- like I was stepping back in time, walking among plants that looked like a dinosaur might have munched on ...

Unfortunately, I couldn't get the names of all the plants (I was already slowing my group down with my incessant picture taking) but I'll give info where I can.

First, from my guidebook**:
Kirstenbosch, one of the world's great botanical gardens, was established in 1913 to protect the immense floral wealth of the Western Cape.  On the eastern slopes of Table Mountain ... the lower slopes are planted with luch indigenous flora, blending into a natural cover of fynbos and forest at higher altitudes, accessible by a network of footpaths.

The view as we walked up to the gardens...

My first view of the gardens reminded me of seeing my first pyramid in Tikal, Guatemala.  The trees open up and all of a sudden there is this imposing, rocky behemoth in front of you...

A rare "bird of paradise" flower that took 13 or 14 years to hybridize, called "Mandela's Gold," in honor of former President Mandela of course.

a Wild Iris

These flowers feel completely dry, I think they're nicknamed "paper flowers."

Close-up of a cork tree.

The view was amazing


Proteas -- There are numerous types of these amazing plants throughout the gardens.

This is a white Protea and as you can see, it's fuzzy when it's budding.


These "Ericas" were sticky when you touched them.




At some point, we wandered into the Cycad Garden, the garden's oldest section.  It features a stream and a little pond as well as ancient cycads whose spiky leaves evolved over 200 million years ago: 

Aaron, modeling for scale. Very dinosaur-like, right? (I mean the plant, of course, hee!  Oh shut up, I know I'm corny!)


And finally, here are a few of the critters we saw along the way ... (there was a shy mongoose we couldn't capture, as well as some gorgeous sun birds -- the closest thing to hummingbirds here -- that also wouldn't sit still!)
What up, dude?

 An Egyptian Goose, whose habitat is all over Africa, just not Egypt of course...

An ibis, here they call them "hadedas" (pronounced ha-dee-hahs)

 And Guinea Fowl were everywhere ...

So there you go, that's part one of ... who knows how many Kirstenbosch posts I'll end up doing ...

And kids, remember, wherever you may be, make sure to take a moment and smell the roses (or proteas, as the case may be!) 

* title of post comes from a poem by Joyce Kilmer
**Top 10 Cape Town and the Winelands by Eyewitness Travel