Jou ma se solanum melongena

So the reason I went to Cape Town the other weekend was Ofer’s fiftieth, and Nicola organised a surprise party for him. Mika, Ruby, Josh and I subterfuged off early in the evening, ostensibly going to a movie, while we rushed to Anatoli in Greenpoint instead and pinned glittering decorations to the light fittings and the carpets on the wall.

Clusters of people arrived and we waited, drinking lots of excellent wine and later, when Ofer had been duly surprised and loaded with gifts and witty cards, eating way too much excellent food. A happy time was had by all. I hope. I thought everything was wonderful.

So when I got back to JHB I recounted the weekend in broad strokes to Carl – except for the part about the restaurant and the food. I thought anybody that regularly commuted to Cape Town knew Anatoli, but it turned out, not. So I elaborated: about how the waiter comes with a tray the size of table mountain brimming with delicious meze. The cold dishes – olives, hummus, marinated octopus, hundreds of luscious concoctions – he leaves with you as you choose, and the hot ones are on order – pastry filled with soft cheese, spicy meatballs and many other lovely things. Then they load piles of hot pita on the table. It was quite cruel, actually, when our guy came round to take orders for the main course, but I was brave.

I had the vegetarian option. It was aubergine in a way I had never eaten it. I think it was boiled, but the texture was silky, it was fragrant, still firm and covered in an extraordinary tomato sauce. I make a pretty decent one myself, with cinnamon and garlic, but this one had small dark berries, the size of pepper corns, squishy and sweet. I was quite taken with the discovery of something so unusual, and at the same time, delicious.

So, charmed even by the memory of the dish, I guess I did go on about it for a bit. Carl looked a little puzzled, and I did not, considering the recentness of our er… liaison, understand why. I thought that I was perhaps explaining badly, so I tried harder… texture, taste, colour, fragrance. But the look did not quite go away. Eventually I stopped.

And then he said… “Eggplant?”

And he looked at me, still puzzled.

The moment was both funny and illuminating. I guess one person’s aubergine is another’s eggplant and no yummy tomato sauce is going to change that.

Anyway. The other thing that was funny recently was the banner a rugby fan waved at the Bokke-Italy game on Saturday. It read, “Jou ma se pasta”. I would have liked it even more if we did not quite thrash the Azzuri the way we did. I so hoped for even one try, and when it came, was very pleased relieved.

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