A weekend away

I think the final count was something like 27 bottles of wine, eight bottles of vodka, four bottles of whiskey and a couple of beers.  We were 12 for the duration, but a bunch of extras joined in on Saturday.  I cannot quite believe the numbers as I did not do the calculation myself, but generally they are uncontested.

The weekend was always going to be a decadent one.  But we were celebrating not only Bridget’s birthday, we were saying cheers, in a way, to her childhood home and the place of many rites of passage.

I brought Jack*, thinking at the time that I may well find eight hours to spend on getting my abstract right and fixing my essay on the tabloids.  We were, after all, going to be in the company of hard-core party vets who were bound to sleep until mid-day.  On Friday night I retired at ten while feeling still fairly sober.  Of course when I got to bed and the spinning started, this turned out to be an illusion.

As was the notion that the HPV’s would be lying low until after lunch.  The girls must be admired especially.  It is unbelievable how much stamina and resilience can be packed into a size twenty eight pair of Diesel jeans.  Perfect highlights, big glasses and a couple of runny eggs later, they were as ready to go as three-year old fillies on race day at Turfontein.  Chomping at the bit. It was amazing. The fact that they looked like famous rock-stars to boot was particularly infuriating. Give or take five years we are about the same age. How DO they do it?

But I like them a lot, and it would not have been gracious to sulk.

Anyway. We had Bloody Marys at ten, shots of vodka at eleven, and opened the first bottle of Krone shortly after that. This was followed by a bottle of Villiera Brut Rose. Then we abused all colours of wine for the rest of the day so it passed languidly in a happy haze. Lunch was prawns and boerewors… after lunch I made the Gateaux Laurence.  (I should just call it The Cake. As it stands, it sounds very complicated when it really is ridiculously easy to make). The final election results came in. Michael pointed out that the two-thirds majority-thing was a bit of red herring. We could not quite figure out why it had been such a bête noire.

We chose not to try, and instead we retired to the lounge and played Agatha Idols. I was Jana from Killarney, I sang Janis Joplin’s (of course) Bobby McGee and won the first round. I was very proud. Later I told Brad that to this day I have a secret yearning to be a doo-wap girl. (We sang Happy Birthday many, many times.)

In the early evening we lit the fires and ate the cake, incredulously, in tiny slices, while it was still slightly warm, and before the chocolate icing had set. It was delicious. Even Bridge ate some, and she does not have a single sweet tooth in her mouth.

Some went to bed late, some early.  

Sunday started with more of the same, except that there were newspapers. A few wandered off to the Coach House for a classical music recital. I stayed in the room having fought and beaten various challengers to one of the two copies of the Sunday Times that were floating about. Later I walked through the famous gardens of Kings Walden. At the end of my stroll I found Bridget and Paige on the stoep under the dead tree and we opened up the last bottle of pink bubbly.

And so the last day started.  People came back from all over and we ordered pizza for lunch.

There is something profoundly lovely about spending an entire weekend either pissed or pleasantly hung over. Events have more meaning in the moment, and are funnier in retrospect. It was also great to reconnect with people I have not seen for years.

It occurred to me, for the first time, that if friendships were organic… eh… organisms, and if they had, as a result, a limited shelf-life, surely then by the same token, they should be recyclable? I wondered about old friends and things that come and go, and come back again.

It was a great weekend.


* I have decided to find a name for the laptop, as I spend more time in bed with it (I especially love the morning lie-ins on the weekends with the newspapers) than I do with an actual man.  I am trying “Jack” for the moment.

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Way retro chocolate fridge cake

I just realised that in the “love your smile” Dentyne ad, there are almost only white people. It has a cast of about 20, and I think there may be one coloured girl in the “group photo” scene on a beach.  And the cop may have been black, but it is impossible to be sure unless you have PVR. Any clarification would be appreciated. The overall impression is white, though. Was it shot in this country?

It’s very retro for us, that. We had happy lifestyle commercials depicting a homogenous, colour-free society long before 1994, or even 1990. Lies lies lies, my art teacher confirmed to our rosy-cheeked, if not necessarily -spectacled, class somewhere in the middle 80’s, staying our brushes and alarming our futures.

The commercials in which mothers-and-daughters do merry bake-offs (have you noticed how they STILL recycle those – clearly AI (the ad industry) only has sporadic inspiration from its master) was not something that really resonated with me. In my mother’s eyes, the microwave was a gift sent directly to her kitchen from God, and we rarely had a meal that was cooked in more than ten minutes.  Not that this was necessarily bad. She made, for example, a chocolate oil cake in this very microwave that was truly heavenly – or truly evil, if you like. My mother understood the dangers of the “devil’s food” lurking in a tin of cocoa. She passed on both this knowledge and the understanding that it is imperative to ignore it.  Even so, she no longer makes this legendary cake, which really is a pity.

I guess, in the light of this, it makes sense that the only actual recipe that I managed to take with me when I moved into digs without a microwave was for something she called sjokolade yskaskoek.  The recipe was in a little blue book. I am not sure why I think that a chocolate fridge cake is retro. Maybe because while it is ridiculously easy to make, it is decadent in the extreme. Also, it does not require a single ingredient that you could not find at the shop at the garage, (Thrupps… what?) most notably, two packets of marie biscuits. I think that is it. In this country, anything with marie biscuits is retro. At a time in my student life when I called myself a vegetarian, I survived on slap chips and salad rolls from Bambi’s, toasted sandwiches from Kaif, beer, and chocolate fridge cake.

(Okay, I exaggerate. I did get dinner at the Cathcart Arms when I was on shift, and I did walk to my parents’ for lunch from time to time.)

So here is the recipe:

  1. A cup of butter (it looks like about 250g)
  2. A cup of sugar (250ml)
  3. 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence
  4. 2 tablespoons of cocoa
  5. 2 eggs
  6. 2 packets of marie biscuits

 Melt the sugar in the butter over low heat. If you make sure the sugar is melted, it will be better, but it’s not imperative. Add the two tablespoons of cocao, stir in until dissolved. Take off the heat. Add the vanilla. Lightly beat the eggs, add to the hot cocoa mixture. The eggs might cook – this is good, I think.

Crunch up the two packets of biscuits roughly. Stir in. You are going to think that two packets are too many but they are not. You will make a very thick, sticky mess. Keep on mixing until the biscuits are covered in the cocoa.

Butter a dish with a low – 5cm-ish – rim. If you choose a round/oval one, you can eat all the off-cuts when you eventually portion the cake into squares, and that, like, doesn’t count.  Press the mixture firmly in. Refrigerate for a couple of hours, until firm.  (It gets very very firm. You may want to portion it before it is completely set.) Cut in squares and eat. Even though it is hard, try to share and not to eat everything in one day because one does get quite sick.

Bête Noire, MTN and chocolate cake

I am not sure why I do not use the internet more judiciously. I could argue that it is because my Mweb/MTN-3G/HSDPA connection has mostly been in a coma recently, but when I chose a name for my blog it was uncharacteristically operational, and hence, that would be lie.

Whatever. Point is that this morning I actually looked up “Bête Noire” for the first time in Wikipedia, (on someone else’s computer) and found an eclectic gathering under its umbrella. It was a ‘Word of the Day’ sometime in January, and I liked it a lot. It did not occur to me at the time, however, that so many others might also have found some use for it. It is a very sexy term, after all, AND French.

Even though I am a very big Brian Ferry fan, (well, from “Boys and Girls” onwards anyway) I did not know that Bête Noire was a Roxy Music album title. There is also an episode of NCIS called so, it is a song by the The Gutter Twins (no idea), and it is big in the world of the comic strip and the comic book: Bête Noire is the universe of Fallen Angel; the kitten in the strip Gordo by Gus Arriola; and it is both a comic book and a comic book anthology, according to my source of information.

Lastly, but certainly not least, La Bête Noire is a flourless French chocolate cake. One that appears to be both dangerous and delicious: the kind that makes your eyes roll back in your head with pleasure. Continue reading