No escape goat

Popular opinion had it, and I knew this to be the popular opinion because I had been for a haircut, that the floods of vehicles in the Karoo were heading for the Kunstefees in Oudtshoorn. The previous week, however, when there was no flood but a dribble, they had been heading, as I had, for the Jansenville Goat and Mohair Festival.

A huge, white, eight-peaked tent had sprung up in the rocky Karoo landscape. Space-station Mir had landed, it seemed, in the middle of the veld, surrounded by satellites sprouting toy shops, pizza boats, cake-sellers, a Hyundai dealer from Queenstown and an optimistic awning marked ‘Let’s talk about Sox’. I’d never thought of the people of Jansenville as great sock-wearers, and these weren’t even mohair socks, but these chaps had come all the way from George in the hope of tapping into a new market.

‘Soek Oom blou of pienk spookasem?’ Not a candyfloss fan (any more than I was this child’s uncle) I wasn’t too keen on ghost’s breath of any colour. The all-pervading smell of this, mixed with boerewors and goats, alive and dead, was heavy in the heat, but Jansenville was a community in celebration. The Mayor spoke at arguably unjustifiable length about how fabulous it was that the Ikwezi Municipality had laid all this on and that all the hotel beds in the town were full as a result. There must be all of about 10 hotel beds in Jansenville but the people clapped him politely as if this were a momentous thing.

Big goat-farmers, VIP badges hanging around their necks in case there was any doubt, strutted around under the shady canopy of a high roof and cheered on the Drummies, with their different coloured faces and similar-coloured legs as they pounded the dust in the sun. The enthusiasm was tangible and, judging from the abandon with which the squad-members were waving their flags as if it were the end of a Grand Prix and hurling their maces into the air (and not necessarily catching them), woe betide anybody who upset the trompoppies’. Impalement was a real risk.

Through the crowd, children of all hues and cries ran helter-skelter, armed with firecrackers and toy guns loaded with yellow plastic pellets. I was just waiting for the sting of a bullet so that I could practise my Afrikaans invective, but these farm kids were good shots. The poor toddler who turned out to have been the target almost lost an eye and his mother, in a black De La Rey 1901 T-shirt, went thundering into the masses bawling ‘Wie het my kind geskiet?’ She was big and her daughter was probably armed with a mace so the crowd promptly scattered rather than confess and again the dust flew.

On cue, the Fire Service bakkie hurtled in to hose down for the next act. Everybody was waiting for Karen Kortje, the Idols winner, to perform but it was announced that, as it was so hot, she would not appear till the evening. I downed my third Coke. This being the Karoo, it was cheaper than iced water. You could get a pannekoek for R3 but a Coke was R4.50 and water was R5.

A marshmallow-eating competition followed (for children only), compered with boundless enthusiasm by Mr Magic (with his very clever invisible dog) and Clinton Barrett from Rainbow FM. The Mayor was asked to judge this and to choose the best dancer to ‘Stand up for the Champions’. He did both with a good grace and with no thought to political-correctitude. Marshmallow-eating, it seems, falls outside the sports quotas.

A twister blew in as the stage hosted a shining act by six lads, in jazzy golden waistcoats and black felt hats, performing an energetic cross between Singing in the Rain and The Black and White Minstrel Show. They were followed, with a boxing-and-dance routine to the strains of Mandoza, by the intriguingly-named Manne van Vetkoek Paleis who actually hailed from Klipplaat down the road, as did the five alarmed-looking angora goats that arrived next for the shearing competition (winning time 9 minutes 8 seconds).

They’d thought of everything. There were even face-painters and two jumping castles, one, inexplicably, free and another charging R2 for 10 minutes, to keep the smallest goat-fanciers busy whilst Pa was in the VO Wellington tent and Ma was in the shearing-shed selling Mohair blankets. I so wanted to ask someone what a mo looked like and what its natural hair-colour was but I decided I’d be better off discussing this with Soekie when next I went for a haircut.

I wished I could have stayed longer but I knew that, if I waited till after dark I might well see Karen Kortje and I’d get to go to the Chicken Braai and Sokkie, but I’d also probably hit a goat on the way home and I’d seen enough of those for one day.

Wild and woolly on the mohair route

Mrs Ball, you have been outdone. For all the fact that you have recently extended your range of chutneys (from the Hindi catni, a condiment), you cannot come close to the range of blatjang (from the Malay belachan, a condiment) available at the Noorsveld Farmstall.

They’ve got Beet Chutney, Citrus Chutney, Tomato, Sweet Tomato, Fig, Strong Tomato, Sweet Chilli Fig, and Chilli Tomato Chutney. If it can be chutnied, they’ve chutnied it. If it can be pickled, they’ve pickled it. If it can be jammed, they’ve jammed it too, including kumquats and ghokums and all manner of other strange things. You need an etymological dictionary just to understand the basic ingredients and a dentist’s appointment to clean you up after you’ve ploughed your way through the koeksisters, the pineapple marmalade and the prickly pear syrup.
Noorsveld is also the home of the kudu salami and the best game pasty in the land. You can wrap everything up in a mohair blanket with some Wallacedale marinated olives, a jar of garlic soaked in mustard and mint, a slab of dripping, some home-made bread, some biltong and a packet of kuduwiele (particularly toothsome slices of kudu droewors) and life’s a picnic.

Do NOT miss this place. Even if the flags outside look a bit worn, the range of lekker goodies inside is unbeatable.

Noorsveld Farmstall, Jansenville, E. Cape 049 836 0339

Hands in

What is the capital of Tanzania? Wrong! It’s Dodoma, a quirky country town right at the geographical centre of the country and with a population of 325,000, compared with almost ten times that number in its predecessor as capital. Dar es Salaam lost the title to this country bumpkin in the mid-1970’s after a referendum.

I somehow doubt that the South African government could win such a plebiscite to obtain permission to move our state capital to our geographical centre, Douglas, 107 km west of Kimberley, although, being at the confluence of the Vaal, Orange and Riet rivers, there could be worse suggestions and the Griquas would be delighted. Dodoma, against similar odds, prevailed.

However, capital city or not, Dar, as it is affectionately known, is a strangely beguiling place. Addis, of course, is not in Dar, it is in Ethiopia, but there is, nevertheless, a little and very important bit of Addis Ababa in Dar, down Ursino Street, a bumpy backstreet off Migombani Street to the north of the city.

If you didn’t know, you’d never find it. I was very relieved to have a pre-negotiated 5000-shilling taxi as I was far from convinced that the driver of the traditionally suspension-free Corolla knew the way either. It was R25 well spent. Or maybe he was simply too absorbed by our discussion of the iniquities in the judging of the previous evening’s Miss Tanzania competition and missed the turning a few times.

Addis in Dar is a restaurant and it is, not to beat about the suburban bush, superb. An unimposing entrance to what looks like (and obviously once was) a rather unattractive two-storey house, deceives the visitor into low expectations, as does a lack of reception of any kind. Wandering around downstairs amongst the camel portraits, pans and pipes, we wondered whether we had stumbled on a Bedouin’s town house but, bravely venturing up the stairs, we uncovered why we had been told that we MUST come here. Out on the huge balcony, perched on upholstered stools with comfortably sloping backs, at Ethiopian Messob tables, were the faithful, and the place has quite a following.

Tanzanians are naturally unassuming and respectful people and this has been taken as step further by Senait Mekonnen, owner of Addis, who has imbued the restaurant, in addition, with traditional Ethiopian hospitality. Honey-wine (a bit like mead) was offered and politely declined. A menu appeared, clear and easy to follow for wot-virgins, and we ordered.

Seemingly moments later the conical lid made from colourful woven straw was removed and the basket-table underneath became a huge serving plate of wall-to-wall injera, a huge pancake made from a slightly fermented mix of water and millet-flour, with various dishes perched on it. There was spicy lamb, chicken flavoured with berbere, cracked lentils, spiced pumpkin, spinach and any number of interesting side-dishes. Never mind the Muppets, Swedish chef, this was Everything-in-a-Basket.

You eat with your hands and dip, dunk and dollop your way through the injera, tearing it off and filling it with delicious wot (stews) and sauces and hurtling it towards your mouth before collapse, fall-out or disintegration prevent its arrival.

It takes a bit of practice but don’t all foods taste so much better without the impersonal metal of a fork or spoon? When you get really good, you can progress to gursha, where you wrap a mouthful of something messy in injera and feed it to someone else at the table, following the tradition that those who eat from the same plate will not betray one another.

After the meal comes the tranquillity of the Ethiopian coffee ritual which again emphasises the importance of trust and friendship and brings peace (which is probably essential in the event that gursha has left everybody covered in food).

Addis in Dar is capital. In fact as the name suggests, it is almost doubly capital. It’s the Tanzanian way of doing things, Ujamaa, the community of family and the backbone of Tanzanian society, combined with the Ethiopian way. It’s share and share alike. It’s ubuntu in more attractive packaging, a very refreshing way to add significance to a meal (and to get through napkins and shirt-fronts). What’s more, the food’s delicious. What happier way to prove that an injera to one is an injera to all?

The good news is that Cape Town is to get its own Addis, so next time, we won’t have to drive 8000km for dinner.

Addis in Dar, 35 Ursino St, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. (+255) 0741 266 299. Noon until 10.30 Monday – Saturday. Closed Sunday.

Addis in Cape, 41 Church St Cape Town Tel 021 424 5722. The same ownership.