Reads of the Week

Curry: Stories and Recipes across South Africa

Ishay Govender-Ypma

Human and Rousseau

Review: Chantel Erfort

In the past year, I have changed the way I eat, and in doing so, have developed a deep desire to delve into all things food- and nutrition-related.

As such, much of my reading has been focused on this subject, my interest being not only on recipe books, but also books which explore our relationship, as human beings, with the food we choose to eat and how we prepare it.

Govender-Ypma’s book was, therefore, an interesting addition to my collection of cookbooks because it explored not only the history and roots of different kinds of curries as they are made in different parts of our country, but also a selection of the stories she collected during the year she spent travelling around the country researching and gathering information for this book.

And there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that people’s stories are intricately linked to what and how they eat.

I have a friend who often reminds me how, when times were lean – which was often – his mom added sago to stews and curries to “bulk them up”.

And, even long after the lean times had passed, this ingredient remained in the recipe, and in so doing, implanted a part of his family’s history in how the dish was made.

Likewise, Govender-Ypma introduces each recipe with the story of the person who shared it with her.

And I love the personal, warm touch this adds to what could easily have been just another book about the different ways curries are made around the country.

Spices South Africa

Sophia Lindop


Review: Chantel Erfort

Spices South Africa, part of Sophia Lindop’s Flavours and Traditions series, is not a very new release, but remains a gem in my treasure trove of food books I’ve collected over the years.

Packed with rich, detailed history, Spices South Africa tells the story of the growth of the spice trade and how this – and the influx of people of other cultures – flavoured the history of South Africa and its culinary heritage.

Rather than being a dry account of the East-West spice trade, this little book is a colourful series of stories with tasty tidbits of information about the spices we have come to take for granted.

In an age of commercialism and mass production, Lindop encourages us to take a step back in time, to track the history and root of each spice as well as why people started using them in the first place.

Perhaps it was because, before refrigeration was available, food spoiled quickly and spices helped mask the taste of bad food. Maybe it was far more simple – that spices made everything taste just a little bit nicer. Or … could it be that the rich used spices to set their food apart from that which was being eaten by “the ordinary folk”?

Whatever the answer, this well-researched book gives some fascinating insight into the story of spices and their impact on what we eat – and how we eat it.

There are also delicious recipes which draw on the influence of the myriad cultures which have shaped South Africa’s culinary landscape.