BLOG: Rural respite: Coming home
I didn’t get much sleep on Thursday night. The casualty department kept me busy until after 1 am.
I was back at the hospital at 5 am to start my ward round.
Before the morning meeting I popped home to make breakfast: a budget banting breakfast fit for kings. I made myself a sweet potato rosti, by grating half a cup of sweet potato, mixing it with an egg and then frying in butter. I topped it with a heavenly poached egg.
Before one of the cases I put a piece of chicken in the oven and, by the time we were done in theater, it was perfectly cooked. I served it on a bed of steamed cabbage, and then boiled two eggs as“padkos” for my drive home to Johannesburg to spend the weekend with my family.
When I arrived in Jo’burg, I joined my cousins and some friends who were having a dinner party. They had finished the meal and were sharing a few slabs of Lindt chocolate.
Wine was flowing almost as much as conversation. I stuck to tap water. We chatted and danced, but by 2 am I was feeling very sober and extremely tired.
I convinced the crowd to call it a night but before we could head home, we had to stop off at the 24-hour pizza place so that the others could soak up the alcohol in their bellies with some wood-fired dough and melted cheese.
I can’t say I wasn’t tempted to just drop this whole banting thing. To me, pizza is like the sunshine: there simply is no substitute.
I was disciplined and instead had a cup of tea when I got home.
In the morning, the smell of home-baked rusks wafts up to my bedroom and it takes all the inner strength I have to not follow the smell to the oven.
I already knew that this visit home was going to be the hardest part of my week banting-wise, but I had forgotten how powerful the sense of smell can be – how intricately it’s linked with memory and experience.
I grew up in a house where the kitchen was not the heart of the home but the soul. The place where minds and hearts and hands met to create and innovate, strengthen and comfort.
I can remember sitting on the counter as a child and watching my mum pressing down the rusk mixture with the back of a broad wooden spoon; quickly so as not to over-work it. On holidays, I would watch as my aunts gathered in the kitchen. My uncles would be out at the fire, debating whether one should braai a Cod with the skin down first or the reverse.
Whilst I was still studying medicine, you could always smell when exams were around the corner. The house would fill up with the sweet smell of fruit stewing on the hob whilst the pastry was baking-blind in the oven below. I would make orange, dark chocolate and marscapone tarts, banana bread lightly toasted and topped with honey and crème fraiche, cupcakes, éclairs, cheese-cakes and and and …
But not this morning. This morning I had to decline the offer of coffee and a rusk, and scramble some eggs for my breakfast.
I really did struggle today. I felt tired of the same ingredients, and am quickly running out of ways of reinventing them.
For lunch I had the same meal I’ve had a few times this week – chicken and cabbage. For dinner I had a single small baked sweet potato, with butter, and another big bowl of cabbage.
After dinner, I joined my family and closest friends at one of my favourite restaurants in Jo’burg. I watched on as they tucked in to their melanzane, caprese salads, calamari and chorizo.
But actually, I didn’t crave the food that much. Just being away from the trauma and suffering of the hospital, and around all the people I love – and miss so much – was soul food enough to keep me going…
I left Jo’burg feeling recharged and revitalised. I didn’t get cake, but I got a big helping of comfort, sweetness and delight from all those who I shared the afternoon with.
Ready to take on another few weeks in Mpumalanga, I packed my bag and my snacks (aka boiled eggs) and started the long drive home.
The end of week one
It’s the end of the first week of my banting challenge and so I will give you a quick catch up:
Anthropometrics: I weighed myself today and my weight has dropped from 65 kg to 63.5kg, which makes my BMI 20.5.
Left-overs from week one: At the end of this week, I surprisingly had some food left over, including three eggs, about four pieces of chicken, one sweet potato and about 100g of butter. This put me in the privileged position in which I could afford to shop for some more ingredients to add variety to my meal plans.
This is what I bought, which will hopefully last until the end of the week:
18 eggs (R23.99)
0.3kg stewing beef (R19.10)
0.75kg pork trotters (R21.68)
250g butter (R16.99)
250g chicken livers (R7.99)
Koo tomato paste (R6.99)
Milk longlife, full-cream (R8.99)
Baby marrows (R32.99)
4 ripe avocardos (R10)
I came in slightly over budget at a total of R152.90, but there simply wasn’t anything I was prepared to put back on the shelves. I can’t tell you how excited I am to have some new ingredients to play with.
- Read more from our guest blogger in her weekly column, “Rural reflections”