Sometimes the foods we saw often during our childhoods are now distant memories, either because our cooking repertoire has expanded to new dishes or because we realise the dishes we loved back then isn’t good for our health, or the people who cooked and baked these old favourites are no longer with us.
I still eat lots of the foods I grew up eating. I have a fondness for all kinds of bredies (stews), curries and roasts.
Some of the weekday specials (food that can be prepared quickly because after a day of working my mom couldn’t be expected to stand in front of the stove for long) I grew up eating have fallen by the way side.
One particular dish I loved has completely disappeared from the menu because the product is no longer available on supermarket shelves. It was called Smoorsnoek and it was available in a tin. While the tin contained snoek that had already been braised my mom braised an extra onion and potato and added a chilli before adding the tinned snoek to the pot. It was delicious and comforting. We now use canned tuna to make something similar but gesmoorde tuna just isn’t the same as smoorsnoek.
I recently asked some family members and friends about foods from their past that they’re nostalgic for.
A lot of people mentioned offal – like sheep lungs, brains, tripe and trotters – but since ethical eating is at the forefront of a lot of people’s minds, foods made using offal is slowly making a comeback. The trend has even seen some butcheries increasing the prices of these organs that were once considered throwaways or food fit only for the poor. My mom makes amazing tomato trotters and curried tripe – very seldom (about once a year) because it’s quite rich but we certainly enjoy it when we have it.
Another thing you hardly see at dinner parties anymore, as Adele mentions, is fake shrimp cocktails made of tuna, served in an iceberg lettuce leaf. Even actual shrimp cocktail has all but disappeared from party menus come to think of if. I’d actually like to update and make a modern version of this retro classic.
My friend Shaheema mentioned mavrou – a Cape Malay dish of savoury rice topped with spicy cubed beef. It was often served at weddings and big events. I can’t remember the last time I saw this at a party but I know many people who still make it for their families.
Kool frikkadel also known as ou mense onder die komberse is another thing many people mentioned. It is mince frikkadels wrapped in cabbage leaves and cooked in a stew. It’s delicious but can be time consuming to make so I figure that’s probably why many people don’t bother.
Louzel told me about an old fashioned meal from her childhood: “A savoury tart made with crushed biscuits or nicknacks or whatever the F they could find in the house. Mixed with processed meats and an egg custard. Baked with kilograms of bright orange cheese.” Sounds…inventive.
Duncan spoke of a Sunday classic from his childhood: Crumbed, grilled chicken stuffed with mince filling. He then mentioned boxed milk puddings. I wasn’t even aware they were still around until Marisa mentioned she still loves them.
Other desserts we don’t see much of anymore:
– “Canned fruit imprisoned in jelly” as Adele so wonderfully describes it.
– Stewed fruits (guavas were mentioned a lot) and custard that was usually made using that pink powder. I’m probably going to offend a lot of people by expressing my dislike of powdered custard. It’s not hard to make from scratch.
– Rice pudding, bread pudding and “aartappel porring” (which I actually posted about on Instagram recently because my mom makes it quite often)
A Cape Malay favourite: Aartappel porring (as my people call it). Literally translates into potato pudding. Its got a smooth texture and a delicious almond custard flavour. Often topped with stewed dried fruits and served at parties and (gadats) prayer gatherings. My mom makes it best. This pic was taken yesterday and it was made by my mom for my best friend who is leaving for hajj tomorrow.
– Pineapple pudding which is a really quick and easy dessert that involves whipping evaporated milk, adding jelly and crushed pineapple and allowing it to set in the fridge. Thanks for reminding me of that, Janine.
– Marble cake. I didn’t realise how long it had been since I’ve seen this until Ulpha pointed it out.
My mom’s aunt was an expert at jam rolls and to make it extra fancy she’d add red or green food colouring to the batter. Hey, it was the ’90s so we were all impressed.
All these foods have made me want to take a culinary trip back in time and try to recreate and update some of it.
Which foods make you think of your childhood and what do you reckon I should try to recreate and modernise first? Tell me in the comments section below.