Sunshine, Family, and Good Hair

I haven’t posted for three months! I’ve got excuses though: a nasty bout with Shingles (the aftermath of which continues to plague me), and two botched eye operations. To top it all, I contracted bronchitis a couple of days before I left for South Africa to visit my son and his family, and to attend the weddings of my two step-granddaughters. Three weeks later, I’m revived, the bronchitis burned away by the 90-degree South African sun, plenty of sleep and hugs, evening chats by the pool, and hanging out with my hilariously refreshing sixteen-year-old grandson, Daegan. To satisfy my taste buds, I’ve been indulging in my old favorites: biltong, tangy gherkins, Peppermint Crisp, Bovril, fish paste, and nougat.

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Last Thursday, I was treated to a day-long visit to Dinokeng Big Five Game Reserve, outside Pretoria. The 490-acre reserve is partly-owned by my step-granddaughter’s fiancé’s parents. Get this, rhinos are rounded up at night and placed in a protected enclosure because of the poachers. The elephants are tagged and monitored. Definitely not the Africa of my childhood, but back then it wasn’t open season on rhino horns and elephant tusks.

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I was dismayed to discover I  couldn’t remember the names of the buck we saw, except for impala. My dad must’ve turned in his grave. All those trips we took through South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania and Kenya, for all those years, when the animals weren’t always in game reserves, with him pointing out this buck and that, and then quizzing me. It has been a while, Dad. (That’s a red hartebeest male below.)

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We spent the night in one of the individual lodges. Something out of a House Beautiful magazine, with air-conditioning in the bedrooms and a jacuzzi right at the edge of the bush. Definitely not the round thatched huts I remember, yet it still managed to maintain its South African identity.

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My last wedding is this evening, an elaborate affair for Illanka near The Cradle of Humankind area, at Memoire, an old farm converted to a wedding venue. We’ll be spending the night, followed by a champagne breakfast under stinkwood, willow, leopard, and acacia trees. And then I’m headed back to Southern California, a nasty 22-hour flight. I’ll sorely miss my family. I’ll also miss  the “good” hair I’ve been experiencing!

Celebrating An Event With Biltong

In honor of my fellow SWP author Dawn Blume Hawkes who’s signing her upcoming cookbook, Away From the Kitchen, and giving a demonstration in Costa Mesa tomorrow, I’m re-posting my recipe for biltong, the South African version of jerky.

This is actually a good time to make biltong, cooler weather and all. This way the beef won’t get funky in the heat and kill me. Of course it might still, because as Wikipedia notes, biltong is a kind of cured meat from South Africa: the “curing” being salt and a brushing of cider vinegar. The word biltong comes from the Dutch words “bil” (rump) and “tong” (strip or tongue) from the days of yore when pioneering South Africans sun-dried their meat during The Great Trek of the 1830s, eastward and north-eastward away from British control in the Cape Colony. I wish I knew for sure, but I do believe my German grandfather and French grandmother were on that trip. (Johannesburg)

I dry my “rumpstrip” in a wooden box with a 60-watt bulb in the bottom my ex built for me. I hang the beef for about three days using eight-inch cable ties. The hooks I used to employ rusted out, this is better. I like my biltong “wet,” that is to say, on the raw side, more taste, if you know what I mean. Of course, you’re probably making a face, unless you’re South African and then you’ll understand. The biltong back there is much tastier, not sure why—the beef isn’t as hormoned-out?—and the strips are much bigger than my dinky little Supermarket specials. The Americans who’ve tried my biltong love it. Of course, I have them sign a waiver—just kidding, but I probably should.


  • Beef (Preferably Round steak)—1-2-inches thick
  • Rock Salt
  • Coarse Ground Black Pepper
  • Coarse Ground Coriander
  • Vinegar (preferably Apple Cider vinegar)

Sterilize all your hooks, knives, and working surfaces by washing well in hot water and soap.

Cover both sides of the meat with rock salt and let stand for an hour.  The longer you let it stand the saltier it will become.  Scrape off all the excess salt with a knife (don’t soak in water!).  Cut into two-inch strips, or wider, then brush (do not dip) with vinegar, just so the meat is covered. Let the excess vinegar drip off then sprinkle with pepper and coriander and hang.

Bon Appetit!  No wait, I need to express that in Afrikaans: Lekker eet!