Glenwood Bakery

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Bernadette, the Kremlin and the mining of her data

Bernadette had been dressed from the heart of the Kremlin since the day she opened her eyes. And to decide what her clothes would be, her keepers would watch her eyes every minute of the day. If her eyes lingered on the night sky, dark velvets with embroidered silver points would be her next gown. If she waved her little fists excitedly at the sound of rustling leaves her next little cape would be the finest, starched cotton chintz. Her debutante ball gown was the result of observing her adolescent joy at the finest spiders’ webs. (Needless to say, this dress was banned by her mother and replaced with a dress inspired, instead, by Bernadette’s secret fascination with monasticism.) The point is that it was Bernadette’s data, the information about her behaviour provided by none other than herself, which was closely watched and cleverly employed by the Kremlin. This, of course, secured her commitments to, originally, Russia and, later on, the Russian Federation. She was a national treasure.

When Bernadette came of age she was told a heart breaking story. Her mother, prodigious scholar and inimitable sage, having long resented the social frippery and popularity of Bernadette’s father, was determined to turn their daughter against him. So, when Bernadette discovered one day, to her horror, that everything she thought was private about herself, had in fact been used like a commodity, her mother seized the moment. Bernadette falling at her mother’s knee, her body wracked by tears, wailing loudly that she hated the Kremlin and the Kremlin’s enemies alike, was then told the following tale.

Facebook was a wonderful story book, written by its own readers about themselves, started her mother. One day there was upset about the readers’ stories in Facebook being used to further the political aims of The Great Tzar. But, as Bernadette’s mother reminded her, all the readers knew already that Facebook mined their stories to make a great big, Uber story told to all the other readers. So, it should not have been surprising that The Great Tzar might get hold of it to use for his own ends. It is, after all, useful to know what one’s subjects think, is it not? It is useful to know what another’s subjects think. Are they plotting revolution? And it is particularly useful to be able to influence all of them.
Her mother suggested that Bernadette’s horror at the Tzar’s mining of her story as opposed to Facebook’s mining of it is, of course, because of the human intent behind the Tzar’s mining and the ends for which it was used. It is one thing when an inanimate thing like a story book uses its own stories to suggest beautiful fabrics, pretty chandeliers and new friends to its readers and writers. It is quite another when an outsider’s mind, free and with its own motives and will, uses these stories to win political favour. Bernadette’s mother cautioned that, like her father, her fickle and social ways, her desire to have many friends, would always lead to compromise. Her story will always simply be fodder for another’s aims.

Do only Tzars from the Kremlin do such evil things, asked Bernadette, drying her tear stained face on her Vyatka lace cuffs. Her mother, a committed nationalist, patriot and, eventually, comrade, caressing Bernadette’s dark hair, assured her this was not the case. Their Tzar is certainly not the only one doing this. Nor is he the only one fabricating reasons for warring in other people’s countries. Nor is he the only one getting in, and staying in power, on the whiff of the strange new fangled idea of democratic election. Nor is his inconvenient election by his people the first to be called corrupted by the West. No, says the scholar and sage, the Russian Tzar has given the Russian people a name again. And this name is a strong and uncompromising Russian one, not an adoptive Western one. It is one which falls easily off the Russian tongue. The moral of the tale was not meant for the Tzar, it was meant for Bernadette, warns her mother. Do not bare your soul and then be surprised when it is scrutinised. Zazdarovje!

Important notice: The Glenwood Restaurant will be cooking, on the odd occasion, at The Glenwood Bakery from after the restaurant’s closing date on the 19th of May 2018. If you are keen to be kept in the loop about such events, by email as opposed to by Facebook, please send your email address to

Cooking for France

Mr Robinson, chef and proprietor of The Glenwood Restaurant, has been invited by the French Embassy (SA) to participate in a week celebrating French cuisine. This week is an international event, organised by the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs.

The French, as we have all realised by now, are unapologetic champions of their culture and central to their culture is food. Now, it is tempting, as I have just done, to use ‘French cuisine’ in a nearly generic sense. But this is very far from accurate. There is the north of France and the south of France. There is haute cuisine and classical cuisine. There is what the French eat at home and what they eat in restaurants. But what holds true through all these distinctions is that the French took their primacy in European cuisine to be absolute for at least 150 years until, relatively recently, people started noting Italian and then Spanish cuisine, and so on. And even in parts of the world which are not Europe it has been expected, for some bizarre reason, that the French would be the judges of how others fair with their own conceptualisation and execution – we have had Michelin judgements since 1926.

Robinson, as we know, is a stickler for making food he likes to eat. His leanings are also towards that part of France, Provence, which belonged to Italy till as recent as 1486. Provence is that incredible place so lauded and loved by Elizabeth David and her hero, Marcel Boulestin. It is home to where France meets Italy. Provencal food is rooted in the terrain of the produce, and these are used according to classical rules. The French love rules; they have rules for everything. This type of food is fresh, accessible and simple, but by no means easy to produce. There is no chance of subterfuge – of hiding behind mousses and jellies, or under blobs and swirls. There is no chance of baffling with things very esoteric. There is no smoke, nor are there mirrors here.

This is the food you eat at The Glenwood Restaurant and is what has won Robinson the invitation to participate. Over this week we shall also have French wines available, as is required of participants.

Here is something about the cultural week. And then to follow is the menu (R290 per head) we are serving over this week (21 to 25 March, for us). You are welcome to book by the usual means.

GOÛT DE FRANCE (a symbol of good France)

“Cuisine - French cuisine - represents joie de vivre, lightness, optimism and pleasure, ideas which are central to the image of Destination France”. Alain Ducasse, event creator alongside the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs The spirit of Goût de France / Good France follows this founding idea with the aim of including all categories of restaurant throughout the world. This international event, which was first held in 2015, follows UNESCO’s decision to put “gastronomic meal of the French” on the intangible cultural heritage list. Thus on 21 March every year, participating restaurants offer guests the experience of French art de vivre and pay tribute to its capacity for innovation and the values that it represents: sharing, pleasure, and respect for good food, good company and the planet. In 2017, over 2,100 participating restaurants in 150 countries, 250,000 meals and 8,000 guests in 156 embassies. Vitality, modernity, responsibility: gastronomy will be used to showcase France’s positive values, with the warmth associated with the pleasures of good food.

On arrival:

Olives and Bakery bread with anchovy butter

(Et du pain de la maison avec di beurre d’anchovois)


Deep fried courgette flowers stuffed with house made ricotta
(Fleur de courgette farci au fromage)


Steamed oysters with tomato and tarragon butter

(Huitres au vapeur, beurre de tomate et l’estragon)


Impala stew braised in red wine with mash
(Civet de chevreuil “Grandmere”)


Open ravioli with ratatouille and basil butter

(Pate fraîche a la ratatouille et du beurre de basalic)


Local farmhouse cheeses with Bakery walnut and raisin sourdough bread

(Plateau de fromage fermiers servi avec notre pain de noyer et raisin)


Choux pastry fritters with ginger ice cream and hot chocolate sauce
(Biegnets soufflés de chocolat chaud et dela crème glacée de gingembre)

Plum and almond tart with vanilla ice cream

(Tarte aux bruneaux et amandes avec glace a la vanille)

Café et petits fours

Bernadette becomes a vegetarian

Even though Bernadette’s parents were not animal rights activists, nor kind people, they did love horses and dogs. Also whales and dolphins. And lastly, lions and elephants. They were, naturally, vociferously posed against hunting for sport and also against eating dogs and horses. On the other hand, they always maintained, while presenting some rather startling lines of reasoning, that one could eat cows and sheep and could hunt salmon and tuna.

Now, despite Bernadette’s meticulous schooling by a posse of classically trained monks, on her mother’s appointment, she found it difficult to live with her parents’ incoherent beliefs about animals. Despite the fact that she had been taught to argue deities into existence, her will out of existence and to make injustices just, she simply could not make head or tail out of how her parents thought about other sentient beings. The inductive leaps, the contradictions, the strange favouritism and, generally, just the tension between their hedonism and their compassion left her awe struck.

Bernadette, when she was awe struck, preferred it to be due to dresses, food or wine. She was her father’s child in this regard.
It was, therefore, with some trepidation that Bernadette decided to try her hand at vegetarianism. A sort of designer type, which permits the consumption of anchovy. One of her tutors, a breatharian (who, naturally, has recently shuffled off this mortal coil), had instructed her as to how one makes a transition from one set of values to another. Given that there are many, many sets of values, none of which have any firmer factual foundation than the next, he always became very flustered when Bernadette asked him what was right and what was wrong. What was good and what was bad? His eyes would widen and he would breathlessly reply: ‘It is impossible to tell, Bernadette, with any certainty. So, it is best to be flexible about good and bad. As long as your beliefs all fit together nicely.’

So, Bernadette did not become a vegetarian because she thought it was morally better. She became one because she believed her parents were paragons of unreason, and she could not abide it. Like not abiding people who wear stretched purple velvet and many bracelets, Bernadette could not abide the sentimental underpinnings of her parents’ world view about animals. Neither of her parents would ever wear such things, of course! They had better sense than that. Her father, as we know, was a style icon, clad only in shades of black all made of either of the finest Egyptian cotton or Chinese silk. Her mother, eminent scholar and formidable intellect, wore mostly hooded capes of roughly hewn cloth, in dark brown. Her only luxury being the satin slip between that and her brown skin.

No, Bernadette’s vegetarianism would be analogous to crisp white shirts with starched collars. It would be the bedfellow of finely crafted wine and slow fermented sourdough. It would be the favourite peer and confidante of a perfectly roasted little quail. Metaphorically speaking.
On that day, the 16th day of December, Bernadette became a vegetarian. One who eats anchovies; thus rendering her vegetarianism like a Persian carpet.*

*The real reason is that she simply could not forego Caesar salads nor spaghetti puttanesca.

Important notices: The bakery will be closed on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and on New Year’s Day. The restaurant will be open as per usual over this time (i.e. closed on Mondays and Tuesdays and open for the rest). But the restaurant will close for two weeks from the 15th of January, and open again on the 31st of January.

Letters from friends

From Jo Corrigan to Adam Robinson

To follow is a beautiful letter sent to Mr Robinson by his friend, Jo Corrigan. Ms Corrigan cooked with Robinson in London, during the 90s. Her current occupation is working with her partner to forage for wild things for the kitchens of knowing chefs.
Shared here, with her permission.

” I’m sitting on a beach on Phu Quoc Isle, Vietnam, having had ten splendid days here with Matt. The flowers and the fruit are on steroids. The sea is bath warm and roars on happily outside our villa. It’s monsoon and, whilst our fellow travellers struggle, their humour noisily suspended by the constant downpour of inches and inches of tropical rain and the absence of hot water due to solar interruption we are both just- well - very content.

We are cocooned in the heat and the sheer luxury of swapping our Macedon Ranges home, which currently battles snow and ice, for this life of freedom in the shape of an old motorbike, beautiful people, night fish market feasts of razor clams, grilled squid and pho, plates of sautéed morning glory, whole days motionless… reading and reading… and sleep- the kind of sleep it’s hard to really have unless you momentarily hang your life on a high shelf.

Life at home has finally settled into a beautiful yearly rhythm where we do exactly what we planned we always would - pretty much the length of the year.

From February onward we go into mushroom season. Matt and the team start in the Blue Mountains in some of the most beautiful old forests I’ve ever seen. Towering, they are miles from civilisation. We see few folk through there, the odd cattle farmer who shares the boundary with the forestry commission. These forests are rich in all wild mushrooms, blackberries, river mint… Their slopes are high. They test the spirit and the legs.

I travel between there and Melbourne with early loads then I catch further tonnes off overnight freight in one of the vans and deliver to the wholesale market and the restaurants. It’s a great sustainable business. It can be demanding, however. The light at the end of the tunnel is this period in July, August/September when we can ramble happily and live without a plan.
We are often joined on our mission by travellers eager for an experience of food in the wild. The last lot boasted a very good fisherman. This made for some pretty memorable suppers.

We finish in NSW when the local season starts on Mount Macedon around April/May.
We spend a couple of weeks changing spots into south Australia where we have a cabin for 3 months a year, a beautiful spot with koalas, a lemon tree, a pub and about 20 huge forests that offer kilos and kilos of mushrooms at a time of year that others find it difficult to source them. Sometimes we head into Adelaide, catching a game of our beloved Collingwood and driving happily through the Adelaide Hills and a favourite spot, Basket Range, where wild watercress is delicious right from the stream. We found lovely Porcini here one year… under a set of swings in a park!

Spring. September offers us morels. We head to the snow country after the thaw. We’re still yet to crack the tonnes that we experience with the other varieties but we get a little better every year. Matt is such a happy camper if we can come home with 40 kg. They don’t taste as strong as European morel but they’re thrilling to sleuth out and always sell well.

Cooking is still my first love. However, I do not miss the shape of it in terms of restaurant life. Where did honest food go? I know it’s on our table at home. It is in the homes of our friends. That’s where we eat more and more. I don’t miss owning a restaurant. I don’t miss fielding a young chef’s desire to create something ‘new’ when all we really need is to combine a menu that reflects a good combination historically. A menu that will take into account the skill on board and the ingredients available locally. Then back all that up with good, honest warmth and hospitality. We supply many, many kitchens that champion these values, certainly values that The Brackenbury instilled in me. Since joining Matt in his quest to put hard to get gear onto the chopping boards of like-minded chefs I have so enjoyed walking into those businesses and seeing faces instantly light up as they chat excitedly about what they will cook with whatever we have brought them.

In previous summers we have lent our time to part time gigs, event catering and so on. Instead, this year, we are going to finally complete our dream of growing 12 different heirloom tomatoes on a large scale. We did a test amount last year in our back garden and produced a good 70 kilos which went to favoured chefs. Wonderful! I wrote a form letter last month and, being in winery rich/organic country I popped it through twenty or so letterboxes. I wasn’t prepared for the response. 10 properties offered spare land, a tractor and bore water and so the project took joyous flight. We chose three of the local wineries and we start ploughing and preparing next week. They will receive vegetables for the house on return. One fellow, giving us the biggest area, has requested 6% of our total crop earn. A good deal in the end.

To aid the size of all of this we finally purchased a beautiful big green house. We have this delivered the day after we get back and our seedlings will go in. Joy.

Hoping my yearly yarn finds you both well and enjoying both your businesses. I do check them out from time to time and do dream of visiting. I do know I’ll find honest cooking there and it’s not too far to go to find it.”

New bread with old grain

The Glenwood Bakery is now making, on a daily basis, a white sourdough. You can buy it as from 6 in the morning. And to add to the excitement, we have decided that the grain we will use is spelt. The spelt is imported from Germany, as our local Capetonian farmer wants to charge us three times what the Germans do. The grain is GMO and additive free and is stone milled like the other flour we use.

To follow is an important disclaimer (which comes as a little essay, of course). We would like to ensure that no one mistakes us for purveyors of health. Given our personal commitment to the cycle of death, we are not particularly interested in living forever, unless we can do so whilst having fun forever. It is for this reason that our interest in the culinary virtues of grains trumps any others we might briefly entertain.
Spelt is a grain which has won fame and admiration among currently alive young and beautiful people aiming for immortality. It has been romanticised, exoticised and idealised as a grain which is better than wheat because it is genetically older. These are, of course, sentiments with no empirical support. Like modern wheat, spelt contains lots of gluten, which is why it is so good for making bread. Like the wholemeal sourdough and some others at The Glenwood Bakery the dough we make for the spelt loaf has been fermented for three days. And like all our sourdoughs only our mother culture, with its wild, wild yeasts, has been used for the fermentation.

The body of the spelt sourdough is soft and yielding; as some breads should be. The crumb is slightly glossy, similar to the ciabatta, but not quite as pronounced. This is from the lactic fermentation. You will find a butteriness to it, similar to chardonnay. But, unlike the ciabatta, and more like the wholemeal, you will also find some acetic fermentation. Look for the sauvignon blanc when eating it toasted with tea in the morning. Not literally. To literally find the sauvignon blanc you need to pour yourself a glass. Do.

Anyway, for the chasers of immortality, take heed: It is not without good reason that Dante, in The Divine Comedy, has Pietro della Viegna comparing the germination of The Suicide, the suicidal soul, to the germination of the spelt grain. It is delicious, young, fresh and filled with hope, but will end in death. Like everything else.

Bernadette fits a dress

When Bernadette turned 48 years old, she knew that she would not be able to go on as she had before. She knew then that all attempts at subterfuge and sophistry would come to naught. She knew that her web of beliefs had been exposed for the falseness and treachery that they were. She had been exposed. She had finally come loose from the firmament of middle class morality. Bernadette was undone.

Up until then it was of not much significance that the cost of a dress could be the same as another person’s monthly wage. It was of no real consequence that the cost of an airplane ticket might solve another family’s financial crisis. It mattered only briefly that to attend Shakespeare’s Globe comes at the same price as another’s heating bill. Naturally, Bernadette, did think about these things. Her mother, eminent scholar and formidable ethicist, had tortured the young Bernadette with confounding questions about morals since she could speak her first words. But, in the past, the denouement of such musings would, minimally, be a sort of vague uneasiness, a confusion about what is right. At best it would result in finding another charity or visiting her dying, senile aunt. Sometimes just watching Sir David Attenborough expound the nature of Nature would bring relief. Learning a new language, particularly of those least favoured by the world economic system, would positively induce feelings of moral superiority in Bernadette. The point is, a sense of well-being and moral ease, could be achieved with relatively little effort.

Bernadette, looking into the mirror, waiting for the French lotions to take action that morning, knew evil had set in. It had set in with the knowledge thereof. And the romantic poets knew this would happen long before Bernadette was a twinkle in her father’s beautiful and wandering eye. In the past, in Bernadette’s youth, when her body was nubile and milky white, and when her mind was like a sapling, yielding and filled with hope, she could find ways to approve of herself. But when she became 48, and the world presented as brittle stories with definite edges, a just world was not credible anymore. And her moral goodness was not credible either. For the likes of Bernadette, her evil nature reared its monstrous head; it rose like the truest scion of this defunct world in which everyone fights for a bit of light. A world where the light is just a chipped, plastic sequin dangling over a dirty dance floor. Nothing more than that.

If all this seems a tad dramatic, a little too dark, Bernadette suggests that you, you esteemed reader, look to Al Jazeera. Look to The Guardian. Look to The Beijing Review. Look to the International Socialist Review. Look to the Great World Wide Web. Look and tell the scribe how brilliantly astute Bernadette is. I shall convey your compliments to her. Presently, she is fitting a dress and eating mozzarella boconcini.

Elizabeth David again; this time on presentation

I turn again to the inimitable Elizabeth David for inspiration. Here she has written about ‘buffet’ tables. She seems to have quite a lot to say about what such a spread should look like. Buffets are, of course, reminiscent of the ‘harvest table’ that is now on offer for lunch at the restaurant, during the week. The wonderful thing about David is that, while everyone else was decorating platters in the most unfortunate and embarrassing ways, or trying to get everything onto, or into, silver and glass, she knew better. Her culinary and visual taste transcended her time. She should be forever deemed an Ultimate Judge; a final arbiter of good taste. Hume was wrong about only this one thing; what is aesthetically correct is not subjective. Elizabeth David’s advice on the vessels for salads and stews and soups rises above the fashions of the 50s, 60s and 70s in England; the decades over which she produced her incredible books.

Here she is in ‘South Wind Through The Kitchen’ in a chapter called, ‘Buffet food’. She speaks about catering for a party; and what is the harvest table at The Glenwood Restaurant if not a party? I have edited her words slightly, to fit our physical page.

“The presentation of party dishes, and of course of all food, is an important point. Cold food should certainly have a lavish and colourful appearance, but to varnish it with gelatine or to smother it with whirls of mayonnaise seems to me a misconception of what makes for an appetizing appearance. The effect needed is not of food tormented into irrelevant shapes but of fresh ingredients freshly cooked and not overhandled. The most elementary hors-d’œuver such as a plate of radishes with a few of their green leaves, a dish of green and black olives and another of halved hard-boiled eggs (not overcooked) with butter and bread on the table, is ten times more tempting than the same ingredients got up in a pattern all in one dish and garnished with strips of this and dabs of that. You are, after all, preparing a meal, not decorating the village hall.

As for hot food, if it has not acquired an appetizing look during the cooking, a few blobs of cream or a border of mashed potatoes will do little to improve matters. There are, of course, way of making good food look especially beautiful. The colour, size and shape of the serving dish is obviously important; food should never be crammed into too small a dish; serve rice and pilaffs on large shallow platters, not pressed into deep glass casseroles; for the serving of fish and of grilled chicken, which could be spread out rather than piled up, a long narrow dish is best.
Paesant and country stews of beans or lentils, deep brown daubes of meat or game, onion and oil-flavoured ragoûts of pimentos or purple-skinned aubergines lose some of their particular charm (and also get cold) when transferred from earthen pots to a smart silver entrée dish, and all the delicious brown bits on the bottom and sides of the dish are lost. Dark glowing blue china, the dark brown glaze of slip ware pottery and plain white always make good backgrounds for food.”

The Glenwood Restaurant, like the Glenwood Bakery, is now open seven days a week, in one way or

Massimo at Osteria Francescana, Modena

The Robinsons watched Netflix’s ‘Chef’s Table’ few days ago. It was very interesting in parts. Very. What was particularly interesting was watching the episode on Massimo Bottura, an Italian born chef, working in Modena. There he is head chef for his restaurant called Osteria Francescana.

This restaurant was, during the early stages of its existence, so quiet that it sometimes fed no one. It now has three Michelin stars and is, as expected, fully booked for months. This is despite its home being a small and extremely traditional Italian village. Now, most will assume that it being in a small and traditional village is a challenge to its success because it is out of the way and populated with the non-cognoscenti one expects to find in rural areas. But, in fact, the reason why it is a wonder that it exists despite its surroundings is because the people of Modena, for a very long time after the opening of it, judged its extravagant and lawless reproduction of traditional Italian cuisine as unacceptable. What were those splotches, broken pastries and strange compositions which only remotely represented what they were used to eating? From where the audacity to mess with what has been firmly established and is, evidently, the food people have grown up on?

Of course, the Netflix ‘Chef’s Table’ sings the praises of Massimo’s self-belief, determination and his commitment to his vision; one which flies in the face of tradition. The Glenwood Restaurant too sings his praises for his self-belief, determination and his commitment to his vision. But we do not share his actual vision. We found ourselves strangely siding with tradition – with the people of Modena and not with the bedazzled Milanese making their way to Osteria Francescana to eat deconstructed tortellini en brodo. We found ourselves very sympathetic to the fact that there should be ten tortellini for every mouthful and not six marching on a piece of slate towards something which merely represents the brodo. Call us old fashioned, but we think the people of Modena have been robbed.

There are indeed many, many traditions which must go. Such as expensive wedding dresses and American movies with a Christmas theme. But do not mess with tortellini en brodo. Nor with lemon tart. So, if The Glenwood Restaurant ever closes its doors due to a lack of comprehension it will be because the supposed cognoscenti are looking for pieces of slate carrying food that looks like Jackson Pollock paintings (note, we are fans of Pollock paintings when done in oils on canvas). Such food, for good reason, will never, ever be found across our threshold.

Nevertheless, we genuinely love Massimo for his commitment to, and revelry in, cooking. Also for his evident skill. But we looked in wonderment, with much real entertainment and with not just a little horror at what emerges from his kitchen. Viva la cuisine!

How to make risotto nero. Or, once more, unto the breach.

How does one make risotto nero? It depends on where it is being made. Cooking risotto nero can either be done in an hour holding a glass of wine, or it can take many days, as part of a violent battle. Cooking it in a restaurant makes it akin to waging war.

We know very little about each other’s professions. And why should we know more? We are, naturally, more interested in ourselves than in others. Some of us, however, have created a little soapbox to speak from. Here is that soapbox, and this is that speech. It is the speech that answers what it takes to make very simple, good food for restaurant patrons. It takes much, much more than what most people think. Any person who actually cooks, and by this we mean a person who takes in hand stuff that grows, walks, swims and flies, knows that to produce a plate of food which is good, even if it has seemingly only one thing on it, often requires many steps. Sometimes, but not always, it also requires a lot of time. But to make good food in a restaurant is never a case of combining pre-existing ready-made components in novel, or not novel, ways. Good food does not manifest from dabs of this, slices of those or splashes of that unless the dabs, slices and splashes were first made under a very watchful eye.

These steps include finding the raw ingredients. Thus, much time is spent holding a phone with a chin speaking to the butcher, the baker, farmers and grocers whilst bringing to the boil two or three stocks. Lists, which have been written at the end of the previous night’s service, over a glass of wine while high on adrenaline, are now studied and soberly executed. These lists are based on what has been used up and needs to be replaced – and this depends also on what will change on the menu that day and what remains the same. So the list is not simply a ‘stock’ take, it involves menu planning at the same time.

Any restaurant which actually engages real cooking, and The Glenwood Restaurant is sadly one of only a few in Durban, will have such lists. At The Glenwood Restaurant this includes instructions to make certain types of pasta doughs – things like herb tagliatelle, linguini, mezzaluna – butter, ricotta, tart pastries, butchering, poaching and reducing. Whilst three people attend to these lists as from 8 am, the head chef, if he is also the owner, will meet with managers, work out the cost of goods, determine the margins, look for better suppliers of better ingredients and fire bad ones. In the afternoons, wines must be tasted, wine lists updated to remain in keeping with the menu and the general ethos of the particular restaurant. This includes the decisions which have been made around the pricing of items on the menu. In short, a day running and cooking for even a small restaurant, which offers a certain type of menu, is a fourteen hour non-stop affair, if one is lucky.

This is certainly not a complaint. This type of work is self-inflicted, of course. And it is chosen as an occupation by people of a certain type. Given the chances of receiving criticism on a daily basis, because food and eating is a very emotional thing for most of us, often whilst under pressure and barking orders at others, makes for a nerve wracking work day. Like actors, cooks, have tomatoes thrown at them. As they should have. No, kitchens are not pretty. They are stages, bared to scrutiny. One either becomes an actor, soldier or a cook. Turning on the first flames and sharpening your knives when the sun has just risen, so as to feed people when the sun sets, is a case of ‘unto the breach, once more’. And the battle is won in systematic layers; each, time consuming and, all, indispensable. That is how one makes risotto nero with squid tentacles and mussels. It has very little to do with the tentacles and mussels, except that someone must be certain that they are very, very fresh. But it really starts early in the morning with a good stock and ends, before plating, with copious amounts of hand-made butter.

Important notices:

The Glenwood Restaurant now serves lunch all week, from 12 am to 3 pm, in the form of a harvest table. We are making beautiful salads, tarts and warm dishes. You may help yourself to what you want. Take-aways are possible. Weekend lunches, and all dinners (Wednesday to Saturday) remain menu based, as they always have been.

The Glenwood Bakery now serves breakfast all day.

I love you, Thomas Mann.

I have recently discovered Thomas Mann. I am not sure how I would have turned out had I discovered Mann in my youth. But there is no doubt that my character would have been significantly, and permanently, altered on reading his work. Even after just two novels.

I first read The confessions of Felix Krull, confidence man. And then I read The Holy Sinner. Presently, for me, if a novel cannot make me laugh out loud – preferably bitterly – it is doomed at the outset. Profundity, as a rule, is ruled out. If, however, profundity, is an absolute must for the author, it should present itself properly armed with satire, or it should invoke personal embarrassment in the reader, or it should make you want to meet the author and spend a whole night holding them very tightly. When it does all three, whilst firmly prohibiting any saccharin and exalted delusions of wisdom in the reader, it is safe to call the author a genius. Thomas Mann is such a genius.

He manages to consistently make me feel as if he has seen humanity naked, finds it often wanting and just as often beautiful, but never commits himself to an opinion. But this lack of commitment does not take the same form as J. M. Coetzee’s refusal to offer a moral exemplar. It is not nearly as self-consciously detached and objective (please note, I am a fan of Coetzee’s too). Unlike Coetzee, Mann often comments through his narrators. He judges, he approves, he fears for them, he puts his reader at ease about them. But his narrators (at least, in these two novels) are themselves characters like confidence men or Catholic monks. Objectivity is thus instantly thwarted. What I have loved about them both, the confidence man narrating himself into existence and the monk narrating a very holy man, is that through their respective biases there is a sort of fictionally tempered objectivity. I suspect Mann’s reasonableness, his clarity about people, is simply a feature beyond his control. He cannot help but see things like they are. His humour is surely an extension of this reason.

But, granted, love is blind. And I am in love with Thomas Mann. How is one when one is in love with Thomas Mann? You first tread carefully to see if it is appropriate to express this love. One does not simply fall at his feet. That would be madness. A path to self-ruin. If one wants the love to be reciprocated (figuratively, of course), one investigates, plans and then approaches head on. To love Thomas Mann is to approach confidently, but be ready to retreat should his gaze begin to, as they say, ‘go right through’. That would make one invisible – the death knell to a hopeful lover. Unless one’s flaws are interesting, sophisticated and even glamorous – in the broadest sense of the word – one should rather simply be Mann-perfect. Either way, it is very evident to me that what he wants from his lover is a person who is able to temporarily bend the path of his gaze. I’ll probably never be ready, but I will declare it in this very, very private place: I love you, Thomas Mann. Also for your politics.

The meaning of a white table cloth

What does the object, a white table cloth, mean? What does it symbolise, conjure up or denote? In terms of denotation, of course, a white table cloth is a white table cloth. Since there are no words involved here, the thing denotes itself. But what it conjures up and symbolises is as varied as the cultural milieus in which this item might be put to use. It is as complex as the societies which eat from its pressed linen surfaces. There are those who flagrantly spill wine on it, those who revere it, those who regard it as an indication of their excellent choice in eating place or those who regard it as an artefact, minimally, required for civilised eating. Does the reader find this hard to believe; the claim that white table cloths mean different things to different people? Can anything be a more unassuming object than a plain of white cloth? Bear with me.

Whilst making my case about white table cloths I would like the reader to extrapolate the moral expounded here to other physical features of eating places; such as tables (with or without white table cloths) set up with wine glasses and cutlery, the absence of brightly coloured menus with seasonal, uplifting messages on them, waiters in black and white, cut flowers, cloth napkins and many more. All these features, these moments of creating an identity for an eating place, have the potential for meaning different things to different people. Sometimes, they evidently mean different things to the Patrons and the owners.

In France something called a bistro or even a café can have starched white table cloths and waiters dressed in black and white. And that is not because a café in France is like a posh restaurant in South Africa. Cafés in France are what they say they are; places where people drink coffee during the day and have light meals, and perhaps a glass of wine. To eat in a café in France is to not plan one’s outfit, gather a group of friends and secure a booking. It is a place where one arrives, perhaps, in the middle of a working day, asks for a sandwich, pastry or bowl of soup and have that, perhaps, alone over a white table cloth served by a waiter dressed in black and white. One might do so in a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. Why is this? Why are the French not intimidated by the same things that we see as formal and demanding? I am not sure. Perhaps it was their revolution that changed things. This is not the seminal question though. The point is simply to show that white table cloths and other artefacts, mean different things in different contexts.

To others a white table cloth, or tables set with wine glasses, or cloth napkins means a show. A show of pomp and ceremony; of finery and formality. But my suggestion is that to think of a white table cloth – and any of the other artefacts mentioned – as necessarily signifying formality is either a sad petit bourgeois hangover or it is an unresolved childhood fear of bed linen and going to sleep at night. White table cloths, wine glasses, rows of cutlery, cut flowers are beautiful, and beauty is supposed to bring succour to the artistic soul, the unconstrained soul, in pursuit of finer things. This is surely the only way to think of such things. Beyond social demarcations and etiquette – into a meritocratic world. A world where a beautifully arranged space can simply be there to form a backdrop to a quick bowl of soup and a glass of wine.

Bernadette’s Face

Bernadette’s mother, imminent scholar and great intellectual, had relentlessly cautioned Bernadette about the vagaries of social networking. But Bernadette was always more her father’s daughter; a girl with a propensity for the fickleness of fashion and capriciousness of social success. However, it would be a mistake to, therefore, think that she was not capable of the sort of scholarly gravitas that her mother was. Lo! not in the least. Bernadette was prodigiously talented. She simply did not think that book learning would bring her any joy. And Bernadette believed everything she thought. This was an ongoing luxury, which she had gifted herself on her sixth birthday.

Social networking is something she indulged in several times a week. Many times her social networking engagement consisted of finding interesting photographs to illustrate some thought she was compelled to share. Mostly the search for the photograph, illustration or digital representation of a renaissance or medieval painting ended in a choice which was completely unrelated to her initial thought. But Bernadette was unperturbed by the absence of an overt relationship between the thought and the illustration thereof. She always believed that rationality is overrated. As with self-criticism.

However, despite her own penchant for the wistful and vapid in herself, Bernadette could not tolerate such qualities in others. (This should come as no surprise to the Reader; that Bernadette permits herself to hold inconsistent views was explained in the previous paragraph.) It was her aversion for the vulgar immediacy of venting feelings, ill-considered and subjective, and of articulating thoughts, uncritical and messy, that made her her mother’s child. And such venting and articulating was a singular function of social networking. She would sit, wrapped in emerald green silks (if on Wednesday, fuchsia lambs’ wool if on Friday), and let her warm tears flow, as she read the upbraiding by those who thought they finally have reason to hate her. She listened to them find the petty flaws among her many perfections, and watched her enemies turn them inside out, expose them to the world or simply whisper tiny poisons in her ear. She would listen as they make her failings louder and uglier than they really are and then felt them discarding her, their social networking victim, slowly palpitating like a dying heart in the wet drains of her own despair. Left for dead.

It was always at this point (being left for dead) that Bernadette would turn her face, the epitome of pre-Raphaelite perfection, towards a cold, small glass of Vodka on her table. She would drink deeply. She would turn off the life of that garish, uncouth world, knowing it would nevertheless unrelentingly continue. But she would feel bravery and clear headedness saturate her being with another cold, small glass of Vodka. She would dress in an armour of silver and gold satin, with a helmet of pearls, take up her Vorpal Sword (thanks to Lewis Carol), and dance with Only Everyone Who Loves Her, until the sun comes up.

Staying on.

Less than two months into the life of The Glenwood Restaurant (and less than four years into the life of The Glenwood Bakery) it is high time to look at the nature of what makes for very old, near historic, eating places. You may laugh, dear Patron, but a wise and charming little blonde girl once said to her bitter and twisted, wine swilling father, who was sneering at a building of 100 years being called ‘old’: ‘Buildings first have to be a 100 years old to get to a 1000’.

But this missive is not about buildings. It is about establishments. In particular eating establishments. Places where people have chosen to eat and drink for, sometimes, more than a hundred years. Checchino dal 1887, in Rome is one. El-Fishawi in Cairo, a café more than 250 years old, is another. The Russian Tea Room, in New York, now 89 years old, has never been a place which bows to the pressures of the New York reverie of haute design. Its focus is elsewhere.

Even though visceral atmosphere and visual aesthetics are extremely important for enduring patronage and, consequently, longevity, the eating and drinking places which live for a very long time are hardly ever trend oracles. Trend oracles, even when extremely beautiful and elegant, if also faddish, are expected to be fast paced and ever changing. They themselves create such expectations. After all, the people who are expected to love them are similarly fast changing; wall paper might be the final word on decorating this season, but it could also be the death of a restaurateur the next. Such eating houses’ lives are accelerated and their deaths always imminent. This, of course, has a beauty of its own. But the truly creative genius of, for instance, elBulli and others like it, in both food and restaurant design, is not sustainable.

Sukiyabashi Jiro, still in its first generation, is patently not about faddish trend. If it ceases to exist it will not be because sushi is out of fashion or because people have become aesthetically inured to its interior. It will not be because what it costs to make even Jiro’s sushi is financial lunacy. And this is because Jiro’s sushi is made by a small group of people who do so with near monastic dedication. The luxury experienced is contained in the freshness of the fish and silkiness of the rice, the skill of the knife work and the delicacy of the pickles. For the cooks at Jiro, feeding people is about incremental steps towards perfection, in a very narrow and very old tradition. If Sukiyabashi Jiro ceases to exist it will be because the people who work there have decided to extinguish it. And this, ironically, is a credit to its patrons; people who understand fully what it takes to labour at that sort of food, and who will continue to eat there whilst someone is willing to do that sort of work.

It would, however, be a mistake to read this letter as a dismissal of haute design. This it is, by no means. There can be no greater disciples of the pursuit of beauty; higher, faddish and other. Nor is the claim that all old eating places produce excellent food. This is simply an attempt to isolate what it is that hardly ever enables the longevity of eating places; it is certainly not novel concepts, food wise, nor slavish reverie of transient visual aesthetics.

The Importance of Making Bread

We feel it is necessary, in the wake of having opened a little restaurant, to say something about having a bakery too. For many people who have known Adam Robinson of old, his career took a strange and incomprehensible turn when he started baking bread. There are many who could not take ‘this bread baking business’ seriously. Undoubtedly, the analysis of why he did this yielded many extraordinary theories. But what came through in conversation many times, and still does, is that it is a good thing that he is finally cooking food again. That he has a ‘proper’ restaurant. That he is doing what he is meant to do.

The bakery is, of course, not by any means a proper restaurant. It is not a restaurant of any stripe. Bread is not quail on semolina gnocchi, chicken parfait or pappardelle with borlotti beans. But to dismiss what bread is to nearly every traditional cuisine found worldwide, is to not know what food is. To not understand how many Western European cuisines, to mention but a few, has as a staple, bread, is to miss what is fundamental to eating in those parts of the world. It is for this reason that most chefs who love food (and there are many who do not) will take seriously what bread contributes to their menu. And if they take seriously what things taste like, bread, even if only served in small quantities at their restaurant, should be excellent like the rest of what is offered on the menu.

The Glenwood Bakery is a paean to bread. And it signifies Robinson’s interest in eating. It is, consequently, a big mistake to see his interest, and this is interest is ongoing, in bread as an aberration to his career. Learning to make good loaves is a necessary and natural part of learning about food. And, given the rather academic dedication which knowledge of bread demands, this pursuit is very far from an interruption to a career in food. The cognoscenti might even insist that a serious excursion into bread is utterly required for a complete set of culinary skills – a complete set, of course, only being an ideal.

It is from the love for flour, salt and water that also comes the love for pasta. It comes from understanding the technical nature of working successfully with these ingredients, that a cook and restaurateur understands the specific types of menus and kitchens that are a function of these foods. It frequently is to a good sandwich that a chef comes home late at night. Similarly, it seems perfectly normal to get into bed with a plate piled high with butter and Bovril on sourdough toast, with tea, after a day of cooking some quite sophisticated plates of food. And, when doing so, it seems nearly inevitable to find oneself in a state of drowsy ecstasy at what one is putting into one’s mouth, understanding fully, what it takes to make that bread.

These words are an acknowledgement of what The Glenwood Bakery is to The Glenwood Restaurant.

If writers wrote the world…

…and Burgess were the author, it would be the richest of worlds. Where it is most sensual, most erotic and most immodest it would also be most dry, plain and prudent. Where it is most funny it would be the saddest too. And if this sounds to the reader like nothing more than a postmodern hymn to the Nebulous Nature of Everything, then such a reader would be wrong. Nothing could be further from the truth. Burgess, we know, even though he has not been asked as such, is entirely against postmodernism.

How would he manage to write the world like this? Take as examples two books recently read: ‘Nothing like the Sun’ and ‘A Dead Man in Deptford’. The first is about William Shakespeare and the second about Christopher Marlowe. ‘Nothing Like the Sun’, which I have written about before but cannot stop thinking about, is light in the sense that Shakespeare, according to Burgess, is not an intellectual, nor is he particularly complex as a person. This becomes more apparent when one realises, upon reading Dead Man, how Burgess does, in fact, render a darkly intellectual and unusually complex person. Shakespeare’s aspirations are normal; he hopes for success in his craft, recognition by his peers and financial prosperity. He works very hard. But he is also a romantic, a hopeless disciple of Eros. Yet, not once, in the rendering of William Shakespeare is his romantic nature made saccharin or his very normal human ambitions, trite.

Burgess can do this because he seems to be devoid of platitudes. Like Shakespeare does, he writes even the most tender afflictions in shards. The most adolescent heartache and most naïve and deluded mandates are written in prose which mesmerises because of its musicality but never hypnotises due to overuse and predictability. In other words, ‘Nothing like the Sun’ is entirely devoid of clichés.
‘A Dead Man in Deptford’, by contrast, is deeply sexual. It is dark and, short of the male entanglement of bodies, is lacking in kindness everywhere. It is unapologetically so. Burgess writes a person who is intellectually fertile and morally confused. His Marlowe vacillates between a true Christian sense of compassion and love for his fellow man, in the Platonic sense, and a cynicism so austere as to have him writing Faustus. His Marlowe never resolves this conflict; not with the application of any amount of philosophical abstraction, scholasticism or hedonistic indulgences. Where Shakespeare is innocence Marlowe is the opposite, whatever that might be. The point, here, is that Burgess, in his genius, captures this conflict without resorting to the ever threatening sentimentality of angst and the usual psychobabble that some writers seem to need. There is no free association, no dreamscapes and no tears. It is just plain and simple blood, gore, betrayal and fear. It is about sex and power and a properly sublimated hope for love.

If Burgess wrote the world, it would be clever, funny, clear and mostly unexpected. It would be incapable of containing anything ‘comfortably numb’ (gratitude to Pink Floyd, for this phrase).


Why has this become so important? In the restaurant world, ‘Provenance’ (yes with a capital ‘P’) has become a word imbued with a magical spell. Akin to Artisanal, Sustainable, Local or Hand-Made. Words that have been hijacked by the world of ‘creatives’ and subsequently shorn of meaning, but, nevertheless, used over and over again to persuade the audience that what they’re experiencing is something of value.

Despite the degeneration of the word, the idea is, I would claim, important and ripe with consequences.

Why? Not because a lack of food miles is any real contributor to a lessening of the burning of fossil fuels. Not because a local farmer is necessarily more worth supporting than one a thousand miles away. Not because a restaurant is necessarily one of quality because farms or regions are mentioned on their menu.

But if we feel the produce is sourced carefully then can we also not feel that the provider of your meal executes his craft with some care. When we read that our steak comes from, for instance, Greenfields Farm, it is not because we intend on taking a drive up there at the weekend (where is it? The Midlands, The Cape, Namibia?) to inspect the happy cows that are intended for slaughter. It is because the naming of the place gives us some reassurance that this inspection is at least possible. It reassures us that our cows are not condemned to the misery of a feedlot or our chickens to battery conditions. We are reassured that the beasts or, indeed, vegetables are raised by a human being rather than a corporation. We might even go further and hope that the naming of the farm indicates that the size of the operation is on a scale that we can conceive, not the standard industrial process that produces such quantities of chicken thighs, beef fillets or breadcrumbed shapes of fat that the counting is beyond comprehension.

This is as a consumer. As a cook, I am interested in provenance so that I too can source the best possible produce for my kitchen and follow the trail of some fellow obsessive.

Food miles has been mentioned as a chimera for our ecological conscience, but distance is important for other reasons – reasons of freshness. The economy of shipping vegetables of fruit over thousands of miles has been well documented – particularly in relation to our individual trips to the shops to buy our 2 kgs of potatoes. But there is an inevitable deterioration in quality because of increased storage time. The fruit will have been picked unripe, the product will have been grown with storage as one of the major virtues and the process of large scale shipping can only be worth it if the stuff has been grown on an industrial level.

It is for this reason why we try to source our produce locally. Our milk, cream and cheeses are from the Midlands, where the churches are full and the goats are fat. Our olives and olive oil comes from the Cape. Our flour comes from farms in the Free State, the Berg and a Durban mill. Our meat comes from a single butcher that either owns or knows the farms on which the animals are raised. These farms are nearly all free range and practice humane animal husbandry. The sad exception is our pork, but there are loader and loader whispers of this changing for the better. Our charcuterie is prepared by a family not 5 kms from our shops. Our eggs are free range and delivered by the man who wakes the chickens up early in the morning. The fish and shellfish come from these shores only, and, ideally, from the boats or rods that immerse themselves in our bit of the Indian Ocean. The herbs and salads are grown by ourselves and, those that aren’t, are grown and delivered by the only man I know who gets up at the same time as our Bakers. Our mushrooms, other than those that are foraged, come from a passionate mycophile in Isipingo. For the vegetables and fruit that I can’t source individually or organically, we use the Durban municipal market. This market is often frustrating for the lack of choice, but the flip side of that is that it is local and seasonal. We are privileged to be living in a city that does not provide raspberries 12 months of the year. Where we welcome the first asparagus of spring and celebrate spotting the ephemeral artichoke.

So let us all celebrate the local wealth and wallow in the unique terroir of our chosen home.

Bernadette chooses a dress

By the time Bernadette had received the invitation to Mr. Moon’s annual party, she had already changed her mind seventeen times. Year after year, the party is left with firm resolutions about what she will wear the following year, and even firmer resolutions about what she will not wear. This means that the first change of mind happens about three weeks after the previous party. And so it goes, until the following annual shindig.
Being capricious in this manner had always been a matter of hot philosophical dispute in the childhood home of Bernadette. Her mother, eminent intellectual and earnest scholar, held that to be capricious is to be fickle. Bernadette was always a little disappointed in her mother’s piffling contribution; just a synonym, is what it was. Bernadette maintained that words, unless in a poem, could not really change anything in the world. Synonyms, least of all.

Her father, hopeless socialite and unhinged fashion zealout, was of the opinion that, once one accepts that decisions are based on reasons and that it is the reasons which change, being capricious can be as rational as many other dispositions. Bernadette thought this a very sophisticated argument. But what does she know? Tripe! her mother would exclaim in disbelief. To which her father responded pleasantly; with onions or curried? Bernadette could never decide which would be better.

This year, deciding on a dress for Mr Moon’s party required additional attention. There would be a chef that Bernadette had followed across the world. He was to cook for Moon this very month. This made her options all the more confounded. She had had his lamb fillet with truffled gnocchi in Cannes. She had eaten his red mullet gaudi in Barcelona. Bernadette had consumed with a great gluttonous speed his baked gammon, served in an earthenware dish. Bernadette could not cook. She could never have a conversation with him using the lexicon of cookery. But she could dress for the meals that night.

She was to stand alone, in the heat of impossible choice, with the world of colour, texture, shape and proportion to bear alone on her shoulders. The pressure was nearly unbearable, but asking others inevitably increases the options. Bernadette had to resist this temptation. She had consistently ruled out black. Why? It was difficult to find an answer to this question. But she had no time for reasons at this stage. She had only three months left. After a breathless and sleepless journey into the world of multitudinous whites and countless greens, she landed on a dress that would float when she moved and would hang plumb down when she was still. It happened to be green. The green of the sea, when it is green from algae and grey skies. The colour was an accident. But a happy one.

Bernadette would never know whether the chef saw her. But she knew that when she ate his freshly extruded bucatini, prepared as a tribute to Arabic Sicily, with sultanas, saffron and fennel, she forgot her dress completely. It hung quietly from her shoulders, like a small child waiting for attention from his father, while she was lost in a complex history of food, which is, after all, the history of the world.
Exciting notice: The Glenwood Restaurant is officially open on the 14th of April. See our website for booking details. Although we love people just arriving to eat, bookings are recommended. We do not yet have a liquor license. Bring your own.

Gluten, that evil

To follow is a one question interview with the writer Michael Pollan. For those who are no familiar with Michael Pollan, he is a journalist, activist and writer. He lectures at the Berkeley School of Journalism. He has written some extraordinary books on food; its history and the myths surrounding it. Modern Farming asks Pollan this question about his opinion of gluten intolerance as expressed in his book, Cooked. This excerpt is, of course, too short and too superficial to be regarded as a serious attempt to explain anything about gluten intolerance. Cooked says much more. But the overriding thought expressed is one we think worth taking seriously.

MF: I have to ask you about the gluten segment in Cooked, because I know that raised a lot of people’s hackles. You insinuate that gluten sensitivity is actually a psychological phenomenon for many people. What is the evidence for that?

MP: A lot of people really do have this condition, and it’s important to make clear that celiac disease is a real phenomenon that affects between one and two percent of the population. And for those people eating any kind of gluten is going to cause serious problems. And then you have a much larger group of people who are gluten intolerant. That’s where things get squishy. These are people who have trouble digesting gluten, but it doesn’t lead to the same kind of medical problems as celiac disease does. Then you have people who are part of what I think is social contagion—people hearing about gluten as this great evil. We have this long history of looking for the evil nutrient to explain our unhappiness. That spotlight right now falls on gluten. It was on fat before, and for a long time it was on sugar.

So in the middle though of that Venn diagram, you do have a group of people who have a real serious problem tolerating gluten. And that can be explained several ways. I’m not sure which way is the most important; they don’t contradict one another though, so it may be that all of them are true or partly true.

One is that we make bread differently than we used to. We leaven bread very quickly and use yeast to do it, rather than long sourdough fermentation. There is very good research from Italy to suggest that long sourdough fermentation breaks down the two peptides that are implicated in gluten intolerance. And that the sourdough process, basically the microbes in the sourdough starter, are putting out enzymes that are breaking down complex proteins and that’s what gluten is. So maybe the problem is that the way we are making bread is changing.

Theory number two is we are getting a lot more gluten in our diet then we used to. We get it not just from bread, but gluten is used in a great many processed foods to give them a stretchy or chewy quality. It’s a filler. So maybe we are being overexposed to gluten because we’re getting it completely unprocessed by microbes in many, many other foods.

The third is that disorders in our microbiome—the fact that our guts are not optimally healthy because of our fast-food diet—are leading to a whole range of problems. Gluten intolerance perhaps needs to be looked at along with the high rates of allergies, asthma, and autoimmune diseases, which have stumped many health experts. They are all way up. Peanut allergies are a great example. So we may have just a kind of general digestive malaise where our bodies are confused about who his friend and who is foe among all these nutrients and is just fighting these big proteins that should be regarded as friends.

All these theories may have part of the answer, but I have yet to see any research that tells me, “aha,” this is what it’s about.
At The Glenwood Bakery we do not make gluten free products because it seems impossible to make a good loaf of bread without some quantity of gluten in it. Our raison d’etre is culinary, as always.

Even more ovens, pots and knives. A relatively important announcement.

Adam Robinson is opening a restaurant. Despite his passion for bread and the Robinsons’ love for their bakery, Mr. Robinson has sustained an injury to his wrist from making bread. Lo! the prognosis, from both the orthodox to the not so orthodox health practitioners, is that this injury is degenerative, unless he stops.

But all is thrills anyway! To keep the man off the streets, absolutely everyone knows he must take to The Stove. The Robinsons’ have, consequently, signed a lease for premises, not in Madrid, not in Johannesburg and never in Cape Town!, but in beloved Glenwood.
The Glenwood Bakery remains irrevocably ensconced in their hearts and will continue to feature heavily in their everyday work. Teams of bakers are being prepared. People are getting ready for great things, but now on two fronts.

Beautiful hosts and chefs are being imported from London for the restaurant. Here are some brief profiles of the people who will be serving the great and good of Durban.

Robinson’s first instruction came mostly from Alastair Little, from L’Escargot in Soho, where he eventually took over as head chef from Little at his restaurant, ‘192’. During the years working as head chef in ‘192’, he spent all his money eating in good restaurants and doing stints of learning, in England and in France, with people such as Mouilleron, the Troisgros and the Roux brothers, where he was taught and tortured in equal measure. He quickly found himself at the heart of a very fertile period during London’s culinary ‘catching up’ when he opened the The Brackenbury, then The Chiswick, and then The Salt House and The Bollo. These were all places which brought light to ‘unlikely’ areas in London and formed a part of the social movements of the young and beautiful creatures of the night. His outside catering company was called The Artichoke and Anchovy.

Adelaide Robinson, Adam’s daughter, who will manage and host, was raised a daughter of the London food revolution that her parents were part of. She slept many of her babyhood sleeps in the haze of people cooking and eating, and played many of her childhood games between the kitchens and dining rooms of her parents. Eating good food and knowing about good wines is as natural, for Miss Robinson, as playing at hopscotch or marbles is for other children. She has spent the last few years in London working in hospitality, until recently summonsed. Her deep and natural talent for hosting and service, and her understanding of food and wine, is something which cannot be taught to people and is the reason why she finds herself back in Durban, at her father’s side.

Mr. Stanyer started out working in hotels in Berkshire and Leicestershire in England, including Cliveden House, which was voted best hotel in England. He moved to London to work at Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant, Royal Hospital Road, which was Ramsay’s number one restaurant with three Michelin stars. From there he left to go to Daphne’s (at Caprice Holdings) and thence to Launceston Place as sous chef. Launceston Place won its first Michelin star in the first 6 months during the time that Stanyer worked there. When he left London to join Adam Robinson in Durban, he was working as head chef at The Butcher’s Hook, a fashionable gastro pub in Chelsea.

Carin Robinson has spent the last 10 years of her life becoming proficient in the art of abstraction, reduction and obfuscation. She also writes arguments. In other words, she has obtained a doctoral degree in philosophy. Having thus qualified herself for a nearly non-existent job market she now writes copy, chiefly for her husband’s enterprises, The Glenwood Bakery and, soon to be, The Glenwood Restaurant. One denouement of her relatively recent exposure to the business of food and wine, is that Robinson has developed a morbid fascination for social media, and the role that it evidently plays in the profiling of their businesses. It is this fascination, as well as her interest in the physical aesthetics and operation of eating places, which presently occupy her.

Yes, it will be a family affair. The menu is inspired by Robinson’s recent fascination in all things wheat; so pasta! including the rest of the contemporary Western European tradition from which he hails.

The Glenwood Bakery Facebook site, as well as a few of these Newsletters, will keep you posted as to the website for the restaurant and the eventual day on which it will be opened.

April will be the month.

Scallop and chocolate mousse, wrapped in seaweed

Some things are just not meant to be. Even if they can be dreamt, and experienced in a dream, they should, nevertheless, be wholly banned from reality.

Last night Someone dreamt of a warm scallop and chocolate mousse, wrapped in seaweed. They were like little parcels akin to sushi rolls and dolmades. In the dream, these foul parcels were also tasted – fully inclusive of the mouth and nasal experiences which tasting involves. Upon questioning the dreamer, he volunteered that the mouth feel was not half bad, but the flavour, a nightmare. It is hard to write about other people’s dreams. The Reader must use her imagination.

Yet, some frightful combinations, in fact, do make it from the dreamscapes of cooks into the visceral reality of their kitchens. That this happens shows extraordinary self-belief and an utterly uncritical intellectual commitment to the thought that dreams are guiding lights, prophetic or expressions of genius. Dreams, more than likely, are irrational combinations of experiences, or feared and anticipated experienced. The point is that sometimes they evidently are prophetic, even when they needn’t be.

One such dream that did make it into the kitchen of A Certain Cook, during the exuberance of youth, was steamed calf’s livers served with soy. Cooking and serving this, as he says now, was his road to Damascus. It was here that the invaluable lesson was learnt that culinary rules are there for good reason. Therefore, when broken, the reasons should be even better. It was on offering this confounded dish to his patrons, that “the light came on”. And, indeed, the world is a better place for this lesson having been learnt.

But it is well known that, despite the manifest horror of some food combinations, they still endure in the world of flesh and blood. Perhaps, it could be argued, this is how new conventions are formed. It is possible. Time will tell. But even if they do make it to the status of Respectable Convention, there are some conventions that simply should not be.

The famous Roux brothers, may they not rest in peace, served lobsters with mangoes. That Poseidon did not emerge in his full aquatic glory and strike them down, is surely only a sign that they were colluding with the devil himself. One is left with the ever bothersome question; is there a wine which can be prudently had with lobster and mango? To ask this question is to come to a similar conclusion as when asking whether 2 and 2 can ever be anything other than 4. It is simply impossible. And to make something with lobster, that is not curry (yum!), that cannot be had with wine, is surely a colossal mistake.

The word ‘right’ can mean so many things, including the opposite to left and morally good. But it is its capacity to mean ‘correct’ which I write about here. That some things which are dreamt up actually become material, is simply not right. Such as pineapples on pizzas.

Licentious behaviour and patrician laws

If one were to start a little restaurant in Durban one could easily find oneself faced with the horrific reality of there being either a church or a school, usually both, within 500 metres of every beautiful Victorian building which might house such a little restaurant. Places of worship and learning, states the 2014 amendment to the 2010 liquor license act of KZN, cannot be close to where alcohol is sold. Alcohol must, consequently, be moved.

This is not a concern for people who like to cook, eat and drink because of the nature of either schools or churches, unless they are inherently ugly buildings. But the consequences of such an act, combined with the current realities of town planning, are such that a place which aims to sell extraordinary food, must also now be a temperance hall. The tragedy of this, the violation of at least some of the conventions of selling and eating food, is one of gigantean proportion. Indeed, to not offer wine with food, makes some significant types of worship impossible. To not savour the coupling of the fermented grape with a bowl of carefully prepared pasta is a violation of aesthetic principles and personal freedom. Not everyone worships at the altars of invisible beings. Not everyone wants to drink orange juice with a carefully crafted spaghetti vongole. Not every cook wants to see their precisely prepared sous vide steak eaten whilst quaffing coca cola or wrongly selected wine.

There is not a place in the world where the incongruent combination of the liberal ideal of individual freedom, combined with prohibitionist laws, has not ended in excess and in tears. That school children and worshipping families cannot be protected from the vices of wine imbibing sinners by other more sophisticated laws is simply incredible. Such as the existing laws of selling to under aged children. If worshipping families cannot rely on their own sense of what is morally right to keep them away from dens of iniquity, then of what use is the hours spent in pews, listening to someone promulgating obedience to an ontologically compromised being?
But to hope for rationality from a patrician and prohibitionist society is to draw water from a stone. One must therefore rely on the pressures of economics and logistics to correct such folly. One must wait to see if nearly the entire Florida Road will be vacated, whether many places in Musgrave Road will be closed down, whether Durban’s beautifully bustling central business district will be voided of all the little bars and restaurants interspersed between its churches; Anglican, Roman Catholic and Charismatic. Where will these places leave to? What will happen to the business and pleasure of so many Durbanites?

We wait.

Morals about Italian Food

Alastair Little writes in Italian Kitchen, Recipes from La Cacciata, about what, to him, makes excellent food. There is much with which we agree, that are also principles of our own, and have hopefully applied at the bakery in one way or more. Of course, we disagree that patrons should not take any notice of the menu and only listen to the waiter (should the waiter not represent the menu, and the menu the kitchen’s aims?). Nor do we agree that the cheapest food is usually the best food on the menu – a dish of steamed langoustines has got to be better, and more expensive, than many other things on the same menu. However, the chief moral expressed below by Little is indubitably a true one: making food that is expensive, complicated and exotic is no guarantee that it is good; it often indicates exactly the opposite.

“There is no real Italian food outside of Italy. Sure, there is trendy Italianate food, at best a delicious pastiche, and there are occasional flashes of brilliance from neighbourhood Marios or Francos, but on the whole the thing has become a bit of a performance, a production of fashion and wishful thinking. In Italy it all happens rather more easily; good food, be it at home or in restaurants, is an everyday occurrence: common place, familiar and, exactly as expected, delicious. This cooking is done with whatever produce is seasonally available to a repertoire of orally transmitted recipes, largely of local origin. The importance of this locality cannot be stressed enough. It is almost fatuous to discuss Italian food as a whole when you bear in mind that the country is still imperfectly unified, and anything from another region is always referred to straniero, foreign. The only common denominator between the various regional kitchens is a fondness for pasta.

In restaurants the best food is often the cheapest. You would be wise to ignore the menu, particularly if it is translated into four languages, and accept the waiter’s advice. Indeed he may wish to settle your pasta order before you have sat down. The posher the restaurant the more the simplicity of the food disappears, except in a few exalted cases where the concept of elegant restraint is carried to extremes. Less definitely becomes more when you get your bill.

Italians wouldn’t dream of buying food in supermarkets – they use them for toothpaste, nappies and bleach, that’s about it. Markets thrive, speciality shops still prosper, and their customers await with relish the seasonal arrival of locally produced food, the canon of fruit and vegetables from spring to summer, unfolding into autumn with game, mushrooms and truffles then rounding off in winter with the new pulses and olive oil. You can be certain that everyone knows exactly what to do with this stuff as it arrives.

This is not a Utopian view. One can and frequently does eat badly is Italy, but that is due to sloppy cooking and most often found in areas over-infested with tourists. On a day-to-day basis the Italians eat better than any nation I know. The underlying bone structure of the food is so fabulous that misapplied cosmetic touches or familiarity cannot completely mask it. Prosaic excellence is the quality that has entranced me for twenty years, and what this book hopes to communicate.”

Bernadette and Shakespeare

When Bernadette was half way through the reading of ‘Nothing like the Sun’, her veneration for Burgess had reached near fever pitch. Mr Burgess writes a story about Shakespeare’s writing, written as if Shakespeare had written it himself, but in the third person. It was as if the mind of William Shakespeare had duplicated itself and was now his most faithful witness, providing its most accurate testimony. All in the sounds, sights, aromas and perpetual inebriation of Elizabethan England.

And there she found WS awash in a writer’s envy, a husband’s hopelessness and a young man’s lust. Bernadette, with her heart swollen towards the frailties of this poet, watched in horror as he warred, with nothing but rhymes and characters, against the creeping grasp of an underclass. She exalted in how material victories came through sentences and couplets. She despaired, with him, when gold encrusted lords commissioned his talents to fill their empty lives. She hated the compromise of his life and writing but, with him, loved the imperfection of being human.

Bernadette, being herself of a poetic spirit and artistic temperament, would often sup on the bitter gall of commissioned words. The half truths of over boiled characters and sourly pickled plots. She understood the debasement of being loved for a talent, but always being asked to do something another way. She sighed deeply, pondering her artist’s lot, and dropped a large warm tear upon her freshly written couplet. Her mother, the personified acerbic wit of Dorothy Parker, always warned her against excelling in anything but being a socialite. Only inherently false things can never be corrupted, she used to say. Bernadette could never work out how a claim could be so true and so false at the same time. She knew this ought not to be possible.

But Bernadette was of a kindred spirit with both Burgess and Shakespeare. Undaunted by piffling conundrums, she must chip away at the dead wood which obscures her better work; her best thinking. Not being deterred by the muddledness of the artist’s life, she solved with metre, rhyme and alliteration the seeming impossibility of her mother’s wisdom.

If true be the aptness of a claim
And false be the inaptness of the same
Then it must be either, it cannot be both
It stands married to only one, under logical oath
But if true be the aptness of a claim
And false be the wickedness of the same
Then it could be both, with no threat to reason
As the love of a false queen, is an act of true treason

So what is it about coffee?

There is undoubtedly a resurgent enthusiasm for coffee and coffee houses. Much media space and many dinner party conversations are filled with analysis of coffee and support for that roaster over this or that barista over this.

There have been and are other gustatory fads – cocktails (and the terrible flaring competitions), estate olive oils, single varietal chocolate, bread, smoking, ageing meat etc. They come and go ad nauseam, ad vomitarium and are always accompanied by the same pretension, ego filled attempts at connoisseurship and pseudo expertise. These crazes are not without worth or purpose, though. Hopefully, as they pass, they leave behind a greater awareness of the food we eat, an appreciation of the aesthetic and some knowledge.

Coffee seems to be the craze that has taken hold in Durban. I don’t see many cocktail bars or wine bars and maybe a smattering of artisanal beer brewers. Few talk to me of the ageing of their steaks or the virtues of pig chitterlings in this meat crazed country. But every day I am congratulated, regaled, threatened, ‘educated’ and otherwise beset upon by coffee experts. We even have a rather good Durban grown magazine devoted to coffee. But why coffee? There is the obvious religious influence of a large and vibrant Muslim community that foreswear the intoxication of alcohol but embrace the intoxication of caffeine. Nevertheless why coffee?

Coffee and the drinking thereof seems to have hailed from Ethiopia in about the 11th Century, spread to the Yemen and thence the rest of Gulf. As always the Europeans were late in the act, though again as always, it hasn’t stopped them claiming the drink as their own. It has been banned by both Islam and Christendom at various times - sometimes for health reason, sometimes for economic and often as a symbol of political agitation. Apparently coffee houses worldwide have been hot beds of revolution (this latter tradition we would like revive).
There are more than a few stimulants that we are all (or maybe not all) familiar with – sugar, amphetamine, MDMA, tobacco, cocaine, chocolate, ephedrine and caffeine. My personal favourite is definitely caffeine and has been for more than a few decades. Its current legality is most convenient.

It is without doubt physically and mentally addictive. My personal experience of rare mornings (or even whole days, heaven forfend) deprived of a cup of coffee are evidence enough without the voluminous writing on the subject. Why do I happily submit to this yoke of physical addiction – uniquely so in my life?

What does caffeine do to us? Apparently all it does is block something called adenosine (the thing that makes you sleepy) being absorbed (for a while only). And the side effects are increased dopamine and adrenaline production. So you get happy and stimulated (for a while only). So all this cafe talk of revolution, plotting and general conviviality seems to be a result of an excess of joy.
As the by-line in the Coffee Magazine has it, ‘coffee makes everything better’.

Finally, I would like to relate a story of a controlled tasting that we held at The Bakery a couple of years ago. We invited three local roasters and a few of our cognoscenti customers to a blind tasting. The three roasters bought their chosen blend and we blind tasted and rated them in espresso, cappuccino and plunger form. This tasting was run by Mel of The Coffee Magazine. No one, not even the roasters could identify the different coffees accurately. The only taster who got close was our then manager and barista Toko Cele.

Despite all this, The Glenwood Bakery proudly takes part and encourages this craze. We are now offering cold brew coffee from a Colombo blend especially developed for cold brew. We have also bought a second grinder in preparation for a supply of premium beans from the new roaster on the block in Morrison St, Dan Erasmus of Firebird Roastery. So we look forward to all kinds of caffeine fueled conversations filled with pretension, ego, knowledge and at least some revolution.

The Physiology of Taste; apology to Brillat Savarin

Okay, let’s get technical for a moment (if for no other reason than to convince you that I know what I’m talking about, though whether I do is debatable).

Taste is gustation and takes place in the mouth. It is now made up of five factors – salt, bitter, sour, sweet and umami (the latter has only recently been accepted in the West but has been accepted in Japan since the beginning of the 20th century). I am also convinced there are others, specific bitter taste receptors and those for different salts. And no one will convince me that part of the unique taste of artichokes takes place anywhere other than the mouth.

There is chemethesis – the burning of chillis, the cooling of menthol.

We also have ‘mouth feel’ which is the active manipulation of the food stuff in the mouth by the tongue and palate. Much as one feels by pushing objects with one’s finger. This is known as active taste or somatosensory stimulation.

Then, and most importantly, we have smell, or olfaction. There are two types of olfaction – orthonasal and retronasal. Orthonasal is the obvious one and is when one inhales or sniffs in smells. Retronasal is what happens when we think we are tasting foods. This is when the odours travel from the mouth and throat to the nose in breathing out. The last is most important when ingesting and is the reason why food is bland when our noses are blocked.

What is most interesting about this, though, is that the two types of olfaction have different receptors that are linked to two different parts of the brain.

Food odours seem to have a more a pronounced effect on the retronasal parts of the brain than non-food/chemical odours. In other words, it is during exhalation that food is ‘tasted’.

Retronasal olfaction (tasting when breathing out) is linked to more complex parts of the brain and the memory centres, particularly the long term and emotional memory centres. Is this to retain the experience of pleasant tastes or is it to do with the interpretation of the taste by our memory and mental constructions? No doubt both. Our childhood food was remembered and then feeds back in to our adult experiences to categorize them.

Mum’s cakes always were and always will be the best. I don’t actually buy in to this last sentence but it works as a metaphor!