Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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Strand Day 7

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My first week in Strand is complete. And we had another walk up and down the beach in the morning. In the afternoon we went to Stellenbosch where my dad was busy at the university and my mum and me had a look around. Stellenbosch is probably as close to a university town as you’ll get in South Africa. Many things in town belong to the university and there are quite a few students running around. We walked by the on-campus food court which has many fast-food outlets and a large screen with MTV on, i.e. not looking much different from what I saw in the US.

We also passed the university’s botanical garden, where we had some tea and I found time to write a few of the numerous postcards I bought. (I even got the proper tourist stamps for these: self-adhesive ones for the appropriate rate which don’t even require an air-mail sticker – not that that sticker makes any sense usually as you can’t even send non-airmail postcards.)

I had some scones with the tea which was nice. I ‘discovered’ scones down here in South Africa, and I’ve been keen on eating some with jam and cream ever since. Actually I developed a habit of making scones in school and made them whenever we had to bring food. If people didn’t like me, they at least liked my scones. The only tricky thing here in South Africa is that in most places they’re not good at making whipped cream. Perhaps it’s just that the cream you buy is treated differently than in Germany (where any cream can be whipped as opposed to the UK where you’ll have to buy whipping cream rather than double cream for that purpose) or it’s the general heat, or both.

Then we went back and forth across town a little. Not too much to see there in total but a bit of time to kill before my dad was back. When he finally came we went for dinner. On our way there, some kid started begging for money. He seemed to have learned some lines and simply didn’t stop. He even started grabbing our hands and holding on them which I found very annoying. At that point we were so annoyed that he wouldn’t get any money for sure.

And that’s not only because I’m uncomfortable with beggars – be it here or back home – anyway. But also because I read in some travel guide that if I really wanted to do any good, I should rather donate to some charity as many of the beggars you meet near touristy places are organised gangs.

That said, there are many other people around here which don’t do anything particularly useful and who ask a little money for it. To be honest, I don’t need someone to point out the only easily visible free space in a parking lot to me. And neither do I need him to ‘help’ me park the car. Not only do I find such ‘help’ generally useless anyway, I am perfectly capable of parking a car on my own. And having in mind that I learnt parking cars in small overcrowded European streets while parking is more American-size down here, I tend to think that the advice-giving should rather go the other way. But then it seems that the guy is actually doing something and he’ll also ‘watch’ your car while you’re away. While I can’t see how this should help in any way, you’ll still give him a few Rands for his ‘help’ afterwards. OK, I’m not good at this topic, but I’m already uncomfortable with people packing my bags at the supermarket…

After going for a wine, we went for dinner to Cape Town Fish Market which seems to be a small chain of fish restaurants. The restaurant included a sushi bar which I was a bit sceptical about. While they had Asian-looking people behind the bar, they didn’t look particularly Japanese to me. And neither did the sushi menu in which every second offering contained avocado. I ordered some shrimp tempura as a starter anyway. They were quite huge and looked very good. But they tasted a bit greasy, which was a shame. As far as I can tell, this happens if the fat they’re deep fried in isn’t hot enough. Then the batter doesn’t become crisp quickly enough and too much fat can soak into it.

My dad had some sashimi as a starter and those looked like nice and surprisingly large pieces of fish which tasted good. Funnily they served two kinds of soy sauce with that. The usual one and a ‘light’ version. I had never seen that before. And there’s probably no need for me to say that I consider this ridiculous.

As my main course I had grilled kingclip. Kingclip is a very popular fish down here and a local one as far as I know. I don’t think it’s usually sold in Europe. It’s a very nice fish with clearly structured and firm meat. So eating a nicely grilled one of those was good. The vegetables they served with it were only lightly cooked – ‘al dente’ if you wish. That’s quite an encouraging trend in South African cuisine: giving up their tradition of overcooking everything until it’s soggy. The only thing they could’ve done better about that is cut it into slightly smaller chunks. As cutting al dente vegetables with a fish knife isn’t all that easy.

Somehow the fish left me hungry, so I decided to have some apple crumble for dessert. Why they didn’t manage to serve my parents’ coffees at the same time as my crumble remains beyond me but that wasn’t the real problem. What concerned me much more was the apple crumble. It was a soggy mess and the ice cream that came with it felt rather cheap (the type where you can feel the little ice-crystals break when going through it with your spoon). Heck! Apple crumble is such a lovely and easy-to-make dessert that I simply cannot understand how they manage to get it wrong. Perhaps I should just give up any hope on having a good dessert in restaurants?

March 8, 2005, 23:52

Tagged as country:za, south africa, travel.

Comments

Comment by Terri: User icon

Hello Sven just looked up your blog as I needed to know what a kingclip was and where it came from as I had never heard of it. I just wanted to mention one thing though. You can actualy whip double cream in the UK if you buy the whipping cream it just makes it easier. Thanks Terri

January 21, 2007, 12:59

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