I would sit on the floor with my mother’s copy of the Royal Hostess recipe book (“South Africa’s own cookbook” it said proudly on the cover) and wish with all my heart that my mother would one day make me the Royal Rondawel cake.
Now that I am a mother, I understand completely why she didn’t ever make it. But I loved everything about that picture: the colours, the little Father Christmas, the hint of a present in the corner.
At a recent gathering, one of the women present said to her sister (my friend, also present) that the cake we were eating tasted just like the apple cake their long-departed mother used to make. “I still have the Royal Hostess,” she mused. “I wonder if that recipe is in there?” Continue reading “Why we love old recipe books”→
It’s a standing joke in my family, the way I make lists. But really, they work. This is not just shopping lists, though I make those too (in the computer, with all the standard items ordered by aisle in the local supermarket). There are different classes of lists, with different calming powers.
Everyday lists – reminding me to do things like renew the library books, or get the deworming tablets. I make these a week in advance (off a rolling master list), so Things Get Done. That old thing about asking a busy person to do things is true – but only because the busy person has taken the trouble to get organised in this way so you don’t have to.
Routine lists – also made in advance, saying things like put clothes out at night, pack lunch. I write them down even though I do them every day. It makes me feel better.
Longer-term lists – guess what, they are made in advance. This is things like make mince pies in October and freeze them so I am not running round like a crazy person in December.
Big event lists – here is the real power of a list, the preparation for a big event. An exam, a training course I am running, a holiday, a house move, a wedding… all of these are conquered by a list (or many lists). Sitting down with a cup of tea, a black Moleskin diary and a preparedness to think things through can instantly reduce that feeling that things have become too complicated, too overwhelming, toooooo much. Panic subsides. I move through the list, one item at a time. I’m still nervous and still worried and still anxious, but I have a plan. And as every South African knows, making a plan is everything.
You are so organised, say all my friends. I’d say to them, it is just the lists but I know they don’t believe me. So I smile and say thank you.
So, here we are again in the ghetto. Women’s Day is with us, and politicians, beauty spas and restaurants are having a field day. Newspapers are running stories like this, and I am feeling crabby. That article rightly points out many of the major issues facing women worldwide, but I am here to say that designating a special day is not the way to address those things.
I would ask you to think about one question as you go about this day – how would it all feel if the stories you were reading and the tweets you are sharing and the promotional specials you were seeing were in honour of black people? That’s right, a special day to celebrate the specialness of black people. Patronising? Racist, even? Okay – now you know why I dislike Women’s Day so much.
In March 2012, I wrote a column for IOL on the subject, which you can read here. But I still think this:
Whether we are honouring heroines of the struggle, or celebrating the achievements of the women’s movement, or suggesting that some special woman deserves breakfast in bed or a day at the spa, we are saying that women are somehow different from men. We are saying that something about them needs different treatment from men.
And what does being “special” in this way do? It opens the door to discrimination, is what it does.
Women all over the world are still oppressed, beaten, killed, deprived of education.
Girl children are killed because they are girls.
And that happens to them because, fundamentally, they are seen as different, useless, not fully human.
So how does a day celebrating their otherness (and giving rise to a lot of patronising woolly thinking) help the cause, sisters and brothers?