Conversations in Kitchens

At home in Alberton, a long American style ranch house, my father had his own kitchen. It was a complicated path to arrive there. It was after the second extension of the house that we acquired a large laundry that was too big just to wash clothes. I should have known. Along with this extension came an industrial capacity electrical supply in the form of three phase electricity.

The laundry is square with a door to the courtyard and a door to the garage. There are high windows on the south and north walls. The north facing windows give the laundry a pleasant warmth in the Highveld winter. Against the southern windows my father installed a commercial catering stainless steel counter with two electrical grills, one smooth, as you see in the American diners, and one ribbed, and rectangular, as you see in the steakhouses. Above these two grills is an extractor that is powered by a motor large enough (and loud enough) to power a small Cessna that could land at the nearby Rand Airport. These appliances were fed by the three phase electricity.

He used to love cooking on those grills. They were simple dishes. Lamb chops with lemon and oregano. Chicken pieces or fillets, with about the same marinade. Prawns on the flat steel with garlic and peri-peri. Much as the flavours were simple, so the volumes were vast. The two grills could feed a small Greek wedding and have spare. He would have his golfing partners over every so often for a dish of prawns. Pandenaughties Golfing Promotions were a hoot, with ribald comments and extended laughs about performance on the greens and elsewhere.

I remember him cooking for us when the Springboks won the 1995 World Cup. It was a happy evening with my father-in-law, Luigi, my brother-in-law, Domenico, myself and some friends. After the meal we retired to the study where my father played the piano and Luigi sang. Much wine was consumed that night in ardent patriotic fervour. It was the pinnacle of being a displaced South African.

I too used those grills. I remember one year when my parents were in Greece I had my twenty fifth birthday party at home. Those grills must add some hallucinogenic substance to events, because we too ended up with a mad hatter’s party in the Highveld winter sun. I cooked breakfast for everyone after we moved one onto the veranda. It must weight close to 50 kg, so that in itself was hard work. I do not remember much after the brunch. It was a good day.

My father loved the real kitchen of his homes, in South Africa and in Greece. They were the soul of the home, he would say. It was where people would congregate and talk. Not in the lounge, which was reserved for more sombre occasions. Life was lived in the kitchen.

My Father's Grill on the Veranda

 

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