March 26, 2020

Another seat at my table


This was going to be such a good year. I loved the balance of the numbers 2020, so started the new decade rested, invigorated and ready for any challenge. We had managed to get both our children and their partners to join us on a family holiday, so my emotional tank was full. I was excited to return to work – I did so two days early! Every year at JHP we kick off our year in the same way, with a vision board session, with clients and friends, collating pictures and words on paper, encapsulating what we want our lives to look like. Mine was bright and cheerful, with inspiration international travel combining work and play. A multi-coloured photo of Copenhagen dominated, as I had booked my dream trip to dine at NOMA, a photo of London depicting my review at Ottolenghi’s ROVI, one of the lavender fields of France and another, the vibrant colours of India. Four trips tied to four feature articles for the Gourmet Guide online magazine, which has blossomed beyond our dreams.


I had lots of words around these visuals, like family, breathe, build a sustainable business, support, training – there were many. One really resonated with me, I had cut out a quote from a magazine that said ‘add a space at your table’. My interpretation of that was to meet new people and to reach out to them. I grew up in a home where there was little money, but we could always bring friends home for a meal. This was to be my year of reaching out to others, of being hospitable and converting acquaintances from all walks of life, into friends.


This week our new dining room table was delivered. It has been crafted from doors that were salvaged from my husband’s family home. It took me years to find a craftsman who would take on the job. My father-in-law, who would have been 101 this year, came to SA when he was 13 years old. His father brought a load of Australian teak on the ship, with which to build his come. This table comes with bumps and bruises. It seats eight comfortably, and at a stretch, will surely accommodate a dozen. There shall be many scars and stains added to its patina. It will be where our family and friends will congregate for meals, celebrations, high days and holidays. But not now.


But let’s get back to today. Our landscape has changed. My travel will be armchair travel, and once our online redesigned stay-at-home lockdown version of our food-writing course goes live next week, I will be reading the writing of others. Everything will unfold at this table. On one half is where I will be working. I have allowed space for my laptop, notebook, and a pile of reference books. In the middle is a 1000-piece puzzle, waiting to be started. At the other end are two places where my husband and I will eat our meals, and plan our future together. It is uncertain, but we will focus on the positives, and dream of the day when we can, together, congregate with loved ones around the table. We all need to get ready to do the right thing, to focus on what we can do, not only for ourselves but for others, and once we return to the ‘new’ normal, to ensure that we make a space at our table for those who have not navigated this path painlessly. May you remain positive, and may you and your family stay safe and healthy.


I am a feeder, it will be hard to feed only two, but I have found a way to feed more. My heart smiles when I see so many South Africans starting initiatives to support local and the unfortunate. It is time to help and support each other during these uncertain times. Den Anker restaurant in the V&A Waterfront is ahead of the game with their BackABuddy campaign. Your contribution ensures food parcels go out to people that are in need:

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