Orange juice is one of my biggest obsessions in life and, so last Friday morning, while nursing a hangover, you can imagine just how amazing it was to taste what I think is the best orange juice EVER! No jokes! I was in the middle of the Spier Wine Farm in Stellenbosch for the 2015 Spier Secret Festival, where foodies gather each year to talk about – guess what – food, but most importantly, I found, about how food affects every other aspect of our lives. There’s the environment, there’s our relationship with other living things (animals, of course), etc, etc.
The orange juice came with a wonderful breakfast prepared by Frederik Bille Brahe, the chef and founder of Atelier September, a natural food restaurant in Copenhagen. With a simple aesthetic, Federik treated us to poached Farmer Angus eggs, accompanied by fresh flowers he said he had just picked that morning around the Spier farm. I’m hardly a fan of chowing down on flowers, but you know, everyone else swallowed, so there goes! I’m still alive! His fresh-made marmalade was the stuff of magic tricks and went down so well with the croissants. I should have asked for a jar.
There was a whole lot more on offer, but I was still a little bit hungover from the previous night’s jol and chowing down on everything in that state, as you will know, is close to impossible. Unfortunately, I’d also left the camera in the car at the parking lot back at the Spier Werf where the conference would be taking place, so I missed out on the opportunity to take images at the breakfast.
Once we got back to the Werf, we attended a talk by Janice Wong, a “PhD student at the Crossmodal Research Lab at Oxford University. Her research examines crossmodal correspondences between sound and flavour, with on a focus on how auditory stimuli can modify and enhance the way we perceive food and drink.”
It was quite interesting and I swear I am going to be using a lot of music to enhance the flavours and experience for my guests next time I host a lunch or dinner (as if I ever do). It was like a lesson in magic, and the best part of it, is that it actually works. Janice gave us some sriracha to taste and asked us to rate the taste with every sound she played. The more gentle sound made the sriracha taste far less harsh than it did when she played the rough sound. So, I’m out here wondering how you would feel about, say, my braai ribs, were I to play some sweet, gentle jazz while you eat. Does the meat feel like it is falling off the bone, is it tender, does it taste like the ribs are honey glazed? It would be a great experiment, wouldn’t it?
There were several other awesome talks I got to see including one by British chef Jackson Boxer, whose one quote – “it is crucial that we think incredibly hard about our food choices” – sums up the kind of approach I would love to adopt to eating, if only I had the time. I’d absolutely like to start making the time to do that.
We got a crash course in the art of cheesemaking from Luke Williams of the Culture Club on Bree Street, Cape Town, and of course, learnt more about Spier’s wines from winemaker Frans Smit.
There were many other speakers that Mali and I decided we need to catch up with and share their stories with you, like Zayaan Khan, the “insect lady”. It was very interesting how she’s managed to come up with so much that can be done with insects. Mali can tell you how “delicious” he thought the silk worms were, for one. I skipped that, but I think I should soon be able to muster the courage to put one of those babies into my mouth and not be nervous about them turning into moths inside my belly (butterflies, anyone?).
Lunchtime, as expected, was quite a treat. More than porky’s head, which we were all too pleased to devour, getting to know some of the foodies around me at the table added to the experience. I often say food is quite possibly better than sex, and there’s nothing more delightful than breaking bread with other food loving peeps who won’t even bat an eyelid when you start making “hhhmmmmm” sounds while biting into porky’s fat, or when you close your eyes because of the intensity of your foodgasm (please don’t tell the fashion set I said this).
The day ended with a splendid dinner hosted by Woolworths and Abigail Donnelly, editor of EatOut and food editor for Woolworths’ TASTE Magazine. This was my first Spier Secret experience having missed out on it last year because work! This year, I made 100% sure that nothing would stand in my way, work included, and I have to say, it is one of those experiences I would recommend everyone, anyone, who loves food, put it on their bucket list. You will not regret it!
By Sandiso Ngubane
Images by Sandiso Ngubane & Malibongwe Tyilo