Lockdown Themed Dinner Parties: “Travelling” during the pandemic

Hello friends,

Travel has always been my medicine. Before Saffron and Scarlett came along, I traveled as often as I could. Sometimes it was work, which took me to the Royal Courts of Justice in London and often times it was whimsical, mischievous and adventurous: I’d jump at the opportunity to visit a calisson festival in Provence or go white truffle hunting in Alba. When I say travel is my medicine, I mean it. The moment I land in another country, my soul just expands as I meet different people, sample food and explore culture. I come back from every trip with a sense that the world is a beautiful place and that (almost) anything is possible. For some, having children often signals the end of travel and adventure. For me, it was just the beginning: I wanted to share my love of the world with them and that meant making the great passions of my life from Versailles to Venice to Frida Kahlo’s house to the fishing life of Nantucket accessible to kids. We have dressed up as gondoliers and princesses and created thousands of fantasy stories wherever we’ve gone. And that’s how we managed to visit historical castles, shrines and ruins. Dressed up and making up stories we traveled the world, with Liquorice and Strawberry in tow.

Ooh La La Confectionery has also taken me on wonderful culinary adventures, from sourcing matcha in the greenest regions of Japan to making a pilgrimage to the foothills of Pancalieri where mint family farmers shared how it was their very herb which infused signature beverages like Campari and Absynth. I even took my girls with me to Piemonte on an advanced chocolate making course. Food has taken me to Peru and to China and I have eaten everywhere, from Michelin star restaurants to street food in back alleys. Wherever I go, I sample the food and I seek out the stories. As I learn people’s stories, their family food secrets passed from their grandmothers, their nonnas, their grandmères, I genuinely become a happier person. Who was to know that the intimacy of meeting people and hearing their stories would become an endangered practice in 2020! I am thinking about the beautiful cultural way people interact in France, the kisses on both cheeks, the warmth and hugs of Italians. I am remembering chefs in Merida, Mexico taking me under their wing and visiting markets together to sample corn and molé.

The pandemic has made me realise even more how incredibly fortunate I was to have spent so much time exploring our world and having unfiltered and fearless contact with people around me. I am also so grateful that I prioritised traveling with Saffron and Scarlett. Realising that travel would not be an option in 2020 was a real blow. But hey, what have Saffron and Scarlett’s parties always been about?! We would visit Europe or the Americas and imbibe the culture, the language and the food of every country we ever visited, and then bring it all back to our home in South Africa for a party. Every trip out there was connected to a party back here, where we would re-create and share Russia, Mexico, Venice or Paris with our friends and family.

In March this year, as we settled into a lockdown lifestyle, our daughters in the rhythm of online learning, and me focusing on feeding everyone and keeping us safe, I started to transport all of us to other countries at dinnertime. These little dinners with my family have become a balm and a solace, a little piece of other-worldly lightheartedness amid so much fear and loss in our world. These dinners also brought an element of playfulness of excitement to our lives. My kids would arrive for dinner and see snow on the logs, the fire crackling, the fondue simmering… Ta-da, we were in Switzerland. We have ‘tartanned’ for Scotland and ‘pop-pommed’ for Peru, we have ‘matryoshkad’ for Russia and “Saried” for India. Yeah, some parents thrive at online schooling, but I have really come into my own parenting style when it came to around the world dinners in lockdown (sorry teachers!).

4th of July American Flag cake
A German dinner with black forest cake and pretzels
Venetian Dinner, serenaded by Gondeliers

We all need things that keep us going, that give us hope, that remind us of what was and what is yet to come. For me, these dinners transported us to other lands and also to another world, not just the world of Europe or the Americas, but to a world where people sat together, met each other, spoke to each other. To a world where I would visit a restaurant and within the first or second course, I would be sitting in the kitchen with a glass of wine, learning the secrets from the chef of his bouillabaisse or his chicken. It was a world of intimacy, of community, of friendship and of freedom. I make these little dinners to remind me that that world still exists.

So welcome to my “Around the World Family Dinners” where I am going to share the recipes from these dinners and more! I will start by sharing my French evening with you. The nights are still chilly and so on my blog you will find a recipe for French onion soup and homemade baguette HERE



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