In case you were curious, I took these photographs.

I hail from what my father coins, a global family.  My Brooklyn born, New York City bred father met my South African mother in Cape Town in 1971.  They had their first date at restaurant called La Perla in Sea Point.  It still exists to this day.  As his expatriate assignment was coming to a close a year and a bit or two later, my father told my mother that he was not leaving Africa without her.  I will not regale you with the details at the time but 40 years later the rest is history.  My siblings and I were born and raised in Dallas, Texas.  Our mother is fiercely proud of the fact that all three of her children are Texans.  In the mid 90's the family moved to Charlotte, North Carolina and while I was in university, my parents relocated overseas.  Fast forward to present day, I have sibling on the west coast (also a former resident of Beijing and New York City), a sibling who studied on the east coast and has called the Big Apple home for going on ten years, parents still straddling continents and me in the Queen City.  So here we are.

We are fortunate in that growing up we spent significant time in Cape Town with our family there.  The parents would pull us out of school during the Christmas holidays for four to six weeks at a time.  Armed with our text books and curriculum, most days we went to school with our adored cousins.  In fact, my sister and I went to the very same school that my mother attended as a child. Visits to Cape Town involved piling my four cousins and the three Breyer children into the back of my Aunt’s VW Kombi for adventure.  No stones were left unturned.  The beaches of Clifton.  Cape Point where the Indian Ocean greets the Atlantic and baboons come uncomfortably close to the parked cars. Kirstenbosch gardens for high tea and scones with clotted cream.  Trips via cable car to the top of Table Mountain if we were out of the house early enough.

Thanks to the hemispheres we spent long, summer days in December watching the older cousins play cricket and running around the playing fields next to our family’s house.  In the afternoons, we allowed ourselves to be chased around the pool by the family’s beloved German Shepherd, Sage.  On every visit, we made a trip to my Aunt and Uncle’s holiday home in Hermanus.  One year we were lucky as the season was right and we saw whales with their calves in the cove.  When the older cousins were of driving age, we would pedal around town in their mini Cooper, singing at the top of our lungs to the Violent Femmes.  As we grew older, we explored Stellenbosch where my mother attended university and home to the world famous wine country.  On our last visit a few years ago, the entire extended family toasted my mother’s 60th birthday with a memorable party at the Constantia Uitsig Wine Estate.  It was an epic event that carried well into the night.

During these trips, we were introduced to the food of the land.  Our four cousins eagerly shared boxes of Smarties.  From a truck on the beach we bought “Flakes” (soft serve ice cream with a Cadbury Flake in the middle).  My Aunt would surprise us with Peppermint Crisps from Woolworth’s and as per the instruction of the girl cousins, my sister would use hers as a straw for drinking milk.  We devoured fish and chips splashed with vinegar.  On special occasions, homemade fried potatoes.  We developed a fondness for Simba chips and guava juice.  As we grew older, we expanded our repertoire to include “Biltong” or South African jerky.  In the evenings, we would have a “Braai”, which is South African for barbecue.  My Uncle took ownership of the grill – lamb chops, chicken, “boerewors” or South African sausage and on one occasion, ostrich.  

Together, the Cooper sisters (my mother and aunt) would prepare a variety of side dishes including my Aunt’s now famous potato salad, rich with creamy mayonnaise and onions.  For dessert we feasted on Milk tart and Mulva pudding.  No meal finale was complete without hot custard.  Each night we sat together at the great dinner table.  Weather allowing, we were outside.  In the early 1980's we were a total of 7.  We soon grew to 9 and as partners and babies came into the picture, the numbers and those eligible for wine multiplied. One Christmas we were 44 in the gardens of Grindley House.

As we grow older, these trips have become far less frequent though our South African heritage remains strongly deep-rooted in the Breyer children.  We cousins and our families are now dotted around the globe: London, Cape Town, Auckland, New York, Los Angeles and Charlotte.  Thanks to email, Skype and other communications avenues, we are still closely involved in one another’s lives despite the waters, languages and numerous countries between us.

With all eyes on our beloved South Africa right now, I would like to share a recipe.  Growing up, my Mother regularly made the family a dish called Bobotie. With Indonesian origins and recipes dating back hundreds of years, many consider it the national dish of South Africa.  My Mother’s recipe pairs best with chopped bananas, roasted peanuts and if you can find it, Mrs. Balls chutney. Many recipes call for 2 slices of bread soaked in milk added to the meat but I leave this out of mine.  



2 lbs of ground beef
2 TBS olive oil
2 onions – chopped
3 Granny Smith apples – chopped
2 TBS turmeric
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
4 TBS curry powder
4 TBS apricot jam
2 TBS white wine vinegar
½ cup of golden raisins or sultanas
3 bay leaves
Rind of 1 lemon
2.5 cups of milk
2 eggs


1.        Heat the oil in a big pan and over medium heat, add chopped onions and Granny Smith apples.  Cook until they are lightly browned.
2.        Stir in the salt, black pepper, spices and apricot jam.  Now add the meat, lower the heat and let it brown. Once it is browned, add 1 cup of milk, the white wine vinegar and raisins. 
3.        Slowly cook over low heat for another 20 minutes.  Give it a taste to see if you need to adjust flavors.
4.        While this cooks, prepare the topping.  In a bowl, mix together 1.5 cups of milk with 2 eggs and 3 bay leaves.
5.        After 20 minutes, pour the meat mixture into a glass dish.  Then pour the milk / egg / bay leaves concoction on top.  Bake at 325 for 1 to 1.5 hours until the custard on top is set and nicely browned.
6.        Serve with rice (brown or white), diced bananas, roasted peanuts and chutney.

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