Book Review – West Coast Cookbook

Friday, 16 January, 2004
Jos Baker
Suffering from excess eating? Don’t let a surfeit of festive fare blind you to the appeal of this local cookbook.

By Jos Baker

WEST COAST COOKBOOK by the Bergrivier Vissersvrouevereniging, edited by Ina Paarman. (Struik) softcover, R153

The windswept Cape West coast is littered with shipwrecks, but the inhospitable coastline is broken by sheltered bays where fishing communities have eked out a living for generations, their cooking dependent on the bounty of the sea, their basic food simple ocean-to-pot dishes.

More than a cookbook, this is a sea-fresh slice of history, initiated by the enterprising Bergrivier Vissersvrouevereniging (the Berg River fisherwomen’s committee) whose aim was to restore pride and dignity to their community, while preserving a disappearing culture. Proceeds will go towards job creation and a tertiary education trust for the 176 families involved.

It’s an evocative book that marries the nostalgia of old photographs with family recipes and sparkling shots by photographer Neil Corder, who has captured the beauty of seasons and settings and brings the easy-to-prepare dishes to appetising life.

All recipes have been tested by editor Ina Paarman to ensure professional standards. Garnishing is modern to appeal to contemporary palates, and food preparation not necessarily traditional: tomato paste and frozen peas serve as time-saving short-cuts. But the basics are unchanged: crusty potbread, tasty fish pie, nourishing soups and the quaintly named ‘oumens onder die kombers’ which translates as cabbage rolls.