The Reluctant Cook - Taste Magazine 2018 - Littlegig

The Reluctant Cook – Taste Magazine 2018

31 January 2018

Her lack of interest in cooking belies Georgia Black’s passion for food. She’s even created a business round it – Littlegig festival, where the menu for the weekend is just as important as the music.

Text: Georgia Black
Photograph: Micky Hoyle/Bureaux

I have a schizophrenic relationship with food. I care about it, think about, write about and work with it a lot. I’ve edited a cookbook, I subscribe to multiple food magazines, and, thanks to my mother, who knows her way around a Magimix, I know what good food tastes like and what’s off limits (pineapple in coleslaw, margarine in anything.) Yet the only thing I can make is toast.

A heel of white bread filled with slightly stale NikNaks was my food nirvana when I was eight. That’s what we ate at my best friend’s house, a chaotic place where no-one cared about homework or curing gravadlax. Another food memory is of my grandmother – a beauty and a writer – who rang a bell from her seat at the dining room table and perfect French onion soup would appear, followed by the rarest fillet with double-fried chips that we’d dip in its juices. She, like me, couldn’t scramble an egg. My mother, drawing a line under her childhood and adolescence, became my grandmother’s opposite: a wholly devoted mother, wife and homemaker. Nothing would stand in the way of her quest.

Fast-forward a generation and the mother-daughter pendulum swung back again (as it is won’t do) to me, with the opposite domestic resolve. I would not play house. I baked a cake precisely once, aged 40, to show my mother I could. And it was perfect. But I felt zero need to repeat the small victory. Repetition, you see, is my nemesis. And no matter how efficiently you wheel that trolley down the supermarket aisle, three days later you’ll be doing the same thing. No, just no.

Luckily, I married someone who is flawed with the same impatience, so he gets me. When I fell pregnant, unexpectedly and for the third time, just as I was starting my new business, I was devastated that the quicksand of home life was going to pull me under once again. More than any “push” gift, I wanted a chef. Justin granted me my slightly spoilt request and so began my real love affair with food, which, it turned out, could only flourish once it was separated from domestic duty. So Jenny Ward walked into our lives and she and I did a cookbook together to replace the rusty lever-arch file containing my grandmother’s and mother’s recipes. As a result, Jenny become smitten with wood-fired cooking and she now owns a brilliant concept restaurant in Cape Town, Chefs, where everything is made in the pizza oven.

“Thanks to my grandmother, I consider myself a world expert on double-cooked fries, which must be deep golden in colour, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.”

In the same year that Jenny was with us, the 24-hour Littlegig festival made its debut at Wiesenhof outside Stellenbosch as South Africa’s first music festival where the food is made by top chefs. Bertus Basson of Overtune frame was the headline chef and the offering included a host of fantasy food experience, from southern-fried chicken-waffles at midnight, to a six-course chef’s table dinner in the forest. (By this stage I’d travelled to other festivals, including Wilderness in Oxfordshire, England, which, in the year I went, had Virgilio Martinez from Lima Restaurant Central, currently ranked fifth in the world, and Skye Gyngell, formerly of Petersham Nurseries, as its headline chefs.) At the second Littlegig festival, PJ Vadas from the Hoghouse Brewing Company and Rasmus Munk from Alchemist in Copenhagen were just some of the chefs involved.

It’s been three years of culinary immersion and I’ve spent hundreds of hours thinking about the food experience that will always trump the food itself. Thanks to my grandmother, I consider myself a world expert on double-cooked fries, which must be deep golden in colour, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, preferably boiled in water with a bit of vinegar before they’re fried. Inspired partly by her, there will be a hot-chip station until 4 am at the after-party at the next Littlegig. Thanks to my mother, it’s ingrained in me that if it’s not delicious, it shouldn’t be served. And thanks to the freedom that having a family chef has brought into my life, I get to immerse myself in my work, bringing people together in an inspiring communal food-and-music experience.

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