Fire Water

Neil Pendock May 26, 2008 0

Something for conspiracy theorists to ponder: why does writer Wendy Toerien’s name not appear on the cover of fire water: South African Brandy as author (the SA Brandy Foundation fills that slot) and why is the book called fire water and not firewater? Anyway, it’s a cracking good read with the only problem the extortionate price of R335 a copy – a problem that is easily overcome by ordering through www.Kalahari.net where the price is a more reasonable R265. My review from yesterday’s Travel & Food:

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Fire Water: SA Brandy by the SA Brandy Foundation, Quiver Tree, 2008, pp. 207, R335.

The stereotypical brandy drinker as safari-suited oom straight out of the pages of Herman Charles Bosman is a myth and this coffee-table book on SA’s favourite spirit is also a million miles away from those collections of picaresque brandy anecdotes and escapades André P Brink published in the seventies.

Today’s brandy consumer is more black diamond than black comb-in-sock and so it makes total sense to have Franschhoek’s most fashionable foodie, Reuben Riffel, propose duck livers marinated in Nederburg Potstilled Solera brandy with Gorgonzola risotto, black mushrooms, crispy sage and butternut coulis. The section on matching brandy with food is mouthwatering and Craig Fraser’s photos will be the death of many a diet.

Of course it is history rewritten large to choose all five brandy chefs featured from greater Cape Town (Franschhoek is the furthest out) as brandy was always the drink of the great interior since wine would go vrot by the time it reached Kimberley or Klerksdorp. And cheeky too, as an increasing percentage of brandy grapes are grown along the Orange River – an appellation conspicuous by its absence from the travelogue chapter which runs out of spirit at Oudtshoorn.

A pity as skilpaadjies (spiced lambs’ liver wrapped in caul and flamed with Inus Bezuidenhout’s remarkable Bezalel boutique brandy from Keimoes) make ideal cocktail snacks on a sunset cruise down the Groot Gariep on Sakkie Se Arkie. On the subject of cocktails, the firecracker, a combination of brandy and peppadews, is inspired. A true South African original, as is this excellent book.

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