July 15, 2010

Searching for Applesauce in Johannesburg

I’d like to shed a few more thoughts on local food, or, rather, the process of acquiring it. It’s the weirdest things I have trouble finding here in South Africa. I wouldn’t have been offended if there was no Nutella, or lemongrass, or Tahini, or any kind of ethnic food. Yet those things are surprisingly easy to find in most supermarkets, while other items I consider staples have been on my iPhone Grocery IQ app for months, without any luck.

Applesauce is one of those items. How can an entire country not know about applesauce? A country practically founded by farmers (boers) no less? When I finally hunted down a jar of applesauce, it was no bigger than a small can of tomato paste, and the applesauce was indeed a sauce, very soupy. My kids have elicited dubious stares when they brought Motts snack packs of applesauce to school, which were leftovers of my former Costco overflow garage shelf. People just don’t know applesauce here. In the store section where I would expect it, all you will find is huge jars of apricot jam.

Other similarly elusive foods are baking chocolate, or even chocolate chips, which is especially disconcerting because there is no shortage of the most wonderful chocolate, my favorite being all things Lindt. Maybe South Africans don’t like to bake? Because I’ve also had to search for yeast at times. One thing I simply have not found is Pillsbury (or any) ready-to-bake cinnamon rolls. They were on Sunshine’s birthday breakfast wish list, but this year we had to make do with scones, which are really what Americans call biscuits. Biscuits here, on the other hand, are what we call cookies. And then there is a whole other category of cookies called rusks, which you will find an entire aisle of in every grocery store. They are very dry hunks of baked goods with a biscotti-like composition but not quite the taste, and are best eaten by dunking into your coffee liberally to soften up. Rusks, Biltong, and Boerewors - the South African's diet.

Meanwhile, I’ve started making my own applesauce. It is kind of sad that it took Zax’s insistent pleading, and my inability to find it anywhere, before I began such a basic and easy thing as making applesauce. Cut up a bag of apples as they are, cook in a bit of water with some sugar and a stick of cinnamon until they fall apart, then grind through what I only know from my German childhood as a “Flotte Lotte” (“Racy Tracy”? Not sure how you would translate that…) to get rid of all the peels and seeds, and voila, you will have an applesauce much better than you’d find in any store, South African or otherwise.

Note: I have since been notified by my good friend L.A. (I'm SO glad people are reading my blog!) - who took it upon herself to defend the honor of South Africa - of all the places to find baking supplies. Turns out that there is an entire store here at Fourways dedicated to the topic, called Kadies, which takes pride in being the "1st Retail Baking Supplies shop with our own website in South Africa." I officially apologize for any offense I might have caused to all South African bakers and will go and check out Kadies shortly. Maybe they also carry applesauce?



Lisa N. said...

Always interesting to hear what is going on in your life. PS I love the new photo on your banner!

Sine said...

Thanks, I took that from the outside of Soccer City right before the Germany game. So sad it's all over now!

W. A. Jeffrey said...

As I started reading this post I was mentally preparing my "just make your own applesauce" comment but lo and behold by post's end it turns out you had already done just that. My great grandmother used to make her own but incorporated some of the peel as well which if done right can add an interesting tang and texture to the mix. You can also add nutmeg and/or clove to the mix if you want a zestier flavor. Also, trying different varieties of apples or mixing and matching (depending on if different kinds are available to begin with). Myself, I always preferred homemade cooked/spiced apples to applesauce any day.

Great you found a baking supply place. I had been wondering if baking was not a big deal in SA like it is in the USA. While I have been planning my move to SA, I've been looking at houses on Property24 all over the country and have been amazed at how so many of the kitchens seem fairly basic, even in the fancy upmarket houses. Yet the BBQ setups tend to be fairly elaborate. I guess that shouldn't surprise me as from what I gather South Africans BBQ pretty much everything.

Sine said...

Yes, they do, and it's called a braai. It's the centerpiece of every household. And the kitchens being more basic could also be because everyone employs domestic help, and often leaves the cooking to them as well. So I guess the houses are designed with the idea that the domestic help does the cooking, whereas in the U.S. we design our houses with the idea of spending a ton of time in the kitchen. not that everyone does:-)