January 31, 2006

A Maynardville Picnic

Cooking and eating often revolve around traditions. We cook (and long for) certain dishes because we remember our grandmothers making them when we were little. We mourn the closure of one specific, crappy Chinese restaurant because our parents took us there every Sunday.

One family ritual that I, at least, associate with food is the annual Shakespeare production at Maynardville. Every January, a Shakespearean play is performed at the open-air theatre in Maynardville, a public garden in the Cape Town suburb of Wynberg. My family goes every year without fail, and I must admit our outing has very little to do with an acute appreciation for Shakespeare. Some productions are strong, others disappointing, but we rarely heed bad reviews. It’s about more than that.

We pile into the car with cushions (the seats aren’t very comfy at Maynardville), fleecy tops and heavy rugs (even Cape summers can be chilly at night), chocolate and thermo’s of coffee and hot chocolate for interval, and a gigantic picnic. We arrive forty minutes before curtain-up (ok, there’s no curtain) and picnic on the grass. Over the years, more and more theatre-goers have latched onto this idea, but our picnic is naturally still the most delicious and generally over-catered.

In the afternoon, we start an assembly-line to make sandwiches. It’s the usual nonsense – one person wants pickles, another will only eat wholewheat bread – so we end up with several varieties, some with warnings scribbled on the wrapping: “NB! P’s Sandwich!”, “Pickle-free cheese for T” “Hand’s off! This one’s MINE!”. At least one of which my father invariably eats by accident, anyway. This year, I was designated chicken mayo chef. Much to my brother’s disgust, I mixed shredded chicken with a mango atchar-yoghurt-dhania(coriander/cilantro) dressing, and then added some roughly chopped arugula. Apparently it’s not chicken mayo without, well, the mayo. Oh, well. Aside from sarmies, we had little grilled chicken sausages, seedless grapes, chopped nectarines and a box of pasties de nata (Portuguese custard tarts) from Vida e Caffe (deserving of its own blog post… one of these days!). And a wide selection of cooldrinks and fruit juices.

We feasted well, and on top of everything, enjoyed the Shakespeare, too.

For anyone in Cape Town, Twelfth Night is playing through February 18th at Maynardville. And don’t forget to bring your own picnic.