On ambition

We’re renovating my childhood home.

Recently reclaimed from the clutches of a house-sitting cousin and her giant guinea pigs, it’s an old block of chocolate face-brick on the West Australian coast, near the Indian Ocean, with cupboard nooks full of dusty memories.

I found myself knee-deep in old Tupperware and Moulinex food processors circa 1983: melamine and plastic, scratched and desolate.

In the depths of the pantry, shadows lurked: an unopened Black & Decker SnowMate, for Malaysian ice kacang and mojitos. Chinese claypots for slow-cooking in a nest of charcoal. A smiling Kitchen Helper set of every slicing blade imaginable. A Fujimaru teppanyaki griddle, three juicers and a waffle iron.

I don’t recall having eaten anything produced with the aid of any of these items.

It is a collection curated with deft domesticity, with visions of sumptuous big-haired dinner parties: lavish with melon balls, and hope. My mother hated cooking, yet planned for greatness.

Her culinary ambition - however misplaced - is part of her legacy, bequeathed to the next generation.

Easter has always been a time for enthusiasm.

For years now - through baking sessions of hot cross boulders, and Good Friday fish braais - I have longed to roast the Bunny himself.

Rabbits are delicious creatures.

Camping on a hillside in Tuscany one summer, my half-brother and I shared one in an osteria garden. Flattened, rubbed with salt, garden oregano, and a bit of local magic, we ate the coniglio with our fingers, teeth scraping lengthy drumsticks.

A lean white meat, it has to be cooked perfectly; usually for hours, until it melts off the bone.

By Friday night at the Troyeville Hotel, their weekly pot of rabbit and red wine has become coelho estufado, tender flesh and unctuous sauce to be mopped up with bread.

But at our Hot Cross Bunny Easter dinner, upstairs neighbour Karin and I put our better judgement aside, and submitted to a Jody Williams recipe: dijon, cream, white wine, 20 minutes at a simmer.

There was fresh porcini on toast to start, homemade dark cocoa ice-cream sandwiches to finish, but our furry friend was to be the star of the show. Alas, he turned into a tough, muscled disaster, swimming in a delicious mustard pool.

Ambition can be dangerous when you don’t follow your gut. Still, our Hot Cross Bunny - sinews and all - has become legend.

Sometimes, the very act of belief - that wonders can be achieved - and its accompanying attempts at success, are enough.

Hope lives in your unused breadmaker, your forgotten ice-cream machine.

Mum’s rescued treasures will live on in the garden shed. And one day, we’ll have claypot rabbit on Easter Sunday.


Troyeville Hotel, http://www.troyevillehotel.co.za, 011 402 7709