Mystery, Mindfulness & Mielie Bread

There are times when you might not want to eat mindfully. On an airplane, for instance. Or when on day four of hiking the 90km Fish River Canyon in Namibia the only foodstuff left in the backpack is Smash (* instant mashed potatoes, mmm…). I haven’t hiked the Fish River Canyon, but I’m sure that if it got to the stage where Smash was the only option for survival, I’d be sending my mind off to nap in the furthest, darkest lobe of my brain. And I would be second-guessing my choice of hiking partner.

There are times, though, when your mind wants very much to be there alongside (above?) you, when it stands on end like the fine and flirty hair of your forearms when you meet that person who completes your sentences. In that cute way, not the won’t-let-you-get-a-word-in way.

One of those times occurs as you enter through the glass doors of Greenhouse, The Cellars-Hohenort in Cape Town’s award-winning restaurant, masterminded by Executive Chef, Peter Tempelhoff and Head Chef, Ashley Moss.

It happens as the waiter slips your chair out and you fall into its cushion. As the menu arrives and the drinks are filled and refilled. As the first of the eleven dishes arrives on the table before you. Yes, eleven. Because after the first bite your senses will be shouting, “Yes, yes, we’re all here, now bring us more!” Because they’re demanding like that. And because they know a good thing when they see it. And sniff it. And taste it.

The light is dim, romantic, and you can detect the mystery of night through the windows of Greenhouse’s, well, greenhouse. The stars twinkle a little brighter, I’m sure of it. Because as yours is sure to be too, my mind is present. I am here. Or there. No, no, definitely here. My attention attunes to each detail because each detail is something unexpected. And so satisfying.

You don’t need to go to Tibet. Although if you do, I’ll gladly join. You don’t need a course or CD or textbook in mindfulness. Sitting down to a meal at Greenhouse will show you the way. Just go slowly.

We would be doing the restaurant (the chefs, the waiters, the farmers, the fishermen; the whole team involved) a disservice by baring it all here for you to see. But in the name of calling that mind to attention, allow us to give you a taste of the mystery that flows from the garden at night into each dish, flavour and texture. From the mielie bread and popcorn butter, the bacon brioche and banana cream, to the Atlantic tuna and kimchi, the soured fynbos honey with that Karoo lamb.

This is The Greenhouse Experience… Take a look at the menu here.

“Most of the time, we are eating on autopilot, eating on the run, eating our worries or anxieties from the day’s demands, anticipations, irritations, and ‘to do’ lists. If we are not conscious of the food we eat, if we are not actively thinking about that apple, how can we taste it and get the pleasure of eating it?

“Eating an apple consciously is to have a new awareness of the apple, of our world, and of our own life. It celebrates nature, honoring what Mother Earth and the cosmos have offered us. … As the apple becomes more real and vibrant, your life becomes more real and vibrant. Savoring the apple is mindfulness at work.”

– Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life, by Lilian Cheung, Thich Nhat Hanh

Please Leave Me Here, The Art and I Are Bonding

I can tell you one thing that I know for sure. If you have a camera, which translates to, if you have a cellphone, you will take at least three photos of this face…

You will do so from the left, the right and the front and you might even, like me, go beyond that, capturing it in the different light from sunrise to set. You might try four different cameras on it… the professional one (Canon for me), the weird one (GoPro), the happy snap one (Sony CyberShot) and the quick pic (the cellphone).

You see, this face, like the face of a you and a me, is more intricate than you first perceive. It deserves attention. It deserves a closer look.

Crafted by artist and sculptor Lionel Smit, it is the Large Malay Girl Fragment resting on the shoulders of the Ellerman House terrace, the Atlantic Ocean stretching out behind her. She is the most-photographed sculpture in the hotel’s garden and sits quietly observing the goings-on.

She holds the secrets of visitors from near and far, their words and actions, and I’m convinced that you can almost see each story breathing more and more life into her as the years pass. You see it especially in those eyes. Perhaps I’m merely looking too closely or enjoying gin o’clock too freely, but the girl has layers.

Lionel Smit’s work features elsewhere on the estate and similar effects can be detected in both his paintings and sculptures. In this specific piece, it almost looks like the layers were added in the same manner in which paint would be layered to a canvas. As he does in this exquisite artwork in Ellerman House’s  Contemporary Art Gallery

I have heard the debate on the subject of photographing art, but I’m a fan. Being a photographer and not an artist, this is slightly subjective. I understand the shame of taking a photo of something like the Mona Lisa and printing it to hang on my wall, of zooming in and missing the frame completely. It’s a bit like downloading music for free.

But I took the photographs for the sake of sharing them with you, as we do, most of us, to show you just why I found it so difficult to pry myself out of the hallways and galleries of this grand Cape Town home on the hill, in the hope that you will take yourself there to see it all up close too.

Here they are below. For more information, read Art at Ellerman House.

 

The Real Reasons We Travel

It has been said that all we do in life comes down to two things. Two motivating forces: love and fear. Every other fluttering or stamping of the heart is just a version of these. When it comes to travel, these two forces are a little something different. What spurs us on our journeys, I believe, is the need for either inspiration or recuperation. The need to go out or the need to go within.

When our feet and souls get a little fidgety, we hunt out new horizons, adventure, a thorough shake-up. We seek new life or a new way of seeing life, to elevate us from the same old patter. To inspire us.

There are also, however, times when we deeply, urgently, need something quite the opposite. Something to quieten the noise. We crave a place to retreat to, to heal, to indulge, to go slow, to reconnect.

AtholPlace Hotel & Villa on the outskirts of Johannesburg, in Sandton, is a place of both inspiration and recuperation. It is a base from which to explore the bright city lights of Jozi town, and to come together with friends or family over fine wine and food in the hotel bar and restaurant.

But it is also a place where life’s little pleasures are the focus – resting, eating, drinking, eating. And eating.

Because after a slow bite of one of the dishes on the autumn menu from Executive Chef, Willie Malherbe, you find the light returning to life, to your mind and body. And perhaps that’s all we need sometimes. A gloriously good meal. One that revives and rouses.

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” – Virginia Woolf

Below is a taste of the glory to come… compliments of AtholPlace’s Instagram.