We were on our way home from the North, when with the agreement of my dear Meelepertjie, I turned right on Britstown towards Namaqualand to look at flowers.
The part of the world past Vosburg and through Carnarvon was but dull and dry and we began to hurry to reach Williston to spend the night there. There was a reason why I wanted to spend the night there, because my son Henk told me a beautiful story about this village.
When they were still students, they looked for a place where they could just sleep under the Karoosterre. The rugby field looked like a safe place where flatpack students could scrub undisturbed. They were still looking at the little thing when a young man stopped by them and got out of his bakkie to make acquaintances.
After they told each other who, who and what was, the frisky farmer who was clearly hungry for company got into his bakkie and told the students to stay there and he would see them again in a while. They wondered what his intention was and continued to scrub the nest.
After a while, the man and some of his friends arrived there with lots of wood and lots of meat and the other normal necessities for an unsurpassed Karookuier as if they had been fat for years. In the early hours of the morning, they are even more separated from each other with no prospect of ever seeing each other again. It was Karoolekkerte at its best.
It was already deep dusk when we drove between two stone cups and then suddenly saw Williston lying here in front of us. After 13 hours on the road, I didn’t feel like looking for a place to sleep for the night. It was not necessary. So upon entering, there was on an illuminated wall: LOOKING FOR A SLEEP with a friendly invitation to spend the night there. No search!
We then drove past looking for a place where we could at least have a good coffee. About a stone’s throw away we saw the place MANNA RESTAURANT and KEDOEDELS, whatever it may be, advertising and next to SOEK OV SLAPIE. We then went in there and were beckoned by a friendly man behind a counter who asked what he could help us with.
“Thanks, man,” I said, “we’re looking for a place to lay for the night and if you have one more, a Kedoedel or maybe two too.” “I’m sorry I don’t have Kedoedels, but I have a place to sleep,” he says and gives me the form to fill out. When I returned the form to him, he handed me the menu.
We weren’t hungry, but out of decency I looked at the menu and then I saw something I have to tell you about. On the first page were the breakfast fish dishes. At the very top of Schilpadtepel, followed by Singkop, Stoffelskop, Blomberg, Jakkalstoren, Rooistreepberg and Tierkop – all names of mountains and heads in the area. If you decide on Scilpadtepel, you get an egg, bacon, fried onions, tomato stew and toast. A tiger head gives you crumbly porridge, tomato stew and boerewors.
For starters, one can choose between Mikberg, Slangberg, Kareeberg – calamari with tartare sauce, Jan Swartz’s mountain – chicken wings with his own famous sauce and Engelsman’s mountain – roasted vegetables, couscous with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Salad lovers can choose between Haaskos, Koekemakranka – green salad, feta cheese and olives. Blasiebrake, Blue Dissel and Kwaggavy – biltong, thick milk cheese, breakfast bacon and avocado.
Pancake eaters can choose between a Blue-faced Koggelmander – 2 pancakes with strips of beef, peppadews and feta cheese topped with white sauce, or House Goat and Lizard.
Sandwiches get bird names! Tintinkie, Rooioogtiptol, Red Finch – ham, cheese and tomato, Bacon Vetter, Yellow Finch, Janfiskaal, Hops and Health Sandwiches: Kelkiewyn – fried chicken, gherkins, tomato, lettuce, mozzarella and sweet mustard and Blehoender – tuna, avocado, feta cheese, peppadews, tomato, lettuce and mozzarella.
Next are Tramezzinis, whatever they may be, which have succulent names. Plakkie, Spekboom, Rooifigie, Kanniedood – chicken, thick milk cheese, basil pesto, peppadews and mozzarella, Aloe and Melkbos – chicken, mayonnaise, breakfast bacon, ham and mozzarella.
Seafood is linked to rivers. Riet River, Groot-sak River – hake, large and perfectly fried and Renoster River – hake and calamari, fried to perfection.
Next are schnitzels and are paired with rabbits and accompanied by a wide variety of sauces. All with potato chips/ potato salad/ wedges/ baked potato/ roasted potato or rice. Plains Hare, Shore Rabbit, Spotted Hare – chicken, ham, cheese and own choice of sauce and Spring Hare – breakfast bacon, pineapple, avocado and cheese sauce.
Burgers (chicken or beef), with potato side dishes, and a wide variety of sauces, have local predator names. Spinning Fox, Muskellunge Cat, Back-eared Fox, Red Cat, Moon-Haired Fox, Tiger Forest Cat, Red Fox – beef/chicken, breakfast bacon with avocado, Groukat and Silver Fox – beef/chicken, breakfast bacon, egg and cheese.
Chicken dishes have bird names. Then how else? Large or small portions with a choice of salads and potatoes. Korhaan, Gompou – crumbled chicken strips with sweet mustard or tartare sauce, Tarentaal and Quail – a quarter of fried chicken.
The main dishes with barbecue sauces, potato, rice and vegetables of the day have pasture grass names. Black eel grass – Mutton chops and Beaver grass – 700 g pork rib.
The pizzas offer the biggest variety and all have wild plant names. Moreover, you can build your own one and call it whatever you want. I single out such a bunch, just to make you want to. Marigold, pansy, wild alder, buttercup, bougainvillea, knapsack boy – Russian, ham, breakfast bacon, pineapple, hot pepper sauce and mozzarella and nightingale – chicken, breakfast bacon, feta cheese, pineapple, olives, avocado, peppadews and mozzarella, and Name-Name for the carnivore with ham, beef strips, chicken, salami, Russian, breakfast bacon, feta cheese and mozzarella.
The desserts take the crown and make you sing. My heart, my love, My beloved hangs in the forest, My blanket and your mattress, There lies the thing, Beyond the blue mountains, Pollie we are going to Paarl, My invitation is in a banana – pancake with banana, caramel sauce with cream or ice cream and My grandma in cinnamon – pancakes, cinnamon sugar with cream or ice cream.
And just before you start lying down, sing something like this: Baboon climbs the mountain, a Dom Pedro or Jan Pierewiet’s Irish coffee. For those who feel that’s still not enough, there are the usual delicacies that are poured into cups and glasses, but the fortified winemakers probably don’t want to change their names, because wine experts want to know what they’re drinking.
After a day of snacking, we weren’t hungry, but a friendly waitress made us give in. “How about a sweet before uncle-they go to sleep?” she wanted to know. I asked what she recommended and the answer was cheesecake and warm marshmallow pudding with cream or ice cream and I told her to bring it.
When she put it down in front of us, it wasn’t portions, but PORSES! Bigger than any normal person could eat before bed – actually had to consume! But believe me, fun, was it fun!
The copy of the menu I received is a small emergency for me because it is a piece of Highland Karoo hospitality. It is about much more than a unique menu. It is a picture of the Karoo’s people who survive droughts and continue to live with faith, hope and cheerfulness.