A little more sophistication. [Including endnotes at the end of this article]
Mum and Dad started to develop a wider circle of friends. They started going to coffee bars and art galleries. Painted the walls grey and the ceiling yellow. Mum started seeking out and restoring antiques.
The coffee bars had an intriguing Portuguese influence. Had it not been for Apartheid, this sophistication may well have emerged earlier. Asian and African culture was separated from urban and suburban nightlife. The custom in restaurants, bars and nightclubs was exclusively Whites Only. Actually, in 1960s Durban, privileged white society was largely dominated by WASPs of English descent. The pinnacle for WASPs were the Old Durban Families (ODFs). Ergo, you could still have a white skin and be discriminated against. Even geographically within the city. There are plenty of scholarly tomes that describe the politics in intimate details; I am merely skating over it here to highlight the insularity and lack of imagination in the society most of my parents' circle existed in.
Last outpost of the British Empire. At the top of the Berea with some wannabe ODFs out for a visit.
Suddenly they seemed to discover that there was a Portuguese colony to the North. Latin sophistication at last. The vanguard was probably made up of the fishermen who travelled to Mocambique for the then abundance of sea creatures to catch and eat. There were other forbidden delights, too, that our Calvinistic government of the time would not tolerate. At this point, I’ll "take the 5th" as my American friends are wont to say.
The effect on my siblings and me was a growing awareness of coffee drinking and vinho verde in ornate bottles at adult dinner parties. The breaching of these boundaries also encouraged ODF members to look outwards in the opposite direction, i.e. the Western Cape. While Cape Town was three times further away than Lourenço Marques (LM), the heart of South Africa’s winemaking lay 1,000 miles by road to the West. This had started shortly after 1659. Some of Durban’s wealthiest aesthetes had been stealthily stocking their cellars from the Stellenbosch area for some time. For a while, though, LM remained the biggest pull for the arty/trendy set.
My Mum and Dad went increasingly frequently to LM for dinners we could only dream about. Langoustines, prawns and crayfish, prepared in exotic Latin styles beyond our imagination. A favourite seemed to us to be piri piri, although it was difficult for us to understand why at the time. Something that blazed the shit out of your tongue? Why ruin a perfectly decent piece of chicken with this satanic sauce?
Three of the hotels I remember my parents mentioning were the Polana, Cardoso and the Girassol. One was considered "too ostentatious". I can't remember which one it was but all three still exist and readers can check for themselves. I stole the not so fuzzy photos of the Cardoso and the view from the Girassol from Booking.com
Dad was particularly keen on piri piri but then he had had Indian clients who brought him hot curries that brought tears to our eyes if we went anywhere near them. Piri piri flavoured food items started finding their way back to our house from Mocambique. We were particularly taken with the vast tins of piri piri coated cashews but rather relieved at being verboten from eating them. There was also the small bottle of bird’s eye chili seeds marinating in olive oil, a drop of which was reputed to render a plate of rice so fiery as to be inedible to all but the bravest of hearts.
Bizarrely, our first appreciation of things Portuguese was the aniseed liqueur with a crystal tree seemingly growing inside the bottle. Presbyterian Molla didn’t seem to notice her grandchildren being allowed the occasional sip of the “divil’s juice”. I even recall the brand, Progresso, with its aeroplane label. Was it the tree in the bottle, the label or the licorice taste that got us going? I’ll never know. Perhaps an early sense of participating in an illegal substance?
Apart from Dad’s malaria, the other brand that came back from LM fishing trips was the Havana packet of 25 “cigarros” that my Uncle Graham used to chain smoke. Literally lit one from the other in a continuous chain. Seen here with my beloved Cousin Jane, a committed smoker until her premature death last year. Cooling their parched throats with what may or may not be Portuguese beer.
Back to chili-based food, Durban Curries and Piri Piri have long since been amongst my favourites. Imagine, then, after a drought of the latter, looking forward to the real deal on my first trip to the Algarve. Nowhere on any menu. Aghast, we consulted locals who looked back at us blankly. Eventually a light appeared: “Ah, você quer dizer galinha africana.” We were directed up a narrow alley and sure enough …
This was about 25 years ago and we and our friends, Debbie and Jack, washed it down with plenty of Portuguese wine. Sufficient for the proprietor to give us a couple of bottles of his own red. No label, just his face was painted on the glass. We brought our bottle home, thinking it a novelty. It stayed on the wine rack for more than a decade until we persuaded D&J to reminisce … we could, after all, resort to something else if it was vrot. We were amazed to find it had aged brilliantly. Just goes to show, never judge a bottle by the face on the glass. Philistine that I am, I don’t even have a fuzzy photo of this memorable bottle.
Returning to 60s Durbs, prawns and crayfish became the de facto thing to eat at sophisticated adult dinner parties. Sometimes grilled in a herby baste but more often in piri piri. Curry came later. The aforementioned galinha africana was also a favourite. So no need for red wine. Vinho Verde continued to slake adult throats but Drostein took a back seat. And then came TJ39 and Riesling. Weren’t we the wine connoisseurs now. Actually still only my parents, I was merely observing trends ...
Mum gets trendy and I am tolerated with a filthy fag hanging from my mouth. Jane's smile lights up both pictures. Rosemary, Sue, Paul and Cath complete the picture.
Coming soon: Could red wine enter the mix? Durban Poison? League of Empire Loyalists? Maybe I first need to appease the real photographers among my friends to ensure they continue to stay that way.
 I am not for one moment suggesting sophistry ... this was to become my role ...
 Net Blanke if one spoke Afrikaans.
 White Anglo Saxon Protestants
 Perhaps a later blog on French, Italian, Jewish and other enclaves but I was certainly exposed to very little cross-pollination, even though my parents were considered progressive; practically "commies" to some.
 Ironically both Natal and the Berea were Portuguese names. The former for what is now the N bit of Kwa Zulu Natal (KZN) and the latter for the hill overlooking the Indian Ocean and the sheltered bay where Vasco da Gama did some fishing on Christmas Day in 1497) WASPs only started arriving in droves more than 300 years later. This picture has been borrowed from the Drisa Archive.
 This is a totally verkramp(narrow) vision of the "vanguard" as it applied to Durban white people. For more details read, inter alia, The Night Trains by Professor Charles Van Onselen and The Number by Jonny Steinberg.
 now Maputo
 Rotten ... vrot is more expressive.
 Twee Jonge Gezellen Clone Nr. 39
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