• LOCATION 5 | Museum Audio Guide: Home to South African Wine

    Kitchen: Slaves

    Kitchen: Slaves on Cape Town audio tour Museum Audio Guide: Home to South African Wine

    Narrator: Can you see the brass jelly moulds on the shelf to your left?

    A cookbook published in 1891 by Chapman and Hall of London contains the following recipe:

    Recipe from Mrs Cloete of Constantia

    Take about twenty-five quinces, wipe them clean, cut in quarters, lay in a large preserving-pot, cover with water; boil till quite soft, then strain through a thin cloth or coarse milk strainer. To three cups of juice take two of white sugar; boil in small quantities on a brisk fire. When it begins to get thick, pour a little into a tumbler of water; and if it congeals, and does not mix with the water, it is ready to be put into moulds or cups.

    Narrator: This is one of hundreds of recipes compiled in Hilda Duckitt’s Where Is It?. Over thirty of them acknowledge either Constantia or the Cloetes.

    Duckitt’s cookbook was popular. By 1908, 23,000 copies had been sold. A reviewer from London’s Sunday Times called it…

    Newsreader: …one of the most delightful volumes of recipes ever printed. How many are there who have travelled that do not regret, when back in London, that they neglected to take the recipe of 'that delicious vegetable curry at Colombo,' that green tomato omelette at the Mauritius, that kidgeree in Bombay, that something-or-other toasted somewhere, and never forgotten? Their number must be very great, and it is by this regretful and regretting multitude that Hilda's volume will be most warmly welcomed. Here they will find how to prepare those acid-sweet apricots the Persians bring down into the plains of India for sale, the 'sambal,' or green chutney which makes the dishes of the Malays so appetising, the 'sasatees' that, steaming on their skewers, rejoice the picknickers at the Cape, and scores of other dishes which the wanderer on the face of the earth will recognise as old friends with pleasure.

    Narrator: Hilda’s “Where Is It?” has recipes for bobotie and bredie and blatjang, and the wide range of cuisines served at the Cape come strongly flavoured by its diversity.

    But while Duckitt recognises her debt indirectly, by crediting old Cape families of Dutch descent who she says had Malay and Indian cooks, she doesn’t recognise that until 1834, almost all of these cooks were slaves.

    An estimated 63,000 slaves were brought to the Cape between 1658 and 1834, when the practice was abolished, and while patchy records have made it difficult to establish where all of them came from, the latest studies indicate that some 51% were from Africa, especially Mozambique and Madagascar. Another 26% were from India, and 23% were from the so-called East Indies, including Dutch colonies in Indonesia.

    These slaves weren’t only skilled cooks – they were also stonemasons, bookkeepers, seamstresses, winemakers, wainwrights, and carpenters who left their mark on more than just cuisine.

    The Cape’s architecture, language, and religious life were all shaped by traditions that arrived here with enslaved people. But this intellectual contribution was owned by their masters, just like the recipes in Hilda’s “Where Is It?”, and its full extent is only now coming to light.

    Maghdie Sadien: It was actually the Malays who spoke Afrikaans first.

    Narrator: That’s Imam Maghdie Sadien.

    Maghdie Sadien: My name is Maghdie Sadien. I’m the imam at the mosque, Masjid Mahmoud, in Constantia [Main Road].

    Narrator: It’s actually just up the road, less two kilometres from here.

    Maghdie Sadien: I’ve been the imam here for 35 years. Before that it was my uncle’s, before that my grandfather’s.

    Narrator: So Imam Sadien says that Malays and other enslaved peoples were the first Afrikaans speakers.

    Maghdie Sadien: And what is more, and this is quite fascinating…a lot of the scholars who came…from either SE Asia, Java and so on, Malacca, Macassa…and the scholars who came from the Middle East, they were proficient in Arabic, because Arabic is the language of Islam…So they came here…and…you will find these scholars…started writing texts down for their students. They wrote with the Arabic alphabet in the local language…so they wrote that early Afrikaans…in [the] Arabic letters.

    Narrator: Let’s move on now. We’re going to the master bedroom. It’s in line with the kitchen but at the front of the house. So go back out through the hall, then carry on straight, into the room you’ll see just ahead.

    Play track six when you get there.

Museum Audio Guide: Home to South African Wine