I admit it. I love kitsch. But not just any kitsch. Specifically that peculiarly, joyously colorful, sundrenched African kitsch. It stops me in my tracks. It speaks to me on some visceral level. It beckons with little cameos of home.
It wasn’t always that way. Growing up I was very boring, and as a teenager, instead of rebelling with neon coloured leg warmers and studded armbands like the rest of the 80’s, I wafted around in Out of Africa eau de nil. All colonial linen and floaty scarves.
Not until I sailed away (metaphorically of course) from our burning shores did the lack of colour started to make its absence felt. Unable to remain supressed, my African genetics burst, wildly toi-toi ing and ululating, to the surface, and before I knew it raspberry walls started popping up all over my home, followed swiftly by tangerine and cinnamon Indian silk cushions, strings of coral West African mozi beads and handmade ceramic jugs of zebra striped porcupine quills collected on one of our Greyton mountain walks.
On the table in our bedroom is a picture of my daughter aged 6, next to a bowl made of red-brown African clay, filled with black spotted red lucky beans, collected in Africa by the same 6 year old. I remember my mom having a similar bowl full of little black and red beans painstakingly gathered by my sister and I.
It’s not that England has no colour. Somerset has a million shades of green, like my beloved Cape. But the echoes of our burning African sun are nowhere to be found. Unless of course you create them yourself.
I can’t tell you how energized I felt by making this unbelievably cerise pasta, with nothing but some local, free range eggs, a few beetroots from the garden and some organic pasta flour. I spent nearly half an hour snapping pics in the sun and reveling in the richness and sheer happiness of the colour. When I eventually made some of the pasta into cannelloni, with equally beautiful rainbow chard and some fresh ricotta, I was entranced all over again by the perfection of the hues.
Yes, Heston Blumenthal is right, food is so much more than just taste. For me, colour and smell are just as important, perhaps more. And while pasta is singularly Italian, my garish, vibrant, homemade beetroot pasta is the epitome of African Kitsch. And I love it.
The recipe for homemade beetroot pasta can be found here and this is my entry to Ruth’s Presto Pasta Night. Make sure you pay her a visit on Friday for a roundup of what the web has to offer in the way of pasta this week.