African Kitsch

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.

13 Responses to “African Kitsch”

  1. on 02 Jul 2008 at 9:18 pm Ann

    Wow! I would never have guessed your first photo was of pasta! How gorgeous!

  2. on 02 Jul 2008 at 9:28 pm kit

    So stunning! I love the colour and you can eat it too – I didn’t know beetroot could be so neon!
    I know what you mean about colour here versus Africa – I’m revelling in the lush greeness of it all and making my husband feel guilty about taking me away from my homeland but the African colours are totally different in tone and speak to me in a different way. Somerset green is all about nostalgia for me while African brights are energising and forward looking.

  3. on 03 Jul 2008 at 3:00 am andrea

    The color is magnificent! I still haven’t tackled making my own pasta yet, but this is very tempting!

  4. on 04 Jul 2008 at 12:53 am Jeni

    I am not sure which I like more: the photos, your phenomenal writing, or the recipe itself! Your posts are always such a delight to read, my dear. Your point about “food being so much more than just taste” could not be more true – for those of us who are food-lovers out there. You keep me smiling and appreciative.

  5. on 04 Jul 2008 at 4:27 am marye

    oh Inge, I LOVE it..absolutely gorgeous!

  6. on 04 Jul 2008 at 2:19 pm Ruth

    How absolutely glorious! I’m speechless at the beauty of those pasta sheets. Thank you for sharing with Presto Pasta Nights and bringing a little African colour to everyone’s table.

  7. on 05 Jul 2008 at 1:22 am Sidi

    You are a great cook and a great story teller (writer). I’ve be reading you for a while, now and I admire you a lot. Keep it up the great work. And thanks for sharing it with us.

  8. on 05 Jul 2008 at 1:57 am african vanielje

    Ladies, thank you all. I had such fun making this. I’m working all weekend but shall be settling down Monday afternoon with my coffee to come visiting. See you all then

  9. on 07 Jul 2008 at 4:03 am Bellini Valli

    It would make a person dance just to catch a glimpse of this pasta let alone to eat it:D

  10. on 08 Jul 2008 at 8:02 am african vanielje

    Valli, what a delightlful image. I often dance with sheer joy at colour!

    To all of you who don’t see your comments here. I must apologise. I have such a problem with spam at the moment that I have actually deleted legit comments by mistake in my enthusiasm to get rid of the junk. I would like to ask you to visit again. I want to chat. Especially to the new visitors like the lady from (eating ?) Vancouver. And others. I now can’t find you to return the visits.

    Hope you all have a good day.

  11. on 08 Jul 2008 at 4:35 pm marye

    You know, I had to come by again just to get another look. beautiful.

  12. on 09 Jul 2008 at 12:32 pm Jeanne

    Oh gorgeous! If it weren’t for the title, I would also not have guessed from the first photo what that was :)

    Unlike you, I DID go the whole nine yards with the basic black thing as a teenager & student. But in the end, whether you are an eau de nil or a Goth type, your inborn African love of colour will out!

  13. on 11 Jul 2008 at 12:26 am Jacoba

    Yours really gorgeous! Mine never gets that gorgeous colour? Do you use boiled or roasted beetroots?

    I roast mine because I’m lazy and like getting all the red into the tinfoil, but I would love to know. My kids use to love it when I mixed a spinach one and the yellow one and the red one. (I cheated with the yellow & added just a touch of turmeric) but it wasn’t a bad taste either. In fact we played with spices a lot – which is not prevalent in most of Italy except the young in Sicily where the North African influence is strongly felt.

    WHICH doesn’t change the fact that I cannot get my beetroot such a gorgeous colour!!!

    Love your blog!

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge