Fear and loathing in Hermanus

The recipe

I am at the stage of my life where I do not want to own more things. I just want to do more. The essence of life, for me at least, is not to be found in the ownership of material things, even though they’re commonly called ‘assets’. No, life reveals itself in experiences – that why its called ‘living’.

Anyone can produce, at the blink of an eye, at least one hundred reasons for not doing something. However, few people can produce at least one reason for doing something. In failing to do so, they fail to find one reason to live – have fun, challenge themselves and take them out of the monotonous space that is their comfort zone.

hermanus cooking friends

Instead they’d rather save the time and money for one day later on in life. And this phase in life, they call ‘retirement’. Yet, if you ask them, they will confess not knowing whether they would ever get there or whether they’d have enough to do what they plan to do, when they get there. But, nevertheless, they are ‘saving’ just in case.

A few weeks ago, during a period of boredom, I came across a few articles on the Southern Right Whales that congregate in Walker Bay near Hermanus in South Africa.

Consider this – these whales, called ‘right’ whales because they were considered the right whales to hunt, arrive in Walker Bay around June each year from Antarctica to mate and to give birth to their offspring. During the months from June to late November, these whales do not feed, as there is no food for them in the area, instead they survive on their blubber (accidentally, it is their blubber that made them the ‘right’ whales to hunt, for they would not sink when killed).


Calves are born weighing a ton and growing between two-and-a-half and three centimeters each day, the result of consuming six hundred liters of milk each day. This amounts to an astonishing 54 thousand liters of milk over a three month period. A fact that is even more remarkable, considering that during this entire period, the mother consumes not food.

I simply had to go and see this amount of motherly love for myself. And, I had two friends who were due a visit.

The comforting aspect of long friendships is the fact, that even though life moves on, nothing of substance needs to be negotiated any more. It is a comfortable space protected by trust, compassion and understanding. And in our case, there is also the love of food.

So, we dived right into it. From the moment I arrived, ideas, words, profanities and philosophical constructs flew around like Mxit messages between two love-struck teenagers.

Near the beach, over-looking Walker Bay, we had calamari, fish and prawns. And debated to the outcome of the US elections, the fate of the South African economy and the notion of justice. Occasionally, a young whale calf would breech or wave a flipper as if to applaud or asking for a chance to speak. And after some fifteen years of marriage and nearly twenty as a defense lawyer, Adrian could still not convince Kathryn to swap prawns for calamari.

hermanus cooking friends
Sword fighting

On song and wine, Adrian has the mouth speed of a Bugatti Veyron on steroids. Ideas flow from mind to mouth by means of gravity. Unhindered and without drag.

Sikhs and sushi.

Norway and Portugal.

Bangkok and Dar-es-Salaam.

We’re flying by discontinued Concorde.

On the table between us, empty wine bottles accumulate at rapid speed. Their now long-gone contents acting as flavourful accelerant to the fires of passion and beautiful madness that threaten to get out-of-hand and burn the house down.

Chillies are added to the salad and make their way into the conversation. Over a spicy salad and cashew chicken we relive old times. Events and people. There is no place for shame or discomfort, only joy.

hermanus cooking friends

More friends joined to make pasta. Butter is burned for a sauce and to appease the culinary gods. Golden strings of tagliatelle find their way to a dry rack and the floor. Salmon is mixed with ricotta cheese to fill the ravioli and on the stove a ragu is reduced.

New friend became old friends and ate their ice cream from plastic bags. And with the mist, the nights rolled on – up and over the mountains to leave nothing but a clear fresh day.

From where I sat in a small plane flying over the bay to look at whale mothers’ comfort their new-born calves, I felt alive. Content with life, and enriched by joy, food and friends. For whale calves need no reason to breech, at least none other than making a huge instantaneous splash with a single, inspired moment of pure joy.

So, have a hootenanny of note and reconnect with old friends. Make new ones. Make your own pasta and let some fall on the floor. Burn your butter and add chilies to your salad. And allow yourself to get caught in the moments of joy and passion.

But mostly, go see a whale calf slide onto his mother’s belly and watch closely as she strokes him with her flippers. And, if you do, I’d bet good money that next time you’ll forget the one hundred ‘no’s’ and find that single ‘yes’.

hermanus cooking friends

Adrian and Kathryn enjoyed this soup, so I promised them, I’d share it. Tom Khaa Kai. Chicken and ginger soup brewed with coconut milk. And off course, if you could find some fresh prawns, you could leave out the chicken and add the prawns. But then you’d have to change the name to Tom Khaa Kung.


3 Comments Add yours

  1. Don’t know what age you are, but I’m at that age too. Like your blog.

  2. Henry DuPont says:

    This Addeboy Louw guy sounds like quite a character.

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