Hearty South African Rusks – A Family Recipe

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‘Rusks’ is the anglicized term for Afrikaans ‘beskuit’ (French ‘biscottes’ and Dutch ‘beschuit’). Along with Rooibos tea, rusks was the staple with which my mother and grandmother weaned me off of breast milk.

These double-baked dry clunky biscuits have been part of Afrikaner culture (French and Dutch descendants) since the late 1690s. Baking rusks was an innovative way of preserving bread (similar to preserving meat — biltong — by drying it) especially when travelling long distances at a time when fridges and freezers did not exist during the Great Trek and the Anglo Boer Wars.

Since then, rusk recipes have been passed down within families from generation to generation and they are still eaten today — typically being dunked in coffee or tea to soften them before being eaten.

In our family, the first warm batch of rusks — fresh from the oven — is usually enjoyed with butter, cheese, jam and a steaming pot of ‘moer koffie’ (freshly ground filter coffee)…

The recipe I’m sharing here is one that’s been made (developed and enhanced) for more than three generations by the women of one of my friends’ family.

Ingredients:

1½ kilograms self-raising nutty wheat flour
500 grams All Bran Flakes (crushed)
500 grams mixed seeds (pumpkin, sesame, poppy, linseed and sunflower seeds)
400 grams brown sugar (Demerara)
1 x Cup dried coconut (optional)
1 x Cup Raisins
3 x Tablespoons baking powder
1 x Tablespoon salt

750 grams butter
600 millilitres sour cream
1 x Cup full cream milk
100 millilitre white vinegar
3 x Large eggs

Rusks
Method:

(Below is a short video that will show you the exact baking method.)

Preheat your oven at 180° Celsius (356° Fahrenheit or gas mark 4)

Cut the butter into bricks, add together with the sugar and milk in a saucepan and place on the hob over a medium heat. Stir until the sugar is melted. (Alternatively you can melt the sugar, milk and butter mixture in the microwave.)

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and vinegar together.

Mix all the dry ingredients together in another mixing bowl.

Add the melted butter mixture, sour cream and eggs to the dry ingredients.

Mix well. Knead thoroughly and deep until the dough is dense without any floury bits.

Evenly press the dough in baking trays. You’ll need about 3-4 baking trays.

Lightly cut the dough, marking how large you want each rusk to be (usually 1½ x 3 inches).

Bake for 30-45 minutes.

RusksRemove from the oven and allow to cool down a bit, in the baking trays.

Lower your oven temperature to 80°Celsius (176° Fahrenheit).

Cut your rusks and remove from the baking trays. Lay them out on a cooling rack and allow to cool down completely. You’ll notice that the rusks are still wet on the inside. (At this point we usually select a few warm rusks to enjoy with butter, cheese and jam.)

Once the rusks have completely cooled down, they are ready to be baked for a second time.

Put the rusks back in the oven for 4-5 hours to be baked until they are dried out.

Few things provide a sense of comfort, security and belonging like the nutty smell of freshly baked rusks lingering in the kitchen… and enjoying them together with family over ‘n steaming hot cup of coffee.

Try them, you’ll see what I mean.

Indulge a little bit!

Rusks from Little Red Shoes on Vimeo.


Credits.
Image: FR Lubbe, Little Red Shoes
Recipe: FR Lubbe, Little Red Shoes
Video: FR Lubbe for Little Red Shoes


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New York… In The Blink Of An Eye

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“New York was his town, and it always would be.”

― Woody Allen, Manhattan

It’s strange how a place built with bricks and mortar can sink in under your skin like a syringe drawing blood, lingering in your memories with an aching beauty… If there is one thing I know for sure then it is that I am not the only one — and certainly won’t be the last — to be overwhelmed and enchanted by the Big Apple. Yet, I am amused at how, on a very primal (or spiritual) level, I do not want to, or cannot, divorce myself from the childlike wonder and excitement New York evoked inside me…

I question myself daily on this in an attempt to nail what it is that I am holding onto: Is it Hope? Is it an over-inflated and naïve sense of idealism or Destiny? Is it the feeling I felt while I was there that anything is possible — all my dreams can come true? Or is it perhaps just the little boy inside me who tasted ice cream for the first time and now wants all he can eat… and much, much more? (Dreams and fantasies do taste a bit like chocolate-chip ice cream, don’t they?)

Whatever the case may be, even though I’ve long since returned to my home in London, I keep dreaming about New York City almost every night… literally walking down Christopher Pier on the Hudson River, catching the subway to an organic food market on 125th street and having oysters and white wine on Bleecker Street, in my sleep.

In fact, just the other night I dreamed Sarah Jessica Parker and Kim Cattrall called me up to join them for a bit of retro thrift shopping in the East Village. Kim was hunting down a light powder green cashmere cardigan she saw in Gramercy on 3rd Street… Turns out SJP pulled out last minute because the twins had a crayon-crisis or something, but Kim and I had a blast — I also got Mizzzz Catrall to buy the cutest silver hipster slacks. She’s gonna rock that look when we meet for brunch at Market Table on Carmime, next week Wednesday.

(Let me be clear on one thing: I am not, and never have been, a massive Sex In The City fan… so I DO NOT know where all of this coming from… Little boy? Ice cream? Good lord!)

Any who, the long of the short is, my New York experience can best be described as one of those perfect relationships… You know the type where the relationship ends even though it’s pretty awesome, but the timing isn’t right. After the break-up you blissfully carry on with your life, never completely letting go of that ‘perfect’ love and the slightest inkling of remorse or regret is smothered by the wonderful memories you have of your time together. (It’s pretty f*cked up, I know!)

That’s way, after three months of being back in London, I finally sat down and sifted through all the video footage I took while I was in NYC (before now, I needed some time to heal after the ‘break-up’)…

This is what I came up with… it hardly begins to scratch the surface of my experience, but hopefully it captures a bit of the spirit in which the Big Apple received me:

New York… in the blink of an eye‘ is a short montage of the time I spent in the Big Apple earlier this year. 12 Days in NYC was literally a blink of an eye before it was over, but the memories and the impression the city and its people left me with will last me a lifetime and them some…


Credits.
Images: FR Lubbe, Little Red Shoes
Text: FR Lubbe, Little Red Shoes
Video: FR Lubbe, Little Red Shoes


Does It Really Get Better?

“It is our right, indeed our duty, to seek equality for everybody — not just people like us. Because it seems to me, if one person is in chains we are all in chains.”

— Linda Bellos (OBE) —

The global LGBT community and our allies are all too painfully aware of the recent and rather disturbing spate of anti-gay sentiments in countries like Russia, Uganda, Nigeria and Gambia, which have led to draconian anti-gay “propaganda” laws being passed and aggressively enforced.

In brief, these laws make it virtually impossible to advocate even the most basic human rights for LGBT people. They have also opened a floodgates of LGBT-targeted violence, leading to multiple arrests and brutality — as seen in the lead up to (and duration of) the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, in Russia. In the wake of Nigeria passing a law similar to that of Russia, police “round ups” of gay men are occurring simply because of their sexual orientation.

It’s a grim picture.

I recently read an article in the Huffington Post, ‘Why All LGBT People Should Care About Places Like Russia, Uganda and Gambia’The article poses this question: Should gay communities in other countries care about the plight of LGBT people in Russia, Nigeria and Gambia, when they have their own battles to fight on a national and local level?

From afar it may look like the ‘Berlin Wall’ of legal equality for LGBT people is steadily being levelled to the ground, especially in the UK and the United States. Perhaps this is why it’s easy for those of us who are more fortunate to be complacent about the liberation of LGBT people in countries where these alarming new laws are threatening the lives of these people, their families, loved ones and supporters.

However, there is good reason why we cannot (and shouldn’t) turn a blind eye to the dual reality we’re facing as a global LGBT community — a reality where on one side equality is within our grasp and on the other side, continued persecution and demonization of LGBT people are putting lives in danger.

Nigeria

LGBT Right Are Human Rights – Nigeria House, London 2014

As the Huffington Post article points out, in the US, in 29 states, a person can still get fired from his or her job simply for being LGBT. In most states, LGBT people still do not have marriage equality. In fact, I know a couple who has been in a loving and committed relationship for more than 37 years. In 2011, they were finally granted the ‘right’ to marry in the state of New York, where they have an apartment in NYC. However, when they visit their second home in Florida, their marriage means nothing… It’s an inhuman and unsettling juxtaposition, to say the least.

In recent years there have also been growing incidences of violence against LGBT people — especially against transgender women of colour — even in US states where legal protections exist… and yet, for LGBT people in some other states, things are very different.

Suffice to say, life for LGBT people in the US is a twofold reality and is hardly the Promised Land it is often made out to be. It’s a stark contrast that shows us how the victories and obstacles within each of our local communities are in fact a mirror image of what is happening globally in our community.

Here in the UK, LGBT people are facing similar challenges. On the one hand we have reason to celebrate and to believe that ‘things are pretty good now’: civil partnerships and same-sex marriages are legal, LGBT people have greater visibility in politics, business and the media, and a range of organisations are actively working to tackle homophobic bullying in schools and the workplace.

However, scratch beneath the surface and you’ll find a more worrying picture. In 2005, the charity Crisis reported that “There is a long-standing association between homelessness and the everyday lives of young men and women who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender (GLBT)”. In 2012, the charity Stonewall echoed similar concerns when it published a research report that noted “more than half (55%) of lesbian, gay and bisexual young people experience homophobic bullying in Britain’s schools”.

According to the recent findings from the Youth Chances project, who conducted the biggest social research study into 16 – 25 year olds LGBT people in England, “more than half of young gay people have suffered mental health issues, and 40 per cent have considered suicide” and “that 50 per cent have self-harmed and 42 per cent had sought medical help for anxiety or depression”.

It’s safe to say that despite the leaps we have taken forward here in the UK, the LGBT community still stands with one foot in Paradise and the other on a slippery slope.

This begs the question: Does it really get better?

It’s probably not a question asked or discussed often on the main drag of the Gay scene. As far as I know, there are hardly any forums for different LGBT generations to come together to reflect, discuss and debate the issue of ‘how things are’, how things were’ and ‘how things could be’.

Recently, as part of the UK’s LGBT History Month celebrations, the award winning The Rainbow Intersection, founded by Ade Adeniji and Bisi Alimi, saw the need for such an intergenerational and cross-cultural conversation and they presented a panel discussion exploring some of the key issues facing the LGBT community today — not just here in the UK but also further afield.

Of course, there is yet no conclusive answer when we ask ‘Does it really get better?’ Still, I walked away after the panel discussion and thought: Surely, continuing to talk about our experiences and our lives within our local communities, campaigning on a national level and being aware of the challenges of LGBT people across the world, will pave the way for an urgent and much larger global conversation between LGBT communities… a conversation that starts with: You are not alone.

As any young LGBT person will tell you — and we have all been there — knowing that you are not alone, already make things a bit better. The same principle applies to our brothers and sisters living in countries where their lives are in danger, simply because of who they are.

I am a firm believer that charity begins at home and that addressing the issues within our local communities on a grassroots level is a continued necessity. However, it will be a mistake for us — the global LGBT community and our allies all over the world — to ignore what is happening in countries like Nigeria, Uganda, Gambia, India, Cameroon and Russia.

The fact that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) allowed the Winter Olympics to continue in Sochi this year — despite Putin’s blatant homophobic and human rights abuses — carried startling (if not frightening) resemblances to the 1936 Berlin Olympics, which took place amidst Hitler’s crackdown on the European Jewish community… Back then the world turned a blind eye and in the horrifying aftermath of the Holocaust said ‘We did not know.’

This cannot happen again. LGBT people are the only minority group in the world who have rights given to them by one hand only to be taken away by another… India is a perfect example of this yo-yo effect. This leaves all of us in a treacherous position… one we may not want to think about, but nonetheless one we cannot ignore. The only way we can prevent history from repeating itself is by reminding the world — those who still scoff at us and those who don’t want to believe us — how complacency, ignorance and inaction often (if not always) have dire consequences.

Below is a short film, showing some of the highlights of the ‘Does It Really Get Better?’ panel discussion. Please share it and start your own conversation.


Does it really get better? – Intergenerational Dialogue was hosted by author and comedian, Vg Lee and the discussion was led by key note speakers Linda Bellos (OBE) and Dan Baker the Project Manager of METRO’s Youth Chances action research project.The panel consisted of Sue Sanders an LGBT rights activist, Maryam Din a queer Muslim intersectional feminist activist, Mark McCormack a Lecturer in Sociology at Durham University, Miss Sahhara a Nigerian transgendered model, singer and human rights activist in Africa, Taz Din a retired lecturer and veteran LGBT activist and Vernal Scott an HIV/AIDS activist and author of God’s Other Children – A London Memoir.The short film ‘Does It Really Get Better?’ was filmed, edited and produced by Little Red Shoes.


Credits.
Images: FR Lubbe, Little Red Shoes
Text: FR Lubbe, Little Red Shoes
Video: FR Lubbe, Little Red Shoes


The Quest – An Exceptional Resource For Gay Men

Make the most of yourself….for that is all there is of you.

― Ralph Waldo Emerson ―

TheQuestIn January 2012, I attended a self-exploration weekend workshop for gay men, facilitated by The Quest. As a result of the positive transformation that manifested in my life after attending this workshop, I have collaborated with Ade Adeniji & Darren Brady (Founders of The Quest) on projects like the publication of the book ‘Love Me As I Am – Gay men reflect on their lives’.

Ade and Darren are two highly qualified and skilled coach-facilitators (though the description hardly does them any justice). A testament to the impact and importance of the work they do within the gay community, is the fact that they recently were invited to meet Brene Brown — world-renowned author and research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. Brene has spent the past decade studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame.

In her ground-breaking book and #1 New York Times Bestseller, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, Brene Brown explores in-depth the impact shame has in all of our lives, regardless of our sexuality. In her conversation with Darren & Ade, she commented on gay children who, from a very early age, have a growing understanding of their difference in the world as they receive the message day-after-day that they don’t belong:

“It’s work, and it’s trauma work, and it’s healing work, and it’s talking about shame, and it’s walking through the darkness to find the light. You know why people want to go from ‘coming out’ to ‘pride’ and why people want to go from, in my case, from a ‘feminist cautiousness’ to ‘I am woman?’ The part that we all want to skip is grief… I don’t think you can skip over the six or seven or eight-year-old who still has some grieving to do. Even though you’re an adult with an intellectual awareness, that doesn’t heal that six or seven or eight-year-old. Does that make sense?”

As the world changes its attitude towards gay people (at a tremendous pace… some for the worse, but mostly for the better), we are in an ideal position to look beyond our emotional wounds from the past, baggage and other hang-ups that can (and still do) impact our everyday lives. Exploring (and healing) the impact of shame-based trauma not only provides a stepping stone for a brighter future in which we can thrive but, like I have personally experienced, it also lays the foundation to better understand and transform the relationships we have with ourselves, others and the world we inhabit.

Two months ago, Ade and Darren asked me to begin a conversation with some of the guys who embarked on a similar journey as I did with The Quest, and to capture our conversations on film. Below are 4 short interviews that hopefully pinpoint the essence of the impact The Quest has on gay men’s lives.

For more information about The Quest, follow this link:


Credits.
Introduction & Videos: FR Lubbe, Little Red Shoes