A Birthday Celebration with Hats and Rats

by | Oct 26, 2010 | Food and Drink, Johannesburg, Parks/Nature Reserves | 2 comments

Sunday was Joe’s birthday.

We spent the afternoon at the Johannesburg Botanical Gardens (not to be confused with the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens), a couple of miles from Melville. It’s a big park that includes a lake created by the Emmarentia Dam. We strolled around looking at trees and watching dogs fetch sticks from the water. Then we visited the park’s rose garden, where roses were blooming in every color imaginable.

Sunday afternoon at the lake.

The rose garden.

Cool fountain in the rose garden.

We wandered through a boisterous wedding party, got wet in a sudden thundershower, and drove home.

Rose garden wedding. There were all kinds of random people wandering through the wedding party and taking photos with them.

Flower girl drinking Fanta.

The main birthday event was an evening braai on the deck, attended by our neighbor Leslee, our friend Eva, and Lucky. This was a particularly exciting meal for me because Lucky prepared pap – a traditional African porridge made from cornmeal and water and topped with a tomato sauce called sheba. It was my first time eating pap and I loved it.

We grilled an entire leg of lamb — bought from a local butchery and marinated with olive oil and herbs from the garden — and a tray filled with potatoes, onions, and baby gem squash.

The Express Meat Market in Emmarentia, where we got our leg of lamb. South Africans are serious about meat.

The lamb took a while to cook and the evening grew quite festive as we waited. Eva suggested that we all wear party hats. She and Lucky wore Basotho hats. Joe wore my makarapa, adorned with his head torch. Leslie wore my safari hat and I wore a Baltimore Ravens cap in honor of football Sunday.

The meat.

The party.

As I was clearing the dishes into the kitchen, Lucky ran into the house looking urgent. “I want to show you something,” he said.

I followed him out and saw everyone’s eyes trained on the bird-feeder. Behold: Ratatouille.

Joe and I had been wondering why the oats and fruit we put in the feeder always disappears at night. Now we know. I think Ratatouille is very cute but Joe doesn’t agree. He went inside and fetched his wooden club, but fortunately Eva scared Ratatouille away before he became the victim of violence.

Now Joe and I are getting ready for our two-week trip to the U.S. We leave tomorrow and we’re both very excited. Joe has never been to Washington and it will be his first time meeting most of my family and friends.

It will feel strange to be with Joe in America. He’s been my tour guide/driver/protector for the last three months and now our roles will be reversed. I think we’ll have many exciting adventures. I’m going to miss the Lucky 5 Star though.

Off to pack.


  1. adminsmit

    If you are still around there – just opposite the express meat market (yes I was around when they painted it red) was a tiny italian eatery called Renato’s. No bookings but they will open your BYO so you can have a drink in the queue. If it is still there, try their menu from top to toe. The best lasagne is the world – they would only make it on request as it held up their pizza production on busy nights.
    Better get back there soon!

    • 2summers

      That restaurant is still there. I haven’t been yet but Joe also loves it. We will go very soon and I will ask for the lasagna. Thanks for the tip!


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