Handmade on Melville’s Main Road

The retail strip along Melville’s Main Road is a gritty place. It’s lined with seedy bars, fast-food joints, and boarded-up storefronts. Traffic is brutal, trees are scarce, and the sidewalk is potholed.

Right in the center of it is Koljander (Afrikaans for “coriander”) — a 30-year-old cooperative home industry shop run by women. Koljander sells baked goods, ethnic food, jam, jewelry, clothing, and art — pretty much anything people can make with their own two hands. You could go there 100 times and discover something new and fabulous each time. The store also does a booming catering business, with wedding cakes being a particular specialty.

Koljander is like a mom-and-pop farm store that you’d find next to a two-lane highway in rural Virgina, except the hand-written price tags are in Afrikaans and the store is in the middle of a busy city street.

Koljander is kitschy. But these ladies make kitschiness cool.

These women have both been with Koljander for more than 20 years.

Toys.

“Lekker,” pronounced something like “LEH-cker,” is my favorite Afrikaans word. It means cool, awesome, or kick-ass. (Read a post by Lisa at Notes From Africa about the phrase “Local is Lekker.”) I’m not sure diabetic apricot jam can be lekker (sorry, diabetics), but I did buy some homemade quince jam. Haven’t tried it yet but I have high hopes.

Lots and lots of rusks. Rusks are dry biscuits, traditionally made from stale bread, which South Africans eat with tea or coffee. Rusks come in whole wheat, raisin, muesli, and several other flavors. (Joe had to translate most of the flavors because they were written in Afrikaans.) I chose a package of orange poppyseed.

Do not touch this jar of pickle. It might burn you.

These all look delicious but I haven’t found an occasion worthy of buying one yet.

The scariest, most lekker cookie pop I’ve ever seen. I do believe there is a licorice gummy snake coiled around the stick.

Koljander is lekker.

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18 Comments

  • Reply eremophila March 24, 2011 at 11:13 pm

    It looks a great store! I love the painting on the wall behind the women, speaks volumes.

    • Reply 2summers March 25, 2011 at 8:09 am

      Thanks! I do love this store and have been meaning to write a post about it for some time. Finally found the time,

  • Reply Tilly Bud March 25, 2011 at 12:05 am

    This takes me back! There was a great home industry shop on Corlett Drive, just across from where I lived. I used to go in there all the time. I have quite a few decorations on my Christmas Tree from there.

    Since when do you need an excuse to buy a great cake?

    Rusks! I miss them. Never heard of them made from stale bread, though; always knew them to be baked from fresh ingredients. Ouma’s Beskuitjies…yum.

    • Reply 2summers March 25, 2011 at 8:12 am

      Apparently rusks were originally invented as a way for the Voortrekkers to continue eating bread after it went stale. Same reason they invented biltong! I’m sure today’s rusks taste much better 🙂 I haven’t tried my orange poppy-seed ones yet — I have a friend visiting this weekend and I’m waiting for her before I open them.

    • Reply Mia March 27, 2011 at 12:04 am

      Ooo, I love rusks and have been craving the stuff since I arrived in the US. There is nothing like a cup of strong coffee and a hand full of hand made rusks on a lazy Sunday morning. I will have to get my mother’s recipe sent to me.

      2summers, you will love these in the winter – a great comfort I tell you. Try Karringmelk (buttermilk) flavour, they are the best.

  • Reply Kathryn McCullough March 25, 2011 at 3:03 am

    What a cool place! Kind of reminds me of a store in New Delhi called The People Tree–though they don’t sell food. I adore these kinds of places!

  • Reply tomorrowslices March 25, 2011 at 4:24 am

    Oh – I do miss these home-made goodies…especially the rusks. I stocked up on Ouma’s Karringmelk Beskuit on our last visit, but all good things come to an end!

    • Reply 2summers March 25, 2011 at 8:13 am

      I totally relate. I always stock up on my favorite U.S. cereal when I’m there or when someone comes to visit. But it eventually runs out and I feel so sad.

  • Reply lisa@notesfromafrica March 25, 2011 at 6:11 am

    Another great post about South Africa! You keep reminding me how lekker this place can be if you take the time to really look around and appreciate it.

    Sounds like you’re being introduced to all the South African “lekkernye” (delicacies, confectioneries). See everything worth having has got the work “lekker” in it!

    Thanks for the mention! I think your definition is far better though.

  • Reply Slowvelder March 25, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    I love this shop – I used to work nearby and we’d buy all our cakes and snacks for birthdays there. They have the most devine “southappies”

    • Reply 2summers March 25, 2011 at 11:20 pm

      Did you work in Melville? Cool! I need to try a southappy.

      • Reply Slowvelder March 28, 2011 at 3:02 pm

        I worked in Parktown – a short drive away.

        Have you been to the “service station” yet?

      • Reply 2summers March 28, 2011 at 5:08 pm

        Yes, I live one block from Service Station! I went there this morning 🙂

      • Reply Slowvelder April 7, 2011 at 12:39 pm

        I just love that place 🙂

  • Reply Derek Smith March 25, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    Have you gone round the corner into Bountyhunters, the charity shop yet? I pop in there from time time to time and although the cats are a bit of a nuisance you can find the most interesting stuff there. From quirky 2nd hand clothes, loads of books, whatever your heart might desire – a correction though as a born and bred boereseun – Rusks are not traditionally made from stale bread – it’s a “custom made” batter that is baked as you would bake bread and then dried in an oven.

    • Reply 2summers March 25, 2011 at 11:22 pm

      Ah, thanks for the correction! That makes sense – I guess I didn’t read the wiki page carefully enough. I walk past Bounty Hunters all the time but have never gone in. They have cats there?? Now I will definitely go in 🙂

  • Reply Boekehuis | Allaboutwriting July 14, 2011 at 9:51 am

    […] a small selection of mostly South African books and a sunny coffee shop serving baked goods from Koliander. After you’ve had a good browse, sit in the garden if weather permits, read the local papers, and […]

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