It’s South African Lockdown Day 11. I went outside again.
My main task today was to go out and shop for a few things. I heard recently that the Cheese Gourmet — one of my favorite Joburg food shops, which I’ve blogged about here and here and here — was open during lockdown. I have a significant supply of cheese at home so didn’t need to buy any more, unfortunately. But I’ve been craving fresh bread, olives, and spicy chorizo, all of which Cheese Gourmet has. And I’m making it a goal to support local businesses as much as possible during lockdown.
So I got into my car and drove to Linden, two suburbs over from Melville. It was my first time driving in 12 days. Normally it would take me about eight minutes to drive to Cheese Gourmet but I took a slow, circuitous back route, because: 1) I wanted to see what was happening around the neighborhood; and 2) I’m paranoid about running into cops (probably an irrational concern, as I didn’t see a single cop car).
Everything looks the same out there, albeit with a few less cars and pedestrians. I took the bridge over Emmarentia Dam and admired the oak trees’ changing leaves under a bright blue sky. The park was completely empty. I guess it must be nice for the birds.
I parked in front of the Cheese Gourmet. My car was the only one on the street. I donned my mask and gloves and walked inside. I was the only customer in the shop. There was a lone lady behind the cheese counter, also wearing a mask.
The Cheese Gourmet was a bit lower on stock than normal but there was still plenty to choose from. I slowly walked the shop from end to end, examining (but not touching) every product on every shelf. I take shopping so much more seriously than I used to.
I carefully selected: a loaf of ciabatta, a small log of goat cheese, a U-shaped chorizo sausage, a single portion of pre-made vegetable curry, a container of Kalamata olives, and a pot bread mix (which I am incredibly excited to try).
I wanted to make small talk with the lady ringing up my order — I don’t have many opportunities for that these days. But making small talk from behind a face mask is sadly very difficult.
I walked outside and thanked the car guard, who was the lone human being on the street. I gave him R10, which he was very happy about (I can’t imagine he’s scoring many tips these days). We struck up a conversation, or tried to.
The guard’s name is Fan Fan and he’s a refugee from Congo. When Fan Fan saw I was preparing to take a photo of the empty street, he asked if he could be in it (see photo above).
I asked Fan Fan if he’s getting hassled by the police for being outside; he either didn’t understand my question or chose to politely ignore it. I struggled to communicate with Fan Fan, in either English or French, probably because of the face mask (and my bad French).
I bid Fan Fan goodbye and drove off. On the way home I stopped at the Linden Spar, which was mercifully less crowded than the Melville Spar on Day 6, to pick up a few more things. Somehow I spent almost double as much at Spar as at Cheese Gourmet, although my purchases were far less exciting.
When I got home I washed my hands, arranged my Cheese Gourmet purchases on the counter, photographed them, then opened the olives and ate one. The sharp, tangy olive flavor exploded in my mouth. It was like my taste buds woke up from a long nap. I promptly ate several more.
Everything is more vivid during lockdown. I taste things more. I see things more. I hear things more. I hope I’ll still remember to feel this way after the lockdown.
Today’s Worthy Cause
Today I’m featuring the New Harbour Distillery in Cape Town — normally a micro gin and vodka distillery — which has temporarily stopped producing liquor and pivoted to making, selling, and donating hand sanitizer.
You can buy your own hand sanitizer, infused with fragrant fynbos and essential oils, directly from New Harbour. For every three liters of sanitizer they sell, they donate one liter to communities/health facilities in need. Or you can simply make a donation to send sanitizer directly to those in need.
I think lots of small distilleries are doing this and I imagine there are some in Joburg, too. If you know of any, please send me a message and I’ll update this post.
Cheers to hand sanitiser. Just don’t drink it.