Last weekend I was invited to attend Honest Travel‘s inaugural “Organic Vegan Experience” tour in downtown Joburg. We met in the afternoon at the Windybrow Theatre in Hillbrow and meandered around town until nightfall, visiting various urban gardens and greenhouses. Then we enjoyed a vegan meal at a surprise location overlooking the city skyline.
It was idyllic — one of those Joburg summer days that gives me hope for the world again.
We visited the Greenhouse in Joubert Park, another historic city landmark that I blogged about briefly in 2018. We headed to Berea and checked out a hydroponic garden a dozen floors above street level. We went to Victoria Yards, which has literally exploded into a giant edible forest over the past couple of years, and stopped to say hello to Mama Refiloe at the Bertrams Inner City Garden. Then we took a slow, glorious stroll up Appolonia Street in Troyeville, admiring interesting buildings and graffiti murals as the sun went down.
This was one of the most visually beautiful Joburg tours I’ve taken in a while, especially because it happened during the best light of the day/evening. Here are some of my favorite shots.
A Vegan Feast at Troyeville House
Our final destination was Troyeville House, yet another beautiful Victorian landmark, built in 1902. The house was once owned by Hollard, a South African insurance company, but it’s now a “changemakers’ residence” — a creative commune of sorts — where all kinds of interesting, creative people live and host activities.
Nonhlanhla “Noni” Godole is one of the changemakers living at Troyeville House. Noni is a mostly vegan chef, a retired pharmacist, and a traditional healer, among other things.
Noni prepared us a vegan feast foraged entirely from urban gardens and local markets around the city. She cooks by feel, asking the ancestors which ingredients belong in each dish as she goes along. The results are pretty astonishing.
I asked Noni to text me with a list of all the things she made. Here’s what she sent — her words are more evocative than mine could ever be:
I served Chai poached pear and plantain egusi. This dish is inspired by my love for West African dishes and I enjoy bringing in a healthy feel or even vegan side of this melon seed dish.
Amaranth and pumpkin leaf. Childhood memories, lightly cooked in oil garlic and herb seasoning and that’s it. I always want to keep that authentic taste and smell which reminds me of my great grandmother.
Mabele sorghum and black bean salad. Sorghum has become a massive part of my journey considering the role it plays in authentic southern African tradition, connecting me deep with my ancestors. It’s indigenous and amazingly good for you.
Then I went into wild Congo… The Yeoville Market is also my home. I buy most of my dried goods from out of the country, here I made a creamy black wild mushroom, baby potatoes cooked In coriander and fennel pesto.
I balanced things out with a tangy and spicy raw beet, raw green mango, red beans and a drizzle of olive oil and mint for garnish.
We started and ended the meal with locally made wine from Ebukhosini. I wish I could say more about this super interesting wine — made mostly from fruit other than grapes — and Ntombi Gama, the super interesting woman who makes it. But Ntombi’s story requires a full blog post so you’ll have to wait for that.
I loved this tour. Note that it requires quite a bit of riding around in a van with other people, which could be an issue for those concerned about social distancing. Please wear a mask.