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shopping

Sobae apple-cinnamon-pomegranate sorbet at Victoria Yards

Sobae Sorbet: A Frozen Joburg Love Story

Today is Heritage Day, a holiday celebrating South Africa’s incredible cultural diversity. It’s also the unofficial start of summer and a day when South Africans celebrate their diversity by grilling meat. (Heritage Day has been rebranded by many as “Braai Day”.) I thought it would be a good day to tell you about Joburg’s best and most inspiring frozen dessert: Sobae sorbet. Thato Masondo and Thula Ndema didn’t like seeing all the overripe fruit being discarded onto the street by Joburg’s downtown produce vendors. So after a few years of scheming and saving funds, Thula and Thato started Sobae Frozen, making sorbet from that overripe fruit and selling it on the streets of Braamfontein. Today, the couple makes and sells their sorbet at Victoria Yards and at pop-up events in the Wilds. Sobae Sorbet Sobae is no ordinary sorbet, with basic flavors like lemon and strawberry and mango. Thato and Thula are master flavor magicians, whipping up exotic combinations like apple and pomegranate with cinnamon or butternut and banana with chai spice. Using very ripe fruit (and vegetables!) makes the sorbet taste particularly sweet without a lot of added sugar. All of Sobae’s ingredients are locally produced and in season. […]

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Restored wall at Rand Steam Laundries shopping centre

The Dramatic Story of Rand Steam Laundries

Once upon a time, about 130 years ago, a group of Zulu men called the AmaWasha ran a business washing clothes beside a stream, on the outskirts of a ramshackle mining town called Johannesburg. The water in this stream was particularly good for clothes-washing. Soon a bustling laundry called Rand Steam mushroomed on the spot, displacing the AmaWasha. South Africans hotels shipped their linens from from as far away as Cape Town to be washed at Rand Steam. The laundry closed many decades later but the original buildings — some of the oldest industrial structures in Joburg — received protected heritage status from the city. The buildings remained until the early 2000s, when a company called Imperial Holdings — to the rage and dismay of heritage activists and other onlookers — illegally tore down the Rand Steam Laundries to build a car dealership. Enter the heroes of this story: the formidable Flo Bird and her colleagues at the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation, who organized a resistance, picketed the site, raised a ruckus with the city government, and ultimately blocked the car dealership from being built. There wasn’t much left of Rand Steam save a few discarded elements of the buildings and […]

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Photo of Mother Theresa at Langwan Cleaners

Langwan Cleaners and the Mother Teresa of Albert Street

In March 2017 I receive a Facebook message. “Do make a turn at my mom’s store, corner Albert and Mooi Street, called Langwan Cleaners. Will make a good story. “My mom, a single mother now 70 years old, has been running a ‘general dealer’ for the past 40 something years. Her business has evolved over the years but she is truly a kind of Mother Teresa of the area. Two years later in February 2019, in a comment to a comment on another post, I receive a gentle reminder. “Reminder to visit my mom😘. 99 Albert Street.” 99 Albert Street. I write it down. Three weeks later I return to that note in my day planner. 99 Albert Street. By this time I’ve forgotten the name of the person who sent me the message or where she sent it from. I know it’s an Indian name and begins with an S. 99 Albert Street. A laundry? Owned by a woman. Someone’s mom. I can’t remember but I know it’s time to go. In a WhatsApp message to Fiver, I write: “Any chance you’d like to go with me on a mysterious mission?” Fiver is always game for mysterious missions. A […]

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Learning About DNA (and Me) at Health Works in Hyde Park

Check the end of this post for details on how to win a R1000 voucher to Hyde Park Corner. I haven’t blogged much lately. There are a few reasons for this but the bottom line is I’ve been busy and stressed. My brain is moving in ten directions at once and I can barely remember my own name, let alone blog. It’s not the greatest feeling. As recently as 30 minutes ago someone said to me, “Slow down, Heather. Take 14 deep breaths.” But the universe works in mysterious ways. I’m sure it’s no coincidence that amidst all this craziness I was invited, as part of a blogging campaign, to do something I would never have done otherwise: Get my DNA analyzed at Health Works, a funky health shop in Hyde Park Corner. Health Works in Hyde Park Hyde Park Corner is a fancy shopping mall — a Joburg institution, really — filled with high-end restaurants and stores. But Health Works is different. The owner, Linda Weech, is a self-proclaimed “old hippy girl” who used to work in the clothing business but eventually switched over to health food and supplements because “health is more creative than clothes”. Linda opened Health […]

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Outside Mallies Spice Works

Mallies Spice Works: The Place to Buy Spices in Joburg

Sometimes I buy spices, thinking the fragrant, colorful little packets might motivate me to cook something. Unfortunately that rarely happens and the spices get old and sticky and I wind up throwing them away unused. For this reason I rarely shop for spices anymore, even though South Africa — with its cacophonous mix of eastern and western cultures and cuisines — is a great place to do so. But if I did shop for spices, I would do so at Mallies Spice Works. I went to Mallies with Marie-Lais to take photos for a column in the Citizen newspaper. I’d heard there was a famous spice factory in Newtown but I never would have found it without Google Maps; Mallies is in an unassuming location, close to the highway and a notorious squatter camp. As we parked outside, I felt suspicious that we were in the right place. But as often happens in Joburg, we walked inside and discovered an alternate universe. Outside Mallies Spice Works on Carr Street in Newtown. Mallies’ crazy interior. Spices Galore at Mallies We went to Mallies in the middle of the day on a Tuesday and it was packed with both customers and employees. Everyone […]

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people walking in 27 Boxes park

10 Places to Visit in Melville’s 27 Boxes

27 Boxes is a retail center made out of shipping containers on 4th Avenue in Melville. The beautiful new children’s play area outside 27 Boxes. I recently wrote a story about 27 Boxes for the Different, which goes into the interesting history of the center and of Faan Smit Park, the Joburg City park that used to be where 27 Boxes is now. So I won’t go into that in this post. I just want to tell you that 27 Boxes has become one of the best places to hang out in Melville. The center didn’t get off to a great start when it opened in 2015; lots of the shops sat empty and Melville residents grumbled that the whole place was an eyesore and would soon go under and close. But new management took over 27 Boxes last year and started fixing everything up. New shop tenants have moved in, and the outside of the center was completely overhauled. It looks fantastic. I go to 27 Boxes all the time and I think everyone else should too. If you want an idea of what to do there, here are 10 of my top recommendations. Ten Great Places in 27 Boxes […]

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Heather in a dress from Dr. Pachanga

Fashion Makeover with Dr. Pachanga

As I’ve said before, I consider myself to be an unfashionable person. But the longer I live in South Africa, the more fashionable I feel. I find the fashion in South Africa — and Africa in general — more fun than fashion in the United States. (No offense, American fashion designers: It’s not you, it’s me.) Dr. Pachanga is the embodiment of African fashion I like. Dr. Pachanga, the last king of Congo. Handbags à la Dr. Pachanga. Dr. Pachanga’s real name is Jean Rene Onyagunga. He was born in Kinshasa but grew up in Durban. Dr. Pachanga is a designer, an entrepreneur, a stylist, an actor, a photographer, and a social media persona. This photo describes Dr. Pachanga better than my words can. Dr. Pachanga, aka J.R., aka Doc. “I like to jump,” he told me. Fashion Spree at Dr. Pachanga I visited Dr. Pachanga’s shop in 44 Stanley last week to take photos for the Citizen. But somehow I wound up mostly on the wrong side of my camera lens, posing for photos instead of taking them. I also shopped more than I worked. I bought this. (Photo by Marie-Lais Emond) As part of the column she was writing, Marie-Lais asked […]

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Papy at Urban Zulu

10 Really Cool Jozi Places I Didn’t Blog About in 2017

I blogged about a lot of Jozi places in 2017. But there are also a lot of places I visited but never managed to write up, for one reason or another. Lots of these places are really cool and I don’t want their photos to languish forever in my Lightroom catalog. Also, I want you to visit them. So here is a quick rundown of the 10 best places I never blogged about in 2017. Jozi Places I Should Have Blogged About in 2017 1) Urban Backpackers/Kafe Noir (Joburg CBD) Urban Backpackers is a youth hostel smack in the middle of the Joburg CBD, at 98 Anderson Street. The ground floor of Urban Backpackers is Kafe Noir, a funky coffeeshop. The rooftop is a bar and party venue. Chilling on the rooftop of Urban Backpackers after the Hi-Tec #WalkMyCity event. (Photo: Fiver Löcker) Urban Backpackers is owned by Papy Nakuw, a fashion designer who also owns the Urban Zulu clothing label. Papy is impossibly cool. His design workshop is just across the street. Papy at Urban Backpackers. I like the Urban Backpackers because it’s an unexpected place in an unexpected location. Kafe Noir and the rooftop are generally open to the public but […]

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Shoppers at Crazy Groceries

Shopping for “Best Before” Deals at Crazy Groceries

Several weeks ago I was ranting on Facebook about Black Friday. My friend Josef, also an American living in Joburg (in fact Josef and I grew up in neighboring towns outside Baltimore, Maryland), commented he doesn’t bother with Black Friday because he finds way better deals year-round at Crazy Groceries. Black Friday is a hot Facebook topic, and my rant elicited dozens of comments. But Josef’s caught my attention. “Crazy Groceries?” I asked. “What’s that?” I was in for a treat. Outside Crazy Groceries, in the blandest of bland Joburg shopping centers off Malibongwe Drive in Strijdom Park. Crazy Groceries is, of course, a grocery store. But it stands apart from other grocery stores in that: 1) everything sold there is non-perishable; and 2) most of the products are past their “best before” dates. Best before warnings at Crazy Groceries. As I understand it, “best before” dates are different from “sell by” dates. None of the products at Crazy Groceries are fresh or perishable, hence they can’t actually rot or make you sick just because the best before date has passed. (Incidentally, there is a lot of debate about sell by dates and best before dates and whether they mean […]

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Colorful handbags at Via La Moda

#Gauteng52, Week 47: Joburg’s Best Handbags (and there’s a sale)

Welcome to Week 47 of my #Gauteng52 challenge, for which I visit and blog about a new place in Gauteng Province every week for 52 straight weeks. This week I visit Via La Moda, a workshop producing luxury handbags and other leather goods in Industria. I can’t believe I named this post “Joburg’s Best Handbags” because in America we call them purses, not handbags. But during my years in South Africa I’ve gradually adopted “handbag” over “purse” (much in the same way I’ve adopted “petrol” over “gas”), because it just sounds cooler and more sophisticated. And when it comes to handbags, no one is cooler or more sophisticated than Via La Moda. Finely crafted handbags (not purses), made of ostrich leather and python skin, await completion in the Via La Moda workshop. Before I get into this, I should mention Via La Moda is holding its big annual sale next week, from 30 November to 2 December. (Not on Black Friday, thank goodness. Black Friday is the devil.) I’m not a big shopper and usually don’t care about sales but I think this one is worth mentioning. These bags are exquisite and not cheap (like, really not cheap at all). If […]

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Gin and tonic from Cedar Square Night Market

A Visit to Fourways and Some Thoughts on Markets

Joburgers love markets. I’m not talking about farmers markets or flea markets. In Joburg, the term “market” usually refers to a gathering of eclectic food and craft vendors where people go to eat, drink, shop for specialty products, and to see and be seen. The markets always happen either on weekend days or weekday nights, either weekly or monthly. These markets are popping up all over the city, and they are very trendy, and for a long time I was judgey about them. I had this idea that all the offerings at all the markets are basically the same, and I couldn’t see the point of going to a market when I can just eat in an actual restaurant or shop in an actual store. So when I was invited to attend the Stall Night Market at Cedar Square Shopping Centre and write a blog post about it, I hesitated. A night market in the parking lot of a shopping mall, in Fourways? (I’m also judgey about Fourways, exurban land of massive malls and housing complexes.) I wasn’t so sure. The night market at Cedar Square. Then I told myself to stop being a diva and open my mind. So […]

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Salmon sushi at La Marina

#Gauteng52, Week 41: Fresh Fish at La Marina Foods

Welcome to Week 41 of my #Gauteng52 challenge, for which I visit and blog about a new place in Gauteng Province every week for 52 straight weeks. This week I visit La Marina Foods, a fish and specialty food supplier in Modderfontein. Marie-Lais and I drove into a bland office park in Modderfontein. We blew right past La Marina Foods the first time, asked directions twice, and eventually made our way to an imposing metal gate. Is this place really open to the public? I thought. It looks very warehouse-like from the outside. But the security guard opened up for us. We parked, stepped inside, and found ourselves in a culinary dream world. The La Marina deli. La Marina is first and foremost a food supplier — mostly seafood — supplying restaurants and hotels all over Joburg and South Africa. If you live in Joburg you’ve probably driven past many La Marina delivery trucks without noticing. But La Marina also has a retail shop and deli, again mostly seafood, but also selling cheese, meat, and exotic packaged foods from all over the world. The food at La Marina made me really, really happy. Kirsten Jooste, owner of La Marina, in front of […]

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