Recession brings the future of food back to the past!


I had heard of and spoken to Sonia Cabano almost a year ago, but we had never met, until last week, and we have done so twice in a week!   Sonia has a refreshing view on many things in life, and I was interested to speak to her about her love for food, and the cookbooks that she had written to date.  She is proudly South African in her love for local foods, and sees that the food preparation of generations past will become that of the future.

Sonia (de Waal) became a well-known advertising model for Lancome, Mary Quant and Yves St Laurent after leaving Brandfort, living in Milan, Paris and London for twelve years.  She grew up in a food-loving family, with her mother being an amazing baker and cook, says Sonia, and her family ate in the way Sonia proposes we should all go back to – they had a vegetable garden at home, and meat came from a smallholding her dad owned.  They ate organically then, not giving it a name, but by its principles. Sonia was always in her mom’s kitchen, and helped her mom, and now her children do the same when she prepares food.

It was in London that she was asked to cook for clients, word having spread about her wonderful dinner parties.  She loved the supply of fur and feathered game in the city, and London’s specialist shops, something she would love to see more of in Cape Town.  Her love for shopping at food markets stems from this.   Her dream to study cooking at the Ritz Escoffier School in Paris did not materialise, but her second best option was to go to London’s top restaurants and ask for an apprenticeship, and it was Bistrot 190 and Kensington Place that gave her places in their kitchens.   When many left the country in 1994, it was the year that Sonia returned to South Africa, and to Cape Town specifically.  She started a catering company, but closed it down after five years when she had her children.

She received a call out of the blue to audition for SABC 3’s “Pampoen tot Perlemoen” food programme, was hired, and made four series with them. She added food writing to her activities, for VISI, TASTE, Sarie, Insig, and House & Garden.  To this she added writing cookbooks, and two have been published to date:

*   ‘Kombuis’ – was written in Afrikaans for Afrikaans foodlovers.  She said she found it harder to express herself in Afrikaans, as cooking terms have not evolved in this language.  The book contains traditional ‘boerekos’ recipes interpreted by Sonia, and she included a chapter on how to larder.

*   ‘Easy, Simple and Delicious’, which she says is the easy way to make fresh staples in the lazy and fast way!

Her newest book, to be called ‘Relish’, will be published in September.  It will focus on sauces, seasonings, and condiments to make at home.  It includes making preserves, as well as cheeses, such as ricotta and mascarpone.

Sonia wants to share her passion for local food, and wants to keep her readers out of supermarkets for basics, which she would like them to make, like pasta sauce, instead of buying them out of a tin, and/or containing preservatives and colourants.  She includes chef’s tips in her books too. In addition to writing, she does cooking demonstrations, and is a recipe development consultant.   She wanted to set up a Slow Food shop, but could not find the right venue for it.

She espouses the principles of Slow Food, and it ties in with her food philosophy of “Tradition is Modern”!   She feels it important that small food and wine producers be encouraged and supported, and that a small food collective be organically nurtured to become a valuable resource.   Sounding similar in her food philosophy to Neil Stemmet, Sonia talks about “Kontreikos”, which is eating seasonal food from one’s region and which the farmer has been fairly remunerated for.  Sonia is very anti-supermarket, and proudly told me that she has not stepped into a Woolworths in six months. She sees supermarkets as ‘dehumanising’, pushing their wares down consumers’ throats, and Woolworths in particular does not practice its environmentally-friendly claim it proudly advertises inside its stores.   She supports ethical production of foods, and wants us “to live in harmony with nature”.  She would love us to go back, and she wants to document, to how the ‘old country ladies’ made foods like butter, and beverages in the past.  She would love Capetonians to get out of their homes again, and to connect in the neighbourhood, not just with their neighbours but also with the local shops in these areas.  She thinks that the recession is fantastic in making us all return to basics, to discover what is essential, and to no longer be shopping-driven.

Having rejected it initially, due to the disparagement she had seen on it, Sonia has now taken to Twitter, and finds it a fantastic tool for networking, for sourcing information, for the immediacy of response, and to communicate and share one’s thoughts and feelings about anything and everything!

POSTSCRIPT 23/5:  The comment by Maria has upset Sonia, and she has been contacted by 12 persons, she says, who all claim that we wrote the comment as “Maria”. Michael Olivier of Crush! made this claim to Hetzner last year, when he tried to get our blog closed down!  Sonia sent an sms today that she felt that she ‘was being set up’ by me in having interviewed her, writing the blogpost, and then writing the ‘Maria’ comment – it is an absolutely ludicrous allegation, as we have the blog in which we can write what we like, and we do not have to resort to writing comments on our own blog, nor on anyone else’s. I would not have spent the money and time in inviting Sonia for lunch, had I not been interested in her as a person, and her writing about food.  It is sad that such nastiness goes around in Social Media, and that people talk about others without having met them.  Sonia has decided to block us on Twitter as a result, from having been in praise of us getting her starting on Twitter only three weeks ago, and being happy with our blogpost about her when it was posted on Thursday.

Sonia Cabano. Tel 071 674 0222. Twitter: @SoniaCabano1

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: Twitter:@WhaleCottage

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25 replies on “Recession brings the future of food back to the past!”

  1. Go look at Towerbosch restaurant they have been doing this type of food for two years now from there own butter to chacuterie.

  2. what an inspiration! Hopefully one day we can all get people to think like Sonia and Chris….as a young male studying to become a chef this is going to be one of my main focuses in the future.

  3. Thanks so much Mark, and all the best for your career as chef.


  4. Dear Westley

    In the article on Neil Stemmet we did mention Towerbosch as a Restaurant of the Future.


  5. Hi Chris, I see you have used the photograph off my blog! Please note, that it is copyrighted and there is a specific request that if you wish to use a photograph from my site that you request permission from me first. please edit your blog to acknowledge the source of your photo. thanks Tandy

  6. My apology Tandy

    I found it on Google Images, and it did not have a copyright note.

    I will remove it immediately, and replace it with another.


  7. Dear Chris

    We thought that you would keep to reviewing restaurants and writing stories about real food celebrities. Why do we need to read about Sonia when she is just a wanna-be? Are you really associating with people who mix their wine with their bipolar meds? Not your style Chris. You are one of the most classy people in the foodie world. And we love and respect you. Please don’s steep this low.

    With love from Maria

  8. Thanks for your point of view Maria.

    I have been in Sonia’s company three times now in the last ten days, and have found her to be an interesting person with strong views, who is not afraid to voice them. Her views on the future of food are interesting enough for me to write a story about them, especially as they tie in with those of Neil Stemmet, and she was at the lunch when I chatted to Neil.

    I know nothing about Sonia’s personal life -she has been very friendly since we connected on Twitter, and supportive about the nasty Twitter campaign, which she doesn’t have to, given that we don’t know each other well.


  9. Dear Maria
    To tell you the honest truth I have absolutely no idea why Chris chose to make this post about me. She invited me to lunch and as I arrived, announced that she was going to write a blogpost about me. I was quite uncomfortable with that, since, as I told her, I don’t really have anything going on at the moment that I consider newsworthy at all. I do think, however, that it is entirely possible to not like someone and yet not be nasty about them or even rude towards them. I guess it’s a matter of breeding and background. Kind regards, Sonia

  10. Sonia, I wouldn’t comment further on Maria’s vemon if I were you. Maria is the alter-ego of a person that is playing very dangerous games and you, being intelligent and classy as you are, should be able to see right throught it. We love you Sonia and we all know who Maria is. Your books have brought many hours of cooking delight to my family. Thank you for being who you are – unpretentious and orgininal, not having to take on any persona to get your message across.

  11. Oh Maria (or whatever your real name) get a life. Sonia is respected and loved by all who knows her. I would really expect more of Ms Von Ulmenstein as to publish such rubbish comments on her (otherwise respected) blog. Unless Ms Ulmenstein has something to gain by participating in menace against loved foodies like Sonia. Come to think about it – who would ever expect such a thing from the lovely Ms Von Ulmenstein

  12. Maria,
    What is this about steeping so low? What kind of a person uses public forum or blog to write about such personal things relating to any person let alone Sonia. Do you call this class? Slagging someone off using terms like “mixing wine with…” etc. Quite bizaar reallly. It seems you have as much “class” as this blog itself for allowing such smut to be published in the first place.

    Respct to Sonia for her dignified comments and response. This demonstrates true “class”, something that both you and this blog need lessons in. As she states, she did not ask for this and now finds herself on the receiving end of such slander. Quite pathetic really.

  13. Dear Herman, Mike and Floyed

    Thank you for your comments in support of Sonia, all of which I agree with. Sonia and I have spoken about Maria’s comment, and she understands that it was fair to allow it. She has responded, as is her fair right, and you have too.

    I have Googled Maria, and cannot find a reference to a local person with that name and surname (visible to me but not to the blog readers).

    Floyed, if I had any “menace” towards Sonia, I would not have written the blogpost about her! We last shared a dinner table at What’s On Eatery on Thursday evening, and met twice in a week for lunch before that.


  14. Chris, how is it “fair” to allow Maria’s sillywitted, slanderous comments? Would you have allowed the comment if it was about you?

    I really have come to enjoy your blog, despite my initial resistance to it- but allowing this type of comment remains unethical in my view.

  15. Thanks for your compliment about the blog Kobus.

    It is hard to moderate comments and decide when to delete them. I have allowed far worse comments written about me on my blog, and have responded to them as best I can. Sonia did reply, and so did her supporters, and I added my support to her too.

    I am often challenged to allow comments that are disparaging, so I allow all comments, with very rare exceptions.


  16. I would like to add my voice to the outcry against the comments by Maria and cannot help but wonder if you published these because they flattered you Chris. I am shocked by the disregard you, as owner of this blog, have of basic good manners and integrity online. I would like to see the places you are referring to when you said that you have allowed far worst comments about you on your blog. In fact, you are known to sensor your blogs against anybody who contributes comments about you that you don’t like. I would like to, for example, to see if you will post this comment. I have a suspicion who the real face behind Maria is and I want to tell this person that she is very transparent and pathetic.

  17. May I correct you on a few things please Chris: I never told you I thought ‘Maria’s comment was fair. I did however say I ignore the ramblings of an unhinged mind. Neither was I supportive of any Twitter or Internet campaign against you or anyone else. I stated firmly that I refuse to get involved in intrigues and I consider people who resort to this kind of behaviour juvenile if not downright disturbed. You invited me to lunch twice in a week and was an invited guest, as I was, at the launch of a restaurant’s new winter menu. You were welcomed at my table as all the other seats had been taken. In all my dealings with you I have been friendly and courteous. However, I find it odd that 1. You could spring an interview on me without prior notice and 2. Allow entirely ad hominem and off-topic insults when you so fervently seek credibility as a journalist. I have absolutely no animosity towards you whatsoever, but I have not the faintest interest in being used as a pawn in silly alliances and vendettas. Kind regards, Sonia

  18. Chris, my final comment is this: in the short space of your blogpost’s comments and your late addition I have witnessed the following:
    1. Slanderous allegations against me with no attempt at refutation by you. Your gushing gratitude at ‘Maria’s’ comments elsewhere make it clear you are in support of this dubious character.
    2. Distortion and manipulation of facts and events to create an impression that flatters you.
    3. Divulging of personal conversations and correspondence that is absolutely beyond the pale in journalistic practice.

    I regret that this has contributed to the blog’s writer’s credibility sinking into the abyss as far as this reader is concerned.

    And I would not dream of texting at midnight someone I had ambushed into an interview and subsequently insulted. It goes to poor judgement.

  19. Dear Liza

    I am surprised that you and Sonia are crying wolf about disparaging comments, when both of you are disparaging in your comments towards me this evening.

    Where do I draw the line – censor Maria’s comments but allow yours? A bit unfair, don’t you think?


  20. Dear Sonia

    I am allowing your two most recent comments, with all the venom and incorrect information they contain, as it affords me an opportunity to correct them:

    1. I did not write that you thought Maria’s comment to be fair.

    2. I did not write that you supported a Twitter campaign against me – in fact I wrote exactly the opposite in the last paragraph of the blogpost.

    3. I am not attempting to be a journalist – I am a blogger at night, and have a day job. I enjoy writing, and do not seek credibility. Readers who read this blog obviously believe in my credibility.

    4. As the owner of the blog, I am allowed to allow the comments. Maria’s comment was disparaging towards you, but so have yours been towards her and to me. It appears that you know who Maria is, and I would like you and her to please fight your fight outside of my blog. I remember how you attacked JP Rossouw last year in respect of the La Mouette review – you did not concern yourself with disparagement then.

    5. I did not ‘spring’ the ‘interview’ on you – it was a chat about you, and I did not notice you refusing it, nor holding back about your life story. You were the one that suggested we meet again after our lunch with Neil Stemmet, as we did not really have a chance to chat, and I agreed. I was most surprised, frankly, when you allowed me to pay for a second lunch for you in a week. I did not ‘ambush’ you into the lunch – you came to it very willingly.

    6. You have a lot of animosity towards me, I would say – a nasty biblical Tweet this morning, and nine nasty sms messages, and two Blog comments since this morning.

    7. I supported you in comments 8, 13 and 15 above. I cannot refute the claim made by Maria, as I do not know much about you other than your love for food, and your cookbooks, my only topic of interest for the blogpost – only you could refute what Maria had to say.

    8. I don’t need to flatter myself, and do not distort ‘facts and events’.

    9. Your sms’s are not private, and I felt it important to add your allegation re Maria, to put your Comments into context, and for me to try and understand your behaviour – from an intense Twitter and sms buddy until Saturday, to disparagement beyond reason since today, and blocking on Twitter, a childish reaction.

    10. I sent you an sms at 6.45 pm last night, not an unreasonable time, to let you know that three kind Comments had been written in support of you on this blog. You did not respond until midnight, which message I only read this morning.

    I have not ‘insulted’ you in any way. I was warned about your intensity, and I saw it on Twitter, and your numerous calls and sms messages to me in the past two weeks. Your interaction has gone far beyond the reasonable level of debate, and I will not post any further comments from you to this blogpost.


  21. Oh dear Chris, an intelligent woman should have more sense than to mix with the likes of Sonia and your Irish ex con friend, Clare. I watched your friendship with both these crazies unfold, and waited for it to explode. Sonia is known for her ups and downs, I would not take it too seriously. As for Clare, the fact that she is still going and making so much money from advertising on a blog where she reviews restaurants without ever paying for a meal is beyond me. Catch a wake up people, it seems there are not many sane foodies out there. As for you Chris, ignore this nut case, you should know better. You have a great blog, stick to what you do well.

  22. P.S. Maybe Sonia wants to share why Salvin Hirschfield eventually had to kick her out of his cottage? The poor man was attacked by her on Facebook, and described as a psychopath. I am not being vindictive, merely painting a picture of a woman who is not at all what she appears to be. She is delusional, constantly thinks she is being “stalked”, and not one of her previous business relationships ended well. You seem to pick your restaurants with more care than you pick your so called “friends”. Enough with the loony tunes Chris!

  23. Phew Lolla! You certainly cause a stir when you make your occasional comment! Very intrigued as to who you are.

    You certainly are correct about the ‘stalking’ phobia – she told me about the Facebook stalkers in every conversation we had, and said it was starting on Twitter too, but there is no such thing on Twitter, as one can just block followers if one wants to.


  24. What uttter bloody pigmanure these commentaries have turned into! Chris, once again you disregard any common decency in the commentaries you allow. Lolla is being allowed to slander to the extreme here, and all of it unsubstantiated, vile vitriol. I saw Sonia and Salvin sharing coffee, both in very good spirits, two weeks ago at his stall in the Biscuit Mill market- hardly the type on conviviality one would expect between two people who had any sort of fall-out. This leads me to start wondering whether the rumours about “Maria”, “Lolla” and “Saul R” are actually true.

    Explain to one of your faithful readers, Chris, how you can go from being so enthusiastic about Sonia to allowing these gossip-mongering attacks on her integrity?

  25. Dear Koos

    I will allow you the last word on this topic, and am closing the Comments for this blogpost.

    If I allow one comment, I must allow all. Your comments are disparaging towards me and Lolla too, and have been in the past (but I acknowledge that there have been some nicer ones of late).

    I know Saul, but don’t know Maria or Lolla. Once again, it is ludicrous to think that I would start writing comments on my blog, other than replies to comments, in the name of other persons. I can say what I want to say on my blog, in the blogposts!

    Please direct your question to Sonia as to why she has stopped being my Twitter buddy, and why she has blocked us on Twitter.


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