The typical old-style Karoo kitchen, the kind you’ll only find in museums or outpost farms, still has a shiny peach-pip-and-cowdung floor. The centrepiece – making the kitchen the warmest, most social spot in wintertime – is the Aga or Dover stove. Sometimes there’s still an old brick or clay oven with an iron door.
For the rest, it’s a profusion of Victorian era labour-saving devices that would boggle the mind. Peach peelers, candle moulds, flapjack makers, coffee roasters, raisin pip removers and nutmeg graters – there was no shortage of domestic science innovation in the 19th century.
‘Townies’ often think of food from the Karoo as simple stodge, with the odd lamb chop thrown in. They joke that, in the Karoo, the locals put chicken in the vegetable category.
They’ve obviously never sat down to Sunday lunch with a Karoo family, or dined in one of the dry land’s stately hotels. Or heard about C Louis Leipoldt and his eating preferences. He and his family ate albatross, swallows, breast of flamingo, dikkop (now called a thick-knee), hippo when available, frogs, snails, squirrels and hedgehogs – even lizards. But when they travelled into the Deep Karoo, they chose tomato bredie (with thick rib of mutton), boerewors on a renosterbos fire and vegetable stews softened with sorrel.
Chefs at the Victoria Manor in Cradock prepare the whole Karoo dining package, which includes ‘the atmosphere, the company and cooking from the heart’.