Our Brandy

Posted on August 30, 2014 by Cape Rebel

by C Louis Leipoldt

I make bold to say that our best wine brandy can compete with the very best foreign types – even the famous cognacs from the Charente region in France – and do not have to stand back for them at all.

A lot of nonsense is spoken about ‘old brandy’. ... It is not practical to keep brandy in the vat too long, for it evaporates, and a small vat of brandy will be bone-dry after ten years. It is therefore clear that no brandy can stay in a vat for a hundred years; and it is equally clear that a ‘Napoleon-brandy’ from 1815, that has been kept in a bottle, will today be no better than it was then. We have brandy today that is considerably better than that of earlier times.

The truth is that very old brandy is just about undrinkable, because it is so saturated with ethereal salt and volatile acids that it will burn your mouth and lips. A small quantity of such a very old brandy is used to blend a good, younger one – it gives the younger liquid more body and a pleasant bouquet, aftertaste and oiliness. Such additives should, however, be used with the utmost care, for the ‘blending’ of brandy is a matter for the connoisseur. It is therefore done exclusively by the experts attached to the large firms.

For the normal afficionado, a good wine brandy of about ten to twelve years is just as good and tasty as a much more expensive one blended with an age-old liquid, be it imported or local. We now have many such good brandies on the market, and you can get them from any wine merchant. Try the different kinds. Pour a few drops of each into a dry wine glass – it is by no means necessary to use a large ‘brandy glass’ – and sample each, first with your nose and tongue. Warm the glass between your hands to cause the volatile acids to evaporate. Do not pay too much attention to the colour, unless it is too dark – the colour will in most cases have been enhanced by adding burnt sugar or something like that, which will not influence the taste very much. Too light a colour may make you suspect that the brandy has not matured for long enough in oaken vats, but your tongue and palate will be a better guide than your eye. Now taste the warmed liquid; ‘feel’ it on your tongue, and let it warm further – so that the back of the palate can taste the flavour. Try to judge the extent to which the taste is even, oily and without bite, but still has a pleasant tingle. Then swallow and savour the aftertaste. Take a small sip of water, and try another sample in the same way; and decide according to your own taste which brandy you prefer.

Now squirt a few drops of soda water in one of the glasses, and try again. See which of the different samples passes the ‘mixture test’. A first-class brandy will immediately impart its good qualities to the mixture; its flavour will be, as it were, germinated by the carbon hydroxide; its tingling taste will be strengthened to a certain extent. On the other hand, you will, if you have a sensitive palate, immediately spot the lesser kind – that which still has some volatile acids that a good brandy should have given up to the wood of the vat. A subtle change in the aftertaste indicates the presence of the secondary wine spirit – a touch of ‘bitterness’ might then even be noticed. Now compare your observations during the ‘mixture test’ with those made when tasting the pure liquid, and make your choice.

The brandy you like most is the one that will best agree with you. Don’t be impressed by labels or advertisements – make your choice according to your own taste. And then treat your choice with love and understanding. Enjoy it in moderation, preferably after a good lunch or supper, with or after coffee if you like it in its naked purity. Otherwise, again in moderation, with clean spring water, or, if you prefer, soda water. And on a cold winter’s evening, when the wind is howling outside and you are sure that your lambs are safely protected in the kraal, with warm water, a piece of cinnamon, a lump of sugar and a flake of lemon peel, as a warm drink.

10 September 1943

Posted in English

Street Processions – An Extract

Posted on August 15, 2014 by Cape Rebel

by Herman Charles Bosman

For almost as long as I can remember, street processions have been in my blood. When I see a long line of people marching through the streets – the longer the line, the better I like it – something primordial gets stirred inside me and I am overtaken by the urge to fall in also, and take my place somewhere near the end of the procession. And it’s been like that with me all my life. There is something about the sight and the thought of a long line of people marching through the streets of a city that fills me with an awe I can’t easily define. It has got to be through a city; a procession through a village or over the veld wouldn’t be the same thing.

The ideal conditions for a procession are grey skies and wet streets. And there should be a drizzle. My tastes don’t run to the extremes of a blizzard or a tropical downpour. Thunder and lightening effects are out of place. All you want is a steady drip-drip of fine rain that makes everything look bleak and dismal, without the comfortable abandonment of utter desolation. Then through these drab streets there must come trailing a long line of humanity, walking three or four abreast, their boots muddy and their clothes (by preference) shabby and shapeless in the rain, and their faces a grey pallor. They can sing a little, too, if they like, to try and cheer themselves up – without ever succeeding, of course. And in this sombre trudging of thousands of booted feet on cobbles or tarred road, there goes my heart, also. I get gripped with an intense feeling of being one with stupid, struggling, rotten, heroic humanity, and in this grey march there is a heavy symbolism whose elements I don’t try to interpret for fear that the parts should together be less than the whole; and I find myself, contrary to all the promptings of good sense and reason, yielding to the urge to try and find a place for myself somewhere near the tail-end of the procession.

Oh, and of course, there is another thing, something I had almost forgotten, and that is the cause operating as the dynamism for getting a procession of this description organised and under way. Frankly, I don’t think the cause matters very much. I have a natural predilection for an unpopular cause and, above all, for a forlorn cause – a lost hope, and whether this peculiar idiosyncrasy of mine springs from ordinary perversity, or from a nobility of soul, is something I have not been able to ascertain. And so, while I always feel that it is very nice, and all that, if the march is undertaken by the participants in a spirit of lofty idealism, because a very important principle is at stake, I am equally satisfied – provided that the muddy boots and the grey skies are present – if the spiritual factors behind the demonstration are not so very high or altruistic.

The last time I marched in a procession was as recently as last Saturday afternoon. I was on my way home when, from the top of the Malvern tram, I spotted in front of Jeppe Station a street procession in the course of formation. I could see straight away that the conditions were just right. It was drizzling. The streets were wet and grey and muddy. The sky was bleak and cheerless. I prepared to alight. Unfortunately, however, the tram was very crowded, with the result that I wasn’t able to get off before the Berg Street stop. From there I took another tram back to Jeppe Station, arriving there just as the procession was moving off. I took my place somewhere near the rear. We marched in a northerly direction and swung into Commissioner Street. Trudge. Trudge. Drizzle. Mud. Wet boots and shapeless clothes. I didn’t ask what the procession was about. I didn’t want to reveal my ignorance and chance getting sneered at. I’d been sneered at by a procession before, and I don’t like it.

Posted in English

Straatoptogte – ’n Uittreksel

Posted on August 15, 2014 by Cape Rebel

deur Herman Charles Bosman


Vir amper so lank as wat ek kan onthou, was straatoptogte in my bloed. Wanneer ek ’n lang ry mense deur die strate sien loop – hoe langer die ry, hoe meer hou ek daarvan – roer daar ’n oeroue iets in my binneste en word ek deur die drang oorval om aan te sluit, en my plek êrens aan die einde van die prosessie in te neem. En so was dit my hele lewe lank met my. Daar is iets omtrent die waarneem van en die gedagte aan ’n lang ry mense wat deur die strate van ’n stad marsjeer, wat my met eerbied en bewondering vervul, en dit kan ek nie maklik verduidelik nie. Maar dit moet deur ’n stad wees; ’n optog deur ’n dorp of die veld sou nie dieselfde ding wees nie.

Die ideale omstandighede vir ’n straatoptog is bewolkte weer en nat paaie. En daar moet so ’n motreëntjie val. Uiterstes, soos ’n hewige sneeustorm of ’n tropiese stortreën, val nie in my smaak nie. Donderslae en weerlig is onvanpas. Al wat mens nodig het, is die aanhoudende gedrup van sagte reën wat alles bleek en triesterig laat lyk, sonder die gerief van oorgawe aan die uiterste verlatenheid. Dan, deur die grou strate, moet daar ’n lang tou mense stap met hulle gesigte ’n bleekgrys kleur, drie of vier langs mekaar met modder besmeerde skoene en klere (verkieslik) toiingrig wat, as gevolg van die reën, soos sakke aan hul hang. Hulle kan so ’n bietjie sing, as hulle daarvan hou, om hulself so ietwat op te beur – natuurlik sonder enige sukses. En daar, tesame met hierdie sombere voortstrompeling van duisende gestewelde voete op klip- of teerstrate, lê my hart. Ek word vasgegryp deur ’n intense gevoel van deel wees van die dom, worstelende, vrotsige, heldhaftige menslikheid, en in hierdie kleurlose optog is daar ’n sterk simbolisme, waarvan ek die elemente nie probeer verstaan nie, want die onderdele daarvan mag minder wees as die geheel; en ten spyte van die riglyne van gesonde verstand, swig ek voor die drang om te probeer om êrens agter, nader aan die stertkant van die prosessie, vir my ’n plek te vind.

En, o ja, daar is nog iets wat ek amper vergeet het, en dit is die beweegrede wat die dinamiek is om ’n optog van so ’n omvang te organiseer en aan die gang te kry. Eerlikwaar, ek dink nie die rede is van veel belang nie. Ek het ’n natuurlike voorliefde vir enige ongewilde rede en, bowenal, vir ’n verlore, wanhopige saak. Of hierdie besonderse eienaardigheid van my afkomstig is van ’n gewone perversiteit, of van ’n edelmoedige siel, kon ek nog nooit vasstel nie. En so, terwyl ek altyd voel dat dit baie lekker is, en so aan, as die marsjeerdery deur die deelnemers gedoen word in ’n gees van trotse idealisme, want ’n baie belangrike beginsel is hier op die spel, is ek net so tevrede – solank die modderige skoene en die bewolkte hemel teenwoordig is – as die geestelike faktore van die demonstrasie nie te erg verhewe of onbaatsugtig is nie.

Ek het laas so onlangs soos verlede Saterdagmiddag in so ’n optog gestap. Ek was op die boonste dek van ’n Malvern-trem op pad huis toe, toe ek voor Jeppestasie ’n straatoptog gadeslaan wat besig was om op dreef te kom. Ek het dadelik besef die omstandighede was presies reg. Dit het saggies gereën. Die paaie was nat en grou en modderig. Die lug was toegetrek en somber. Ek het reggemaak om af te klim. Ongelukkig was die trem propvol, en gevolglik kon ek eers by die Bergstraat-stop afklim. Van daar af het ek ’n ander trem gekry terug Jeppestasie toe, waar ek aangekom het net toe die prosessie begin beweeg het. Ek het my plek iewers agterlangs ingeneem. Ons het in ’n noordelike rigting aangestrompel en in Commissionerstraat afgedraai. Strompelend. Voortslepend. Misreën. Modder. Nat skoene en fatsoenlose klere. Ek het nie gevra waaroor die optog gegaan het nie. Ek wou nie my onkunde uitblaker nie, want die moontlikheid het bestaan dat daar dan neusoptrekkerig na my gekyk sou word. Ek was al voorheen deur ’n straatoptog uitgelag, en ek het nie daarvan gehou nie.

Posted in Afrikaans

Sjerrie – ’n Uittreksel

Posted on August 15, 2014 by Cape Rebel

Uit Polfyntjies vir die Proe
deur Dr. C. Louis Leipoldt

Dis gewoonte – myns insiens ’n goeie gewoonte – om iets voor die aandete te gebruik. Ons voorouers het dit van ouds af gedoen. ’n Pimpeltjie wyn voor die maal was die uitdrukking in die oeroue dae, toe daardie seemansterm nog burgerreg besit het; vandag weet niemand natuurlik wat ’n pimpeltjie is nie. In my jong dae het die ou aias in die koel, half-donker groentemark, wat destyds een van die vernaamste besienswaardighede van Kaapstad was, dit geheg aan wat ons nou ’n pierinkievol sou noem; hulle het ook gepraat van ’n pimpeltjie as hulle ’n bossie bedoel het. Maar oorspronklik was ’n pimpeltjie ’n wynmaat, ’n klein kelkie drank wat voor die maal genuttig is.

Uit ’n gesondheidsoogpunt beskou, is daar iets voor te sê om voor die hoofeetmaal van die dag ’n ietsie wyn te drink. Dis nie net die wyngees, die alkohol, wat prikkelend werk en die maagsappe beïnvloed nie. Dis waarskynlik meer te danke aan die amiensure en die olieagtige bestanddele van die wyn dat so ’n voorafgaande slukkie drank jou beter in staat stel om lekker kos ’n twintig minute later te waardeer.

Die vraag is dus wat om te drink? Tog nie daardie swaar mengsels van sterk alkoholiese wynsoorte, likeure, jenewer, Kanadese graangees, Engelse bierbrandewyn, of selfs Russiese wodka, en nog minder die honderd-en-drie wysigings van die Amerikaanse cocktail nie. Hulle bederf die smaak en rinneweer die aptyt. Die enigste uitsondering op die reël is miskien – en ek durf ’n vraagteken daaragter te sit – die lemmetjie-pait wat bestaan uit een-derde lemmetjiesap en twee-derdes eersteklas Bols.

Nee, die allerbeste drankie voor die aandete  is ’n kelkie egte sjerriewyn. Dit bevat alles wat nodig is vir die voorbereidende prikkeling van die maagslymvliese, en dit het te min wyngees om skadelik op die eetlus te werk. Sjerrie, dus.

Sjerrie is ’n wyn wat oop kan staan sonder om te verslaan. Inderdaad, dit is beter om ’n bottel sjerrie ’n paar uur voordat jy dit skink, te ontkurk. Drink dit liefs sonder om warm of koud te maak; die gewone kamerhitte is genoeg om die olieagtige smaak sy volle waarde te gee. Die onvervalste fino, amper kleurloos, geurig, kurkdroog en met ’n bitter smaak waarin daar geen brak is nie, kry ’n mens nie in die handel nie; die K.W.V. het dit egter, vir diegene wat daar kan gaan pamperlang.

Die voortreflikheid van sjerrie lê in sy hoë gehalte van allerhande bybestandele, waaronder die olie, vetsure en amiensure die vernaamste  en sy alkoholgehalte die minste is. Hy is by uitstek ’n wyn wat stadig en met nadruk gedrink moet word, liefs op sy eie. As tafelwyn beveel ek hom aan kort voor die maal, soms by die sop (mits die smaak daarvan nie te melerig is nie; dus nie by ’n puree nie), en soms ook by ’n vissoort soos katonkel of halfkoord. Met iets suikerigs akkordeer hy sleg; hy is te trots op sy eie geur om selfs in snuiterspan met vrugte en okkerneute te loop, want sy eie neutagtigheid en sy eie vrugolies is vir hom genoeg.

Neem hom dus as ’n pimpeltjie voor die ete – liefs nie die soet tipe hiervoor nie; of as ’n drankie op sigself; hiervoor die oleroso – of donkerder en half-soet tipes – so om elfuur in die môre, veral op ’n mooi sonnige dag as die vygies aan die bloei is en die gerwe uit die lande aangery word.

29 Mei 1942

Posted in Afrikaans

Sherry – An Extract

Posted on August 15, 2014 by Cape Rebel

by C Louis Leipoldt

It is customary – justifiably, in my view – to have something to drink before dinner. Our forefathers have done so from time immemorial. A pimpeltjie of wine before the meal was the expression in the old days, when that seaman’s term still had currency. Today, nobody knows what a pimpeltjie is. But when I was young, the old ayahs in the cool deep-shade of the vegetable market that used to be one of the sights of Cape Town used that term for what we would now call a pierinkievol; they also spoke of a pimpeltjie when referring to a ‘small bunch’ of something. But originally a pimpeltjie was a measure of wine, a small glass taken before the meal.

From a health point of view, there is something to be said for having a sip of wine before the main meal of the day. It is not just that alcohol stimulates the stomach to produce its digestive juices, but probably also the way in which the amino acids and oils in the wine enable you, twenty minutes later, to appreciate good food better.

The question, then, is not whether to drink, but what to drink. Definitely not those heavy mixtures of fortified wines, liqueurs, gins, Canadian grain-spirits, English beer-brandies, or even Russian vodkas, and absolutely not the one-hundred-and-three variations of the American cocktail. They spoil your sense of taste and ruin your appetite. The only possible exception – but I would question even that – is the mixture consisting of one-third lime juice and two-thirds first-class Bols.

No, the very best drink before dinner is a small glass of genuine sherry. It contains everything you need for the preparatory stimulation of the stomach lining, and too little alcohol to have a damaging effect on the appetite. Sherry it is, then.

Sherry is a wine that can be exposed to the air without harm. Indeed, it is preferable to uncork a bottle of sherry a few hours before drinking it, and it should be enjoyed at room temperature, which is sufficient to enable the oily taste to come fully into its own. The unfalsified fino – almost colourless, aromatic, bone-dry, and bitter without any trace of brackishness – is not easy to get hold of. You need to be able to coax it from the KWV.

The excellence of sherry is due to the quality of its various components, the most important being the oils, fatty acids and amino acids, and the least important the alcohol content. It is a wine that should be sipped slowly and emphatically, preferably on its own. As a table wine I recommend it just before the meal, possibly with soup (unless the taste of the soup is too floury – so not with a purée), and possibly even with a fish like barracuda or yellowtail. It does not go with anything sugary, and it is far too proud of its own flavour to keep the inferior company of fruit and walnuts – its own nuttiness and its own fruity oils are sufficient, thank you very much.

Enjoy it therefore as a pimpeltjie before the meal – preferably not the sweet variety – or as a drink on its own, for which the oleroso, darker, or semi-sweet varieties are best. Try it at about eleven in the morning, especially on a beautiful sunny day when the vygies are blossoming and the sheaves of wheat are being brought in from the fields.

29 May 1942

Posted in English

The One and Only Coen Brits

Posted on August 15, 2014 by Cape Rebel

From Trekking On - in the company of brave men
by Deneys Reitz

During the 1914 Rebellion

General Botha was still in the west, and for the moment old Coen Brits was in charge. I reported to him, and he greeted me with a slash of his rawhide sjambok, which was his idea of a military salute. He was an amusing character. He stood six foot six inches, did not know a word of English, drank enormous quantities of alcohol without turning a hair, and was celebrated throughout the Transvaal for his racy wit and Rabelaisian stories. But he was a good soldier. He had fought with skill and courage on the Republican side during the Anglo-Boer War, and General Botha was the only man who had any influence over him. When Botha wired him to mobilise his men for the South-West expedition, he wired back to say he was ready, but wanted to know whether he had to fight the Germans or the British. He was quite prepared to do either, for he worshipped Botha, and obeyed him blindly.

There was a Scotchman with me who owned a set of bagpipes, which he played around our campfires at night, and old Coen apparently took this to be a Scottish religious observance. One morning a Dutch Reformed clergyman wrote for permission to address the men. Coen, who was somewhat of a pagan, replied that he didn’t want any preaching in his camp and, turning to me, said that as he had forbidden the predikant to come, he must be fair as between the sects, and I was to stop that damned Scotchman of mine from playing the bagpipes!

German South-West Africa

General Botha ordered me to report for duty to Coen Brits, so Ruiter and I went to find him at Karibib, where the old man greeted me with the usual cut of his sjambok by way of welcome.

Old Coen was as genial and entertaining as ever. He provided me with a horse, and I rode to and fro on long journeys, carrying orders to outlying posts. Once there came a telegram for him from a Union citizen of bibulous habits, offering his services. Coen wired back: ‘Don’t come; all the liquor there is in South-West Africa I can drink myself.’

I was told that on the march from the coast his supply of alcohol had given out, and the only available bottle in his brigade was found to belong to a soldier. Coen was told that, as a brigadier, he was not supposed to drink with a private, but he easily overcame this difficulty, for he promoted the owner to second-lieutenant, and after the two of them had emptied the bottle, he reverted the man back to the ranks, satisfied that military conventions had been properly observed.

Posted in English

Coen Brits – Enig In Sy Soort

Posted on August 15, 2014 by Cape Rebel

deur Deneys Reitz

Gedurende die 1914 Rebellie

Generaal Botha was in daardie tyd nog in die weste, en ou Coen Brits was in beheer. Ek het by hom aangemeld, en hy het my gegroet met ’n klap van sy rouriem-sambok, wat sy idee van ’n militêre saluut was. Hy was ’n amusante karakter, ses voet ses lank, en hy kon nie ʼn woord Engels praat nie. Hy kon enorme hoeveelhede alkohol wegslaan sonder enige teken dat hy aangeklam was, en in Transvaal was hy algemeen bekend vir sy pittigheid en Rabelaisige stories. Maar hy was egter ’n goeie soldaat. Gedurende die Anglo-Boereoorlog was hy ’n bekwame en dapper vegter aan die Republieke se kant, en generaal Botha was die enigste man wat hom kon beïnvloed. Toe Botha hom getelegrafeer het om sy manne te mobiliseer vir ’n Suidwes-ekspedisie, het hy terug laat weet dat hy gereed was, maar hy wou nogtans weet of hy teen die Duitsers of die Britte moes veg. Hy was heeltemal bereid om beide te doen, want hy het Botha verafgod, en hom blindelings gehoorsaam.

Daar was ’n Skot saam met my wat ’n doedelsak besit het, wat hy in die aande om die kampvuur gespeel het. Ou Coen het skynbaar gedink dat dit ’n godsdienstige plegtigheid was. Een oggend het ’n Duits Gereformeerde predikant geskryf vir toestemming om die manne toe te spreek. Coen, wat ietwat heidens was, het terug geantwoord dat hy nie ’n geprekery in sy kamp wou hê nie. Hy het na my toe gedraai en gesê dat hy geweier het om die predikant toe te laat om te kom, maar hy moet regverdig wees teenoor die sektes, en ek moet daardie verdomde Skot van my stop om sy doedelsak te speel.

Duits Suidwes-Afrika

Generaal Botha het my opdrag gegee om by Coen Brits vir diens aan te meld, en so het ek en Ruiter hom in Karabieb gaan opsoek, waar die ou man my verwelkom het met die gewone geklap van sy sambok.

Ou Coen was so joviaal en vermaaklik soos altyd. Hy het my van ’n perd voorsien waarmee ek heen en weer op lang ritte gery het met opdragte aan verafgeleë buiteposte. Op ’n slag het hy ’n telegram van ’n Suid-Afrikaanse burger af ontvang wat sy dienste aangebied het. Dié man was egter ook heel lief vir die bottel, en Coen het laat weet: “Moenie kom nie. Al die drank wat hier in Suidwes-Afrika is, is net genoeg vir my.”

Daar is aan my gesê dat met die opmars van die kus af, sy voorraad alkohol uitgeput geraak het, en die enigste oorblywende bottel in die brigade het aan ’n gewone soldaat behoort. Aan Coen is voorgeskryf dat, as brigadier, hy nie veronderstel was om saam met ’n gewone manskap te drink nie. Hy het egter die probleem maklik omseil. Die eienaar is daar en dan tot tweede-luitenant bevorder, en na die twee die bottel geledig het, het hy die man se aanstelling herroep, heeltemal tevrede dat hy die militêre gebruike deeglik nagekom het.



Posted in Afrikaans

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