Monday, 21 May 2012

meat-free monday: rosehurst's gingerbread of yesteryear

Today's post, on the eve of the opening of the 2012 RHS Chelsea Flower Show in London, is a mix of delicious food, beautiful gardens and history lesson - half a world away.
I grew up in Pietermaritzburg, otherwise known as Sleepy Hollow, a town noted for its proximity to almost all of the best of Natal - the berg, the beach, the valleys, the Midlands - without actually being very notable in itself. Each year, one of the highlights of the local calendar (one of the few not to involve sports - Maritzburg is famous for the Dusi canoe marathon, the Comrades ultra marathon, and the Midmar Mile swim, among others) was the open gardens. Residents of some of the prettiest gardens in Maritzburg threw open their gates and welcomed in strangers to admire their green fingers, gardener's hard work and excessive water consumption. 

One of the gardens I remember was that belonging to Lorraine Kettley. It was a Victorian masterpiece of formal planting, clipped hedges and shaped topiary - very different from mass plantings of bizzy lizzies, pampas, and canna lilies. It was totally romantic, very English, and always a surprise as it was slap bang in the middle of  town, yet eerily quiet, other than for prolific birdsong. Mrs Kettley always seemed to be very proper, and two years before her death, in 1999, she took to wearing only Victorian dress, having declared formally that she was to be known as 'Joanna' and disposed of all modern gadgets. Her home became a haven of serenity where anyone was welcome to stay, and find spiritual solitude and peace amongst the clipped box and scented roses.
This year, on my visit home, I was taken to lunch at Rosehurst, Mrs Kettley's old home. The gardens have been restored, and the home has been turned into a variety of little shops, selling knick knacks, upcycled objets, artisan chocolates and organic beauty products. The bathrooms are original, just as I remember - each with instructions as to how to deal with temperamental plumbing issues, and including Mrs Kettley's original teeny tiny bath that so fascinated my sister and I more than twenty years ago: 

There is also a cafe operating out of the original kitchen, where served up the most delicious smoked salmon sandwich on rye - picture to follow, below. My mom chose gingerbread, served with pawpaw, creme fraiche and glaced ginger - which is today's meat-free Monday dish, easily served at home as the perfect summer brunch or afternoon tea:
I'd recommend trying to emulate the surroundings, if possible: 


the original metal pressed ceiling in the gardener's room,
now host to bric a brac


If you're in Maritzburg, swing by - the juxtaposition of Victorian garden against the dusty, dirty roads of the city centre makes it feel as if time has stood still at 239 Boom Street. 



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