I was one of a few very fortunate chosen attendees who got to experience Convivium table this year. Convivium took place over the 22 and 23rd of October. Day 1 was by invite only, through an application process, one would submit a motivation as to why they should attend day 1. I was beyond chuffed when notified I had been chosen to attend along with a select few. The event was hosted by Frankie Fenner’s Andy Fenner and The Shortmarket Club’s Wesley Randles. The aim of the event is to bring together local food producers and young and aspiring chefs, or anyone looking to be educated and inspired by where our food comes from, and of course to get us all connecting with one another and learning about our food culture.
The event was held at a farm just outside of Malmesbury, Cape Town. A very bumpy and turbulent ride on a gravel road lead to us to a farm called Kalmoesfontein. There was this unmistakable old charm of a rustic farm that I relished in and in my mind for that day I was of course a farm girl! The air was crisp and fresh with excitement. Upon arrival and registration a coffee of our choice was served by Rosetta Roastery to perk us up and served with an infamous Pasteis de nata from The Hoghouse. Breakfast was served by Bree street’s The General Store with lovely little jars of Yoghurt and granola topped with fruit and the most filling and flavourful sausage rolls. This was all before talks began at 11:00.
The first speaker was one of the most revered chefs in the industry, not only in South Africa but internationally making waves, was Margot Janse. Margot spoke about her work with Isabelo, helping to feed more than 240 pre-primary and 1300 primary school children daily in the Franschoek area. Not only feeding these kids but reconnecting with the community by doing so. Her overall theme for her talk was that we should all remember it’s all about “actions not intentions”.
Next up, was Pavs Pillay from WWF representing SASSI(South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative) Pavs’ talk was chock full of facts and information most of us had never heard of. Speaking of which, did you know that 80% of the carbon dioxide we breathe is trapped in the sea? And the sea is the biggest emitter of that. SASSI ensures that every consumer has access to their platforms, via the really easy to navigate website or their very convenient mobile app which I constantly rely on, whenever I’m not sure about the status of a fish/seafood. Their rating system is transparent and rigorous, in that it is updated through live time. What I gathered throughout the day through every talk, was that there is a concerning disconnect between consumer and produce, meaning, most of us have no idea where exactly our food comes from, or the exact species/genus of the said produce. SASSI has noted that there is currently a consumer awareness level of between 4-44%. Pavs’ talk has really put the state of not only our marine ecology in perspective but that of the entire food culture.
One of the other talks I really enjoyed, I might be biased, as to my love for Indigenous fynbos, Roushanna Gray, from Goodhope gardens nursery runs seasonal foraging courses, something of which I had been wanting to attend for some time. Roushanna started out with an interactive demonstration with the audience, involving the entire crowd standing up and us in the first row(representing the amount and rarity of the fynbos kingdom) remaining standing. This was truly an eye opener to learn that there are 6 different floral kingdoms and over 9000 different species. Currently fynbos foraging is not sustainable in the summer months, it is however recommended in the wet winter months to forage, as this is it’s peak season. Roushanna passed around a bowl of a fragrant and beautiful bouquet of fynbos which filled the outside space we were sitting in with so many evocative scents, taking me back to my late gran’s garden. Fynbos foraging should always be done with an expert.
Lunch was a strenuous hike(for the unfit,like me)up a wheat field situated in a rather steep hill, once up the hill, arrows pointed us in the direction of a leafy forest, to which there was a festive lunch set up with the chefs cooking lunch already up and going getting lunch started as quickly and effortlessly as possible. The hike up was more than worth it! Exactly like the fairytale pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Lunch was Trout cooked directly on the wood in the fire with askoek(bread cooked in the coals) and the most colourful vegetable spread, crunchy radishes with a tasty vinaigrette and broad beans cooked in a hand held grill over the fire, all made for contrasting smokey and fresh flavours. Whilst being down to earth rustic, lunch was certainly a taste experience I will never forget!
The rest of the day saw speakers like Jono Le Feuvre from Rosetta roastery, Adi Badenhorst the owner of the farm of which we were generously hosted, Kurt Ackermann Co- founder of Oranjezicht City Farm market, Ross Simmons an origami artist and Pieter and Koot Prinsloo from Daybreaker cattle farm. Pieter and Koot a father and son partnership, pride themselves on grass-fed beef raised in a unique and natural environment with the intention that meat is naturally produced with minimum intervention possible. No antibiotics, growth stimulants and animal by-products are used on or fed to their animals. The Daybreaker farm also supplies some of the products in the Frankie Fenner butcheries.
After so much information overload, it was time for interactive workshops with, Hope on Hopkins Gin, where we got to do some Gin tasting with different botanicals, and a kombucha tasting by Theonista, one of which of which I tasted was infused with fynbos botanicals that Roushanna Gray supplied and consulted on, as a collaboration. Unfortunately I had to leave before dinner was served, but by the looks of it, I missed out on quite a meal!
There is an urgent need for a gap to be closed, a reconnection to be made with our food culture, educating ourselves and others can make a real difference. We need to be supporting our local producers and connecting with them is essential in maintaining a relationship that is mutually beneficial.
What the founders and organizers of Convivium have been doing, is truly admirable and inspiring, by starting a food movement that takes us back to basics and taking the time to educate young professionals or anyone interested in the industry is something that should become an everyday thing amongst us all.
I challenge you to reconnect with your local food producers, and have a proper conversation as to where your food comes from, ask questions and be curious.
**This post was not sponsored in any way, all travel and ticket costs was paid for by myself. **