Hands up, any of you who’ve had moules Mouclade today? This week? Does anyone know what moules Mouclade is?
Moules Mouclade, my friends, is a dish of mussels (you knew it was something to do with mussels, at least, didn’t you?), a little recipe tucked away after the moules mariniere in Robert Carrier’s Great Dishes of the World, and hitherto unnoticed in this man’s kitchen. The Carrier, you may recall, was a gift from Rob, who, since it is out of print, tracked down online a second-hand copy and brought it all the way here from Canada. Did I mention that story, before?
So here’s what you do. First, you stew some chopped onion in a little butter, until it is soft and translucent. Add some white wine, bay leaf, thyme and parsley (I used dried tarragon instead, which worked beautifully) and simmer for a good 10-15 minutes. Now you have a lovely broth in which to simmer the mussels until they are done; and when done, you remove the mussels and add some cream to the pan. Another 10-15 minutes of simmering, until you have a thick, slightly piquant, savoury sauce – I added a dash of cayenne at this point, which gave just a tiny edge to the dish – and then the mussels go, out of the shell, and covered with the sauce and a light sprinkling of dried breadcrumbs, into a hot oven to bake for a few minutes. I waited just until the breadcrumbs were toasted, and tucked straight in. A dish fit for, rich enough for, a whole tribe of kings – fabulous, ek se!
Less to my taste, I have to admit, is a book I am reading at the moment, Peter Godwin’s When a Crocodile Eats the Sun. Billed as ‘a memoir of Africa’ it may fairly be typecast as white Rhodesian lit. There is a subtly ingrained reflex in the prose which consistently portrays black people as other, which objectifies and labels them, and drains them of individuality and humanity. Less obvious, perhaps, to an overseas reader, but quite apparent to a white South African such as myself; is the absence of history. The horrors which the narrative unfolds, of life under Robert Mugabe’s misrule, are located in a country without a past. The story begins after independence; memory, history and white culpability are assumed to be erased at that singular point in time, and all that follows is the inevitable decline of a once-prosperous land under the tyranny of Mugabe and the idle and vicious mobs of self-proclaimed ‘war vets’ who invade and lay waste to hitherto peaceful and productive white farms.
Admittedly, I am only half-way through the book; but not once, I think I can safely say, have I caught a hint that Godwin acknowledges, much less feels any remorse for, the organised injustice of white rule before independence, the sins of the Smith regime during UDI, or the horrors of the chimurenga, or war of liberation, in which the white army and special forces inflicted more than their share of atrocities – as a fellow Zimbabwean, and far more honest writer, Alexandra Fuller, does in her books, for example.
There are two cautionary tales here, not one. One is the familiar tale, of ‘going the way of Zimbabwe’ – a whispered tale that white people here, too, can be heard to mutter, from time to time, when the antics of a Malema, or the corruption of a Police Commissioner, grab the headlines. The other is no less significant, no less important, however: it is the tale of forgetting, and the infinite harm we do, when we deny our own culpability, our responsibility for the past. Without acknowledgement and contrition, there can be no lasting forgiveness, or genuine reconciliation.
This does not mean, for a moment, that I condone Mugabe and his corrupt and vicious regime. Nor, however, do I believe that we here in South Africa are ‘going the way of Zimbabwe’ – unless, perhaps, through our own forgetfulness and cynicism, we end up inadvertently helping matters along.