Big word, heritage, isn’t it? You could go on for hours about what it entails: there’s such a host of intellectual, personal and cultural factors that make up the topic, all very important… Ultimately though, Heritage Day is about celebration. So whether you spend it debating the finer points of diversity, wearing something fabulous, paying tribute to those who came before you or simply having a laugh at a casual get together (or all of these at once, because that would be great), make sure you are having fun and are with good people. Oh, and food, there probably should be food.
And why not incorporate some books? I’m willing to bet that many’s the weighty tome recommended for a critical look at the concept of heritage (you can see the stack of dull academic titles right now, can’t you?) And I’m also willing to bet that most of them don’t exactly scream celebration. So, here are some suggestions for you, some good, local, fun, thoughtful recommended reads:
Coconut Kelz’s Guide to Surviving This Shithole by Lesego Thlabi
Political satire is always a good tongue-in-cheek way to celebrate the loves and absurdities that go into a nation’s identity. You have to be able to laugh at yourself first, right? With her over-the-top, white-woman-stuck-in-a-black-woman’s-body, character Coconut Kelz, comedian Lesego Thlabi is here to poke fun at all the things that we tend to take a little too seriously.
She has all the best tips on how to achieve the perfect white beauty standards, how to land a white guy, keeping your accent crisp and proper with Woolies’ water (sparkling strawberry is preferred), and how to avoid crossing the “Line of Caucus” as all costs. Her guide is a hilarious look at race and class in South Africa that doesn’t shy from turning the parody dial up to 11, annoying a good few people and inspiring many-a defiantly tickled snort along the way.
The Vegetarian Option by Jan Braai (also available in Afrikaans)
There will be cooking this Heritage Day. A lot of cooking. And it turns out that beloved master-griller Jan Braai has had people on at him to bring out a book of vegetarian recipes for a while now (many of his books feature super vegetarian meals already, but not everyone is going to want to wade through lumps of meat and sizzling red juices to get there).
And it isn’t about being a meat-eater or not, because we all have to accommodate different textural orientations more and more often. But you can still fire up the braai. Here you’ll find delicious burgers, braaibroodjies, potjies, curries, breads and side dishes to keep you in vegetarian options for months. Even the meat eaters might be surprised to find how delicious a mushroom burger is!
My Vegetarian Braai by Adele Maartens
…because, obviously you can never have too many healthy recipes. And also because are we not getting just a little tired of the obligatory potato salad? Love your plants, people!
It’s always worth getting some new meal ideas. Whether you are already a vegetarian and are looking for something new or you are just looking to change things up at your next braai, this book has heaps of trendy and simple dishes. It’s not about converting anyone, it’s just about enjoying all the foods that are out there.
And if you tell me that you aren’t excited about a mushroom pie that has gorgonzola, Gruyere and mozzarella in it, I call major fibs. Ditto if you aren’t intrigued by the idea of a Harissa Tofu and Grilled Peach Salad. So there.
Death on the Limpopo by Sally Andrew
The Karoo’s best loved agony aunt and crime fighter, Tannie Maria, returns in a new mystery-thriller that takes us on a murderous journey with new allies and a little love-trouble.
There are other, more pressing problems too. A tall, dark stranger zooms in on her Ducati motorbike: she is Zabanguni Kani, a journalist renowned for her political exposés, who, after receiving threats, moves in with Tannie Maria for safety. And who could tell that a trip to the country’s northern parts was on the cards? The journey plunges Maria and her friends into pools of danger, amid water maidens, murders, and Harley Davidsons.
This is another super-fun entry in a list that combines thrills, romance, laughs, food and charmingly inventive characters.
One Day in Bethlehem by Johnny Steinberg
This one is a touch more serious – and is certainly a reminder of important things, at this time as well as any other.
This is the true story of Fusi Mofokeng, a man who emerges into a radically different country after spending nineteen erroneous years in prison: “The thing that most amazed him in his first seven months of freedom,” the reporter, Rowan Philp, wrote, “was not smartphones and Google, but that ‘a white lady actually served me at a restaurant and was very nice to me too’.” And doesn’t this just make you sit for a moment and take stock?
Steinberg is a top notch journalist and author, and One Day in Bethlehem points out just how much has changed – and how innately personal those changes can be, even when everybody is a part of them – while also taking a critical look at the justice system and one man’s quest for just treatment.
Happy Heritage Reading!