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What’s for Dinner?

A truly nutty experience in Cape Town, South Africa

Posted on 4/19/2016 12:47:00 PM in Traveler Insights

By Bob B., first-time OAT traveler (with 2 more on the books!) from Albany, CA

Ultimate Africa: Botswana, Zambia & Zimbabwe Safari was my first OAT trip, and I didn’t really want to do the home-hosted dinner in Cape Town. It just seemed that it would be forced and a bit hokey, all arranged and scripted, a real come-down after two weeks of viewing the wild wonders of southern Africa. But I went along with the group, six of us. Two hours at Angie’s house—how bad could that be?

Angie, our host, lived in a nice but modest house some distance from downtown. Nighttime in a big African city can put you on your guard, but our bus driver had been there before and knew the way. Still, it sure seemed pretty roundabout to me.

Entering Angie’s house, one steps immediately into the dining room, with the table all set for eight. And surprise #1 was on the table. Dawn saw the placemats, all with African animals. “Angie! Where did you get these? I’ve been looking for them the entire trip!” Angie, it turns out, makes these things. And sells them. Dawn just had to buy them all.

These handmade placemats were the first pleasant surprise in store during this home-hosted dinner in Cape Town.

Dinner was pleasant enough, with lots of conversation, only a little of it forced. Angie was 50-ish, probably classified as “colored” or “Asian” (i.e., Indian) in color-conscious South Africa. She served her famous chicken and potatoes, making our driver a happy man.

Along about dessert time, her daughter (a lawyer) showed up, and then the daughter’s fiancé (a technician/engineer). Moving the evening right along, someone asked Angie if she’d ever been to the United States. No. Well, if she went, what places would she visit? Hmmm. New York. Washington. And Sacramento. Sacramento? Why (asked the Californians) would anyone put Sacramento near the top of the list?

“Well,” says Angie, “it’s because of the nuts. The dry roasted, salted almonds. They’re wonderful, and we can’t get them.” You mean the ones in the little tins? “That’s right. Nobody carries them here.”

At this, we nearly lost our composure. Dawn had to hold on to her chair, and I could see her mother, Marcia, suppressing a grin. I had to bite my tongue, because it’s really hard to keep a secret, especially in someone else’s house. But we don’t have to control ourselves for long. Soon enough it’s time for each of us to give our host a little present, one that OAT suggests should reflect something of ourselves or where we come from. Dawn had notecards with her photos of California wildflowers. What could be better?

Then Marcia produces her gift, and it’s Angie’s turn to struggle with composure. A losing struggle. She squealed—squeal is the only word for it—and clapped her hands, then squealed again. You’d think she had just won the lottery, or been presented with her first grandchild. And it’s just about … little blue tins. Tins of Blue Diamond almonds, straight from the Sacramento Valley. Roasted, salted, unsalted, wasabi-d, hickory-smoked almonds. Marcia had fired blindfolded and hit the bulls-eye.

I’m definitely going to the next OAT home-hosted dinner.

Enjoy a home-hosted dinner in Cape Town, South Africa, during the optional post-trip extension of OAT's Ultimate Africa: Botswana, Zambia & Zimbabwe Safari. Get a local’s perspective on Cape Town’s melting pot of cultures in this short film:

This film was first published on BBC.com Travel. Produced by BBC.

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