South African Street Food: Smileys

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This is street food for the townships, a product of the racial and class divides throughout southern Africa. The local butchers get the prime cuts of meat, and the township residents make good use of the heads, a no cost source of protein. The value of the smiley rests primarily in the tongue (if you don’t get the tongue, you were ripped off), but the cheeks and even the brains (so I hear) yield an abundance of flavor and a great story to tell. The sheep heads are broiled in large drums. The fur is then charred with heated metal rods (completely revealing the sheep’s teeth and thus the source of the misleadingly benign name). If you can muster the courage, certainly eat one on the spot. The chef will present you with a finished head, probably place it on some old newspaper, and pour out a small bit of salt. Then you rip off pieces of meat and season it with the salt, to taste. The meat is so tender and compact in flavor that the salt is actually unnecessary. In any event, after working up the gall to go toe-to-toe with a sheep’s head, seasoning is the last of your concerns. If you are still squeamish, ask one of the chefs to eat it with you. The chef will instruct you in the ways of the smiley, and appreciate the opportunity for free food. As always, sharing food and drink is a quick way to make friends, even if we are talking about a decapitated head.

Smileys are not served in any ordinary ‘Western’ venue to speak of. To try one, you have to venture into the townships. For the most part, a township tour (the tour is already a critical component of exposure to sub-Saharan Africa) guide will know where to find them, if available. Otherwise, good luck. These smileys were made in the Khayelitsha Township of Cape Town.

Written by Jason Summerfield

South Africa: McDonald’s Mega Mac

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Here we have American gluttony the in sub-Sahara. This is a fast food burger that is not to be trifled with. Amidst a continent of distinct local cuisine rests McDonald’s, the one reliable bastion of American influence, and inside: four patties, three buns, two layers of cheese, a pile of lettuce and onion, some sort of ‘sauce,’ and your heart on a spit. I can’t confirm on the website that these are still available on the Continent. It is possible that everyone ready willing and able to tackle this oversized troll of a sandwich suffered massive coronary unrest and the burger was thereafter discontinued.  Prove me wrong.

Note that I did indeed finish the burger… for breakfast. McDonald’s should be ashamed of itself.

This burger served by the Shop 4, Grand Parade Centre, Adderley Street, Cape Town, location, near the train station.

Written by Jason Summerfield

Cape Town Observatory: Café Ganesh

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Bulit into a narrow alleyway formed by its two neighboring buildings, Cafe Ganesh is a low-key  Afro-Indian café and bar in Observatory, a southern suburb of Cape Town that’s best known for its bohemian feel. A mix of well-worn, mismatched tables and chairs make up the front dining area resulting in a colorful urban shack  feel. A large, wall-mounted chalkboard in the back dining room is the only menu you’ll find in the place, so walk straight to the back to peruse your options. The lamb curry is a perennial favorite as is the springbok steak. Regional wines and 750ml bottles of Castle and Castle Milk Stout are available and act as the perfect pairing to whichever dish you settle on.

Regular live music & broadcasts of major sporting events on the t.v.

Lower Main at Trill, Obs

Cape Town Hikes: Lion’s Head

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From the top of Kloof Nek make your way onto Signal Hill Road to begin the hike up  the sloping mountain side known as Lion’s Head. One of the less strenuous hikes found in the city, the trail begins with a walk up a gravel road that will wind you into the base of the trail hugging the mountain. The overall course of the trail will take you in a loop until you reach the top. The trail, a  narrow path with some sheer drops off the side of the mountain, draws large crowds, especially prior to sunset,  so with the traffic both up and down you’ll likely be reduced to single-file lanes for most of the hike. The course is mainly a dirt trail, with a few ladders, occasional rock stairs and larger rocks that you will have to climb over. There are two passes up the mountain you can make with the assistance of chains fastened into the sheer rock face. These sections are very manageable even for the novice hiker, but if you wish to avoid them, for fear of heights or otherwise, you can take an alternative route, which is a bit steeper, but will avoid the chain climbing. The views from the top overlook the city center as well as sprawling Table Mountain. Be sure to pack a picnic or at the very least, a bottle of South African wine to enjoy with your view at the top.