Thank you...

... for taking the time to stop by. I hope some of these ponderings will resonate with you.

Leave a comment if you want to - your contributions are more than welcome.

(Unless stated otherwise, all text & pictures are © Lee Labuschagne, all rights reserved.)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

1+1+1 for 365, day 23: Ode to a cook book

“Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.” Harriet van Horne

Kook en Geniet (Cook and Enjoy It) - S J A de Villiers

I would have included this book anyway at some stage, but decided to talk about it today as a small tribute to its author, Mrs SJA de Villiers, who passed away 2 days ago at the age of 91.

Kook en Geniet was my first cook book.  It was a book prize at school (for doing well in Biology, no  less!) and I was only too happy to have a copy of it, since it had been more or less the standard cook book in the country for a long time already by the time I received a copy of its 22nd impressum. It is illustrated by only four colour photographs - the rest, although numerous, are in black and white and if one looks at them today, the table settings and other items also tell quite a lot about of the interior decoration and style of the times.
Mrs De Villiers did indeed, teach the nation to cook.  She published the first edition herself in 1951 when she could not find a commercial publisher at the time - yet another one of those lessons to all of those who have had to suffer numerous rejection slips, and also to publishers who sometimes do not know a good thing when they see it.

The first English edition was published in 1961.  Revised editions followed and the two language versions together are now published, in a modern format with colour photographs and contemporary design (since 1990) by Human & Rousseau.  In total Kook en Geniet and Cook and Enjoy It have sold more than a million copies.  A copy (sometimes more than one copy from different editions) can be found in households all over the country: it is indeed the classic and standard South African cook book, although numerous other excellent titles have appeared over the years and still more are being published every year.

What Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management (1861), The Joy of Cooking (1931) by Irma Rombauer or Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1961) by Julia Child had done elsewhere, Mrs De Villiers did for us in South Africa 60 years ago.  It combined advice, information on methods and  recipes for all occasions. Most recipes were easy-to-follow if not always easy-to-make.  Even today it is the first place where I look if someone wants to know how to make some traditional recipe like bobotie or melktert or souskluitjies.

I am no gourmet chef although I like cooking. I still cook from Kook en Geniet today.  My copy lost its cover during one of my house moves, but it contains cuttings with recipes from magazines and quite a few pages bear the proof that it has been well-used in my kitchens over the years.  It travelled with me when I lived overseas and still has pride of place on my shelf although it has been joined by various other cook books from all over the world. 

Some of the dishes I have attempted by using Kook en Geniet have earned the praises from guests. Sometimes things flopped. But that has not been because of anything that Mrs De Villiers did not make clear.  It has been mainly because I did not follow the instructions or tried to vary the recipes too much with my own ideas about what ingredient could be replaced by something else...


Like the rest of our homes, the things we treasure
 in our kitchens tell something about who we are.

Picture & text: © Lee Labuschagne - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


  1. Ek het d 30ste druk, 1973. Dit was oorlede skoonma se boek. Die boek val uitmekaar en het nie eens meer 'n stofomslag of buiteblaaie nie. Bryan se sy het altyd d boek teen d muur vasgegooi uit frustrasie hehe! Al d blaaie is spierwit behalwe vir d waar d koffielaagkoek verskyn.......geel en vol vlekke v al bakkery! Ek hou d boek bymekaar in 'n 'filing sleeve'.


  2. I still have my first cookbook I bought for myself when married the first time. It was Betty Crocker, in paperback and I cannot tell you the copyright date because it is so falling apart! Purchased in the mid 70's, it is more than 792 pages long (the last page in the "T"s that survives. I have taped it up binding and all ~ but this is one thing that has travelled with me through the years. Betty Crocker. Still my fav cookbook especially for basics, she reminds me about white sauce and how to make the most wonderfull Mac & Cheese ever! (Do not make cheese sauce, add the cheese in layers with spices and put the white sauce on top to bake. Yum!) I have a collection of cook books and actually use several now and then but Betty is my go to fav Gal!!!

    I have looked online for a version of my BC cookbook, but have not found. I will need to keep the browned pages taped with care on my kitchen counter. Wrote down your fav, will be looking for it! Sometimes I cook for need, but love the times when I cook for the love of creating ~ it's all with heart.
    Again, Lee ~ so love your writings ~ Wish you success and if you do not mind I will share what you share with other writers I know.

    Love, Robin

  3. I have a "cook and Enjoy it" too, and I always find the title a bit off putting, with the result that I don't look at it nearly as often as I could.
    In English, it sounds so much like a command, something that would be said by a domineering domestic science teacher.
    Now if they'd just called it "cook and enjoy!" that would have captured the intention of the author imho.
    Maybe I should just get a marker and stratch out the offending "it"


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