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A Familiar Flavour after a Final Farewell

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February 19, 2015 / Seafood / By
Katie Schenk

My friend died on Friday.  (No, wait, don't stop reading; it's not like that.)  Lesley was the most incredible person.  And, very importantly, she was my first friend in South Africa.  She was the one to take me under her wing.  Lesley told me I belonged.   She carved a home for me in her life.  And that's important because whenever you land somewhere new - you're lost.  It doesn't matter how much you travel or how good you are at it; you don't belong until someone lets you behind the closed doors of a community.  

Lesley was there at two in the morning when I was seven months pregnant with my second (the sushi monster) and my first-born (seafood lover) had to go to the hospital.  She was the one to take up a collection at the office when I needed a pram that could fit two babies.  Lesley loaned me art to adorn my walls when my husband and I split; I needed colour in my life.  She was frantic when I was admitted to the hospital last year (a cut from a tin of beans went septic).  None of these things happens in a new country when you don't have a friend.  Lesley took the chance.  

So, when I received the news on Friday, I went to the kitchen and began pulling out food.  That's what you do right?  You cook.  Or, at least I do.  And I cooked, and I cooked.  And then I put myself in charge of Sunday's open house food.  From Friday morning to Sunday night, after Lesley had been laid to rest, my focus was caring for Lesley's family as she - and they - have always done for me.  (And, I must shout out to everyone that brought a plate or two (or ten) of food.  That includes the Ocean Basket Crew that delivered food and headed back to work.)  By Monday, I could barely move.  I certainly couldn't stand in the kitchen, and my grief had dialed back to a slow boil.


My heart poured out for my children who had sacrificed their weekend to watch us all cry, even as everyone spoke of celebrating Lesley's life.  I wanted to treat them to something they would enjoy.  I wanted my friend's legacy of loving and caring and noticing and doing to live through me.  After such an intense weekend; it was time to focus my attention completely on them. So, we went to Ocean Basket for dinner.  It wasn't because the folks over there that knew Lesley had brought food to her open house; it was because Ocean Basket has a place in our hearts just as Lesley does.


The Ocean Basket at the Randburg Waterfront (I still call it; I still need to look up the new name even though it changed a decade ago) is like a home to us.  Oscar likes the sushi; Felix likes the calamari.  But, actually, we all like it all.  And, because we go to this Ocean Basket at least once a month (though, usually, it's closer to two or three visits in that time) they know us.  We have a favourite, doting server and a preferred table.  Sometimes we bring a card game with us and play while we wait for our food.  It's a whole thing, beginning with an odd menu-balancing act that happens every visit.  We no longer order individual meals; I order based on everyone's current sushi and seafood desires (a platter of this… a top-up of that...).


On this particular night, I was feeling generous.  You want more sushi?  Okay.  That and calamari?  No worries.  Can't finish your dinner, but need a dose of the exquisite Mississippi Mud Pie?  I understand.  I only occasionally allowed the sorrow to overtake me as my kids and I ordered, ate, laughed a little and just sat enjoying each other.


It's important to have a place like Ocean Basket.  It's not a restaurant.  It's not a last-minute, too-tired-to-cook alternative to picking up a prepared meal from the grocery store.  It's a security blanket; it's the place you go to feel normal.  It's the familiar flavours you turn to after a final farewell.  And, you know, it was the perfect place to reflect on how important it is to have a friend that lets you in - no matter how foreign you may be.  


PS - You want to try the 3-Way Calamari, the fried crab sushi and that ridiculously decadent Mississippi Mud Pie.  Fortunately, there are Ocean Basket's all over South Africa.  Make sure you stop in when you're in the country; it could just make you feel at home.

Want to know more about my crazy life in South Africa?  You can read more at www.askkatie.co.za.

Ocean Basket

Country: South Africa

Province/State: Gauteng

City: Randburg

Address: Corner Malibongwe Drive Republic Road

Zip/Post Code: N/A

Location Tips: In Brightwater Commons (otherwise known as the Randburg Waterfront)

Phone: +27 11 886 4440

Website:http://oceanbasket.co.za/...

Price Guide:$$ (What's this?) N/A = home cooked meal,etc
$ = street food, fast food,etc
$$ = bistro, cafe, pub, bar,etc
$$$ = fine dining,etc

A deeply moving post, sorry to hear about the loss. It is true, a good friend is a treasure and food can indeed help to heal sorrow and bring people together.
Dinh
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Thanks for the comments. It means a lot!
Katie Schenk
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