Goodbye to the rituals of a relationship


Goodbye to the rituals of a relationship

ALETTA LINTVELT refuses to let go with grace, but these days Easter has new traditions and different meals.


THE first Easter after saying goodbye snuck up on me. I didn’t realise how very much not okay I was until a wall of golden chocolate bunnies greeted me at the supermarket.

In the Before Times, for many years, Easter was filled with rituals.

One of these was to make an indecent-sized pot of thick, gloopy Boeber. Condensed milk, big pieces of cinnamon bark, star anise, pimento spice and nutmeg make the most sublime marriage with butter-fried vermicelli and milk until it is thick and spoonable. It’s not how the dish is made traditionally. By the time I’m done with it, it’s more like a  thick melkkos or sago pudding. I got my spices and everything else from the old well-stocked Balmoral greengrocer in Woodstock where the aunties would always comment on my weight, why they haven’t seen me for a couple of days and what lekker food I was planning to cook.

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On Good Friday I always made a big pot of a simple red lentil dahl with curry spices. Maybe my memory has a flair for the dramatic, but I seem to remember Easter always bringing the first chill and rain of the season’s turn. Onion, garlic and a big chunk of fresh ginger and a carrot formed the basis of this soup which we all preferred eating so thick that a spoon could stand up straight in a bowl.

At some earlier point there would also have been a drive to the harbour in Kalk Bay to procure the necessary fresh yellowtail to make proper pickled fish and another visit to Balmoral to get all the right spices for it.

When you say goodbye to someone significant, a whole world is lost and will never be shared again in quite the same way.

In such a world, these dishes have meaning others are not privy to. There is belonging in these rituals you made up together, that connect us to each other.

So. There I was, coming completely undone at the sight of a wall of golden bunnies. I didn’t know I was avoiding this feeling of the full weight of a shared world lost until that precise moment on a random Tuesday in the grocery aisle.

Flash forward to half a decade later and I’m writing this on Easter Monday. No dahl was made, but the potato and spinach curry below has taken its place. The pickled fish was from a supermarket. And the Boeber had condensed milk in it. But mostly there were new dishes, new faces and new memories made.

In the end, the whole of life becomes an act of letting go, wrote Yann Martel. Sometimes you know when you are saying goodbye, but mostly life’s losses — big and small — don’t have a neat bow around them.

And look, it’s not like you can pre-grieve. You can’t get ahead of it. So what can you do?

I'm looking forward to being demolished by loss again, even if it’s in a supermarket. Because it would mean that a shared world had been created, and that even as it sank beneath the waves and a part of me died, another had lived. Fuck going with grace.


Spinach curry

This is a dry curry dish and not saucy. It’s really good served with a crisp roti. It’s a simple dish but really satisfying.


  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Cape Malay curry blend
  • 1 tablespoon butter chicken curry blend
  • olive oil
  • 250 g ripe baby tomatoes, halved
  • 4 medium potatoes*
  • 3 cm ginger, grated
  • 3 garlic cloves, grated
  • 1 tablespoon tomato sauce (or tomato paste)
  • 400g spinach, chopped and washed
  • lemon
  • salt


1. Saute the chopped onion and the curry powder in a splash of olive oil until soft and fragrant.

2. Add the tomatoes, cover with a lid and let it simmer until jammy. Scrape into a bowl.

3. Cut the potato into 2 cm blocks. In the same pan, add more olive oil and fry the potato cubes until golden and cooked.

4. Add the tomato mixture, garlic and ginger and tomato sauce to the potato and mix through. Add the wet spinach and put the lid on. Let it simmer until the spinach is soft.

5. Season with salt and a good squeeze of lemon juice before serving.


* Tip: You can replace two of the potatoes with two cups of cauliflower florets and follow the same method.

♦ VWB ♦

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