I was deeply touched by our trip back to South Africa to celebrate my dad’s 80th birthday—turned family reunion—and felt compelled to share it on OrnaBakes, which is an extension of who I am.
America is now undoubtedly my home, but I’ll always have Africa inside of me. It was wonderful to finally show my husband, Sam, where I grew up, giving him a deeper understanding of who I am and the culture that shaped and molded me. (I’m definitely not your typical “valley girl”!)
Unfortunately, even entire stores devoted to biltong (dried and cured meat) didn’t turn Sam into a fan. (It’s hard to explain why it’s so much better than jerky… it just is!)
Biltong is such a part of South African culture that you’ll even find it on pizza. (Yummm)
I couldn’t have imagined the sheer joy of reconnecting with my first cousins from Australia and Israel—some of whom I hadn’t seen since I left South Africa TWENTY years ago.
Left to Right: Sam Purkin, Orna Purkin, Neil Silver, Maurice Leibowitz, Glen Silver, Joshua Shifren, Amit Efrati, Neville Shifren
Angela Benjamin, Sharon Saevitzon, Marlon Silver, Leora Benjamin, Sydelle Leibowitz, Aaron Leibowitz, Ronit Efrati, Danielle Ben Meir, Petra Shifren
Boetie Shifren, Zach Shifren, Gary Shifren, Demi Leibowitz, Moran Efrati
To my astonishment, my cousin Glen—in his recent interest in cooking—had happened upon my blog by chance! He attempted making his mother’s “Bulkas” from her handwritten recipe, but they didn’t turn out quite the way he remembered her making them every Yom Kippur. He researched it online, and was amazed that the website he found—describing the familiar taste, smell, and distinct shape of those traditional Cinnamon Buns—belonged to me (his first cousin), and mentioned his own mother, my dear Auntie Phyllie! (I had attempted to get her recipe, but her daughter, Sydelle, couldn’t find it. I would never have guessed that Glen was the one to ask!)
Orna with cousin Glen Silver
Glen has since become known in Sydney for his superb Cinnamon Buns! All this time, I had no idea that my cousins in Australia had been following my blog and been moved by my story.
Click here for my Traditional South African Bulkas Recipe
The highlight of the my dad’s 80th was surprising him with, Ag Please Boetie—our version of the famous South African Jeremy Taylor song, with customized lyrics by multi-talented Glen. I managed to push through my laryngitis to sing all 12 verses, and everyone chimed in on the chorus. (Let me know if you need a translation for: Kneidlach, Potjiekos, Teiglach, etc.)
Sam was horrified to see a lamb on the spit, but I loved every bite! It reminded me of every special celebration growing up.
So happy I chose to watch Forks Over Knives on the way home, and not on the way there!
Experiencing a Safari in Pilansberg with my whole family was unforgettable.
Being so close to the animals and their young—completely unthreatened by us—was indescribable.
I’m proud to have taken this pic with the video camera!
Sam Purkin gets credit for this one.
Sharing a King David Sloppy Joe with my hubby at my alma mater was like going back in a time machine—and the familiar taste didn’t disappoint!
Eunice was kind enough to give me the old, unchanged recipe—coming soon to OrnaBakes.
We had a laugh connecting with old Germiston friends at a cocktail party thrown by Avron and Caron Melamed, who put on a sumptuous spread—all from her new kosher cookbook, A Pinch Of, coming soon!
Left to Right: Gary Shifren, Glen Silver, Neil Silver, Sam Purkin, Clifford Sher, Avron “Saffy” Melamed
Elana Mirkin Luntz, Sharon Saevitzon, Brenda Maloon Haarburger, Orna Purkin
Sydelle Leibowitz, Marlon Silver
You may recognize Avron from viral YouTube clip, “Chef Grabs the Microphone”—ironically sent to me by my Canadian in-laws, who couldn’t believe that I knew him. (Hoping this pic will earn me some extra points with them!)
We had firsthand experience of the crime and danger, when my brother, Neville, witnessed someone breaking into my other brother, Gary’s car.
I couldn’t believe that my brother and crazy cousins were running outside!
Even more shocking was that my husband was following them out—video camera in hand (of course)! He unfortunately didn’t manage to get any footage of the poor guy running off, but he forever went up in their esteem!
LOVED visiting Charly’s Bakery in Cape Town—South Africa’s version of “Cake Boss.” (Thanks Tali Brodkin for recommending that I go there!)
This is not just a bakery—it’s a magical place.
Take a moment to read their heartwarming, awe-inspiring story.
The best part was when lovely Lebo behind the counter graciously agreed to sing “The Click Song” for us, with authentic Xhosa clicking—in contrast to my pitiful Jewish White Girl clicking!
If you’re ever in Cape Town you MUST try the Melktert (Milk Tart) and Almond Tart!
Taking the cable car up Table Mountain—now named one of the New 7 Wonders of the World—was just as spectacular as we imagined.
Stunning View from the Cable Car
Sam maintains that mine are still the best. Click here if you dare to make them yourself!
It was pretty awesome seeing the Penguins at Boulders Beach. (Yup, they do have penguins in Africa!) From just two breeding pairs in 1982, the Penguin Colony has grown to about 3,000 birds.
Loved this sign
And this one (Only in South Africa!)
We were psyched to be invited to the taping of SAF3—a new rescue show by our friends Greg Bonann (creator of Baywatch) and Tai Collins (writer/actress)—set in Malibu, but conveniently shot in gorgeous Camps Bay, where we were staying.
Would you believe that we missed the shoot?! Partly because the treacherous Cape winds (known as the “Cape Doctor”) forced them to quit early.
Still, we enjoyed a celebratory post-shoot dinner, joined by Tai’s lovely, interesting girlfriends who were also visiting from Los Angeles.
Left to Right: Tai Collins, Orna Purkin, Kate Schumacher, Heidi Stoecklein (LAPD)
Heidi was the first woman awarded American Legion State Officer of the year! (July 2013)
On a sadder note, my brother, Neville, took Sam on a tour of Johannesburg, and they were outside beloved Mandela’s house taking this picture just days before he died. May he rest in peace.
This picture—now so much more meaningful—was taken at The Waterfront in Cape Town.
Other highlights were Cape Point, Hout Bay, and Sun City.
But the absolute best part of the trip was reconnecting with family and friends.
There’s nothing quite like old friends who knew you when you were young!
Jocelyn Katzen, Simone Blumberg, Orna
I couldn’t include pics of everyone here or the post would go on for days, but you all know how much I cherished our time together. There was a huge void left by the missing friends who are now spread around the world. That’s the sad part of emigration.
I’ve never felt so unconnected (minimal internet access/no iPhone/lame cell that wouldn’t even send a text) in one way, and so connected in another (friends/family/animals/nature/culture). There’s something to be said for just being totally in the moment and not thinking about your next post!
Makes you think, doesn’t it?