We're thrilled: Ishay Govender of Foodandthefabulous.com scooped the PnP Food & Wine category prize at the 2011 SA Blog Awards.
The Blog Awards is South Africa’s primary platform for celebrating the heroes in our local blogosphere.
Curious to know more about the woman behind the highly original posts, we jumped at the chance to interview Ishay.
Tell us about yourself…
I’m the creative director of a business run with my husband. In other words, I’m both dreamer and disaster manager! (Between us, I think of myself more as a greedy cook and writer…)
A large part of what I do involves motivating people to give back to worthy causes, and I’m currently involved with two organisations that feed school children and one that assists with helping primary-school children with literacy.
I'm a commercial law attorney (non practising), with a master’s degree in commercial law, though it may have made more sense to specialise in human rights law. I’m originally from Pietermaritzburg, studied in Bloemfontein and have called Cape Town home for the last seven years.
You're an eloquent writer. Did you ever consider a career in journalism?
That's an enormous compliment, thank you. I see myself as a “learner” in this department. It's incredibly tough to ever feel satisfied with one's work, especially when the creativity and standard of local and international writers is so immensely high. I find this both intimidating and wonderfully inspirational.
To answer your question: yes, I did consider studying journalism or English literature when I was 16. But I started my studying career with a short stint in medicine too, so I can honestly say I've gotten a taste of it all and in the end have returned to writing. I hope it provides me with a hospitable home.
Blogging can take up a lot of time. What does it add to your life?
I'm really glad it's been acknowledged that blogging does take a lot of time. There have been nights when I've wondered if it's just me who is super slow or fussy with the posts I allow out, or perhaps my lack of prowess with the workings of the blogging platform and picture-editing skills.
I started Food and the Fabulous one night in September 2010, on a whim, after months of tweeting pics of the dishes I prepared or enjoyed out or on travels. It started as a journal of sorts, a record of my life in food, a challenge. It’s been my very engaging, rewarding and sometimes (alright, often!) frustrating hobby.
Where does your love for cooking stem from?
Like all of us, celebrity cooks, chefs, authors and bloggers influence me. If I cut to the core though, my mother and grandmothers (who made feasts out of little means) remain my inspiration.
I wrote a post about a lamb curry and visits to my grandmother’s house. It was in writing it that I acknowledged that, like my grandmother, inviting people to my table is in fact a way of telling them that I value them. It’s about loving people through food – a message that was often communicated through these shared meals. It has no less value today than it had back then.
Ingredients you can't live without?
I think a grocery cupboard should always have good salt, olive oil, canned, peeled tomatoes, and a starch such as rice, cous cous or quinoa.
Spices are pivotal and I would hate to be forced to go without cumin, coriander, masala, cinnamon sticks and cardamom (though the list is infinitely longer). And a small garden patch with Italian parsley, coriander, chillies, dill and mint can turn average meals into something special. Fresh lemons and nuts are also helpful.
Favourite food blog right now?
I’m in awe of What Katie Ate, an Australian blog with many accolades. Katie is able to take such moody shots with confidence because she understands light so well. Never before has someone who uses so much charcoal and black in her work made fellow humans lust after food so greatly.
Food trends for 2012?
I've been reading the 2011 recaps and the 2012 predictions for a while now: out with the macaroons, in with the petit fours… and I find it all hilarious.
I'm not into trendy foods and it makes me very sad when we label the foods of a nation (Thai, jasmine rice, cilantro, whatever) as "hot right now" or "so last season". How dare we, as a minority of Westerners, make judgements on the staples of nations as if it were a fun sport?
I do however predict that more people are going to enquire about where their food comes from, eat less meat and try to grow their own vegetables. Sadly, in contrast, the world's poorest may continue to starve unless we make an effort to share our food.
Your best-kept foodie secret?
Well, now the cat's out the bag… a half teaspoon of fish sauce will not only add depth to Thai and Eastern dishes, but to tomato-based ones too. The best bolognaise sauce greatly benefits from the richness of fish sauce.
We noticed you're keen on football. Who's your team?
I support F.C. Barcelona and dedicate recipes to them. It's all a bit of a laugh. Got to make blogging as fun as possible. These recipes are often published by Barcelona the Offside blog.
What has it meant to win the PnP Food & Wine prize?
While I maintain I’m pleasantly surprised (the blog is just 15 months old) and competition must have been stiff, I’m thrilled. It's a reward for hard work, late nights and an acknowledgment that my content is appreciated. It’s also motivation to continue to document all things food and the fabulous.
Visit Ishay's blog at www.foodandthefabulous.com.