40 years of iconic food is a captivating read. The first few pages take one through Sis Dorah’s childhood experiences with food, providing the reader a window into her upbringing. Many of us can relate to her upbringing, the scarcity of food which brought about some amazing creativity from our mothers and guardians.
We know the porridge crust eaten with black tea as breakfast and the porridge eaten with sugar.
This book leaves one with hopes that she should have penned down an autobiography as it would have been equally absorbing, but it was a peek into her childhood that I’m grateful for.
Although it seems it is almost impossible to talk of Dorah Sitole’s life without food because it is all these experiences with food that had made her the woman she had become, which she finally penned down in the treasure that is her third book.
In her book, she relives her relationship with food. She remembers the improvising of meals when there were too many mouths to feed, the special occasion meals, the regular meals and all the other meals that grew her fascination with food.
The food icon did not grow up in a home full of food. However she remembers the little they had, how it was cooked, the garden that was her Aunt’s and the chickens for celebrations. This was her grandparent’s house, in the east rand, she had moved in with them as a small baby and would only return back to Dube (Soweto) when she was thirteen. In one interview, she described this move as one that opened a whole new world for her and a new way of eating. This new home meant she could now experience with cooking.
Sis Dorah matriculated from Orlando West High School in 1972. Her father worked as a teacher and her mother, Rose, was a dressmaker. Dorah worked shortly after matriculating as a research officer while studying at Unisa. The path started being clearer as she started meeting other food lovers and cooks such as her former colleague Iris Grootboom, whom she describes as “an exceptional cook” in another interview.
Before joining what would be an introduction of her to many South Africans, True love. Sis Dorah worked at the canned food advisory service as a junior home economist. But we all know her from true love magazine as the food editor. Our mothers embraced her recipes and mastered them. It was mostly because the ingredients were already there in the cupboard. Her simple and everyday dishes made them loyal to the magazine for many years.
It is safe to say that it is because she lived so that the art of food is now a ‘thing’, especially amongst black people. She paved a way for many black chefs in her journey of taste buds. May her soul rest in peace.