THE READER: Cateringa & Kompanen

Alexander Geijzendorffer and Odrada Burghoorn are members of Cateringa & Kompanen – a Dutch artist collective of makers with a specific interest in mixing food, art and the interaction between people. They find food and its context to be an artistic material like copper, clay or pain. Yet it offers so much more in terms of how its perceived. What is “good”? What is “normal”? What is “health”? What beholds the future? They challenge and investigate these concepts in various forms, from performance and installations to interactive buffets and experimental film nights.

What are you reading at the moment?

A: Ai. You caught us at just after a massive book binge. I’m trying to read nine books at the same time to prepare our research for next year. Ahem… Let’s say the main two today are Ingredients by Dwight Eschliman and Steve Ettlinger and Chemistry for Dummies by John T. Moore. The first is “a visual exploration of 75 food additives & 25 food products”. It’s my breakfast and coffee book. Page after page of glossy photos with whitish powders or translucent liquids. The second helps me to bring back the fundamentals on food chemistry that I realise I lack for fully understanding the other seven books.

How do you decide what to read next?

A: Often friends and fellow artists/chefs will advise me books on a topic we are discussing. Occasionally I realise that internet offers mostly superficial snippets and I need something thorough and real.

What book has had the greatest impact on you?

A: Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder. I realised all adults have gone through a phase of existentialism and somehow decided it was worth living anyway. This blew my mind.

O: Still love John Seymour’s The New Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency. It covers everything from building a compost toilet to how to see if a chicken egg is fertilised to harvesting and storing your crop. when our modern world collapses you can use this book to stay alive 🙂 

Do you read on tablet, Kindle, paper or all three?

O: Tablet and paper. Tablet while travelling because paper tends to be heavy to bring, but i prefer paper at home. When I love something i want to own it on paper.

A: Almost only paper. I loathe all the screen work I have to do and prefer to jump around and do stuff. Paper books are kind of between.

What were your favourite books as a child?

A: Oh! The Witches’ Handbook by Malcolm Bird. An illustrated guide to be a witch, including recipes for worm soup, how to spoil your neighbours’ harvest and useful career suggestions.

O: Meester van de zwarte molen by Otfried Preußler (which in English mean “the satanic mill”) has a fairy-tale quality, magic and a romantic plot and it plays in a mill (yay, bread!).

What’s the last book you gave as a gift?

A: Cooking for Geeks by Jeff Potter. A typical engineer who decided cooking would mix well with graphs and screwdrivers. I’m about to give it as a gift to a friend of mine who never liked cooking till it became difficult. I believe in borrowing books.

O: for my sister one of Ottolenghi’s beautiful books for her birthday.

What’s the last thing you read that made you laugh?

A: Many things. Yesterday I read a comparison of how electrons around the core of an atom try to keep as much distance from each other as they can are very similar to you and another person in the same cocktail dress on a fancy gala. I don’t know which one took more imagination.

O: I stumbled upon the columns by Renske de Greef last week and found them hilarious.

Which book have you never been able to finish reading?

Ulysses by James Joyce. My interest in novels has diminished over the years to make space for more informative books. This mindboggling stream of words was the first victim to fall.

O: I am OCD about reading books, I have to absorb every word, read a page again when I find myself drifting away, and it is impossible to not finish a book that I have read halfway. And I actually read Ulysses, Alex. 😉

What book do you turn to for advice?

A: Ehm. Heukels’ Flora van Nederland by R. van der Meijden. The biologists’ handbook for determining exactly which wild plant is about to kill you for trying to eat it. The SAS Survival Guide offers some basics on that too.

O: I have a copy of the I Tjing lying around somewhere that I used in a playful manner with my friends to advise us on the important questions in life. That was fun for a while.

The best food magazine?

A: Ai ai ai. I’m afraid I don’t read any magazines. I might follow up on interesting articles that pass by on my Facebook feed from various online magazines.

O: No magazines, but food blogs, I like the dessert recipes of Chocolate Covered Katie.

The recipe book you use the most?

A: Ottolenghi’s Plenty More. I live in a communal house with six other entrepreneurs that love cooking in their spare time. It’s actually a luxury with which I never have to buy recipe books myself. Ottelenghi has an interesting non-dogmatic view on cooking with vegetables (“this would be great with a piece of lamb”), that I much

appreciate. Every kitchen, from raw to vegan to African to molecular has interesting features, but I take open mindedness as the healthiest approach to life.

Favourite book about food?

A: Harold McGee’s book On Food and Cooking. Great and almost too-thorough bible of the scientific processes that happen in food cooking. A must-read. Maybe prep up on your chemistry basics though.

If you could cook dinner for a dead writer, who which writer would it be, where would you eat with them, and what would you make them?

A: Roald Dahl, whom I feel would appreciate anything cooked with enthusiasm. He would be more than welcome to join us at my house and dig into whatever has been created by whoever that day. Home cooking is as much about informal ambience as it is about the freedom to try new things.

Geijzendorffer and Burghoorn will be speaking in Joburg at the Spier Secret Festival on Sunday, 6 November 2016. Book your tickets here.

POEM: Man-sized?


This morning with some relish
I dished the portion labelled ‘man-size’ from my regular bowl of cereal,
Tired of a world that would keep
Me smaller
And men bigger.
I ate each mouthful without difficulty.

I knew a woman once
Who said she ate to grow bigger and protect herself
From the looks of passersby.
Fat was her invisibility cloak.
She grew so big trying to shield herself from their gazes
Whispers, Whistles, Kisses
That she lost sight of herself.
It took the love of someone
And nearly three decades
To confront her hunger.

I knew another who monitored her meals.
Each passing of a mouthful
Through her disobedient lips
Starved her of a sense of success.
Her best days were hungry.
Her hair thinned on her scalp, thickened on her arms.
It took her many years
To stop seeing every meal
As a mathematical equation of her failings
In calorific tallies.

My man-sized, extra 15 grams of food,
Didn’t make me grow balls, or start a revolution.
I didn’t feel anything like a man, thankfully.

Chewing the fat


You’d be really hard pressed to find someone who didn’t have some sort of health or weight loss related resolution on the first of January. Most of us wish we were a little trimmer, stronger, or fitter. There’s a billion dollar industry that revolves around selling people food, supplements and equipment that will get us those abs we’re so desperate for. Tim Noakes thinks he’s found the magic recipe to get all of us to nail those resolutions. His massively popular, if controversial, high-fat, low-carb diet has been on the lips of many weekend warriors — from mountain bikers to CrossFitters — and even led to him publicly ripping out the section on carbo-loading from his classic book, The Lore of Running, which has been a bible for runners for several decades.

The Real Meal Revolution is Noakes’s new handbook to getting you to perform at your best. It brings together a South African super-team that includes himself, David Grier (famous for running the length of the Great Wall of China), Jono Proudfoot (a long distance swimmer and chef) and the nutritionist Sally-Ann Creed.

The book opens with glowing testimonials from successful users of the diet. This gives way to the starters, an overview of biological facts about the human diet. Then there’s the mains — a practical guide to shopping and cooking the high fat low carb way, step-by-step recipes included. Finally, for dessert, Tim Noakes tells the story of human nutritional evolution. The book’s more detailed sections are punctuated with regular breaks to stop them from being too heavy, and interspersed with bits of lighthearted history and colourful headings. The recipes themselves are in a large, easy-to-read format, accompanied by mouthwatering pictures of the finished product.

The question of whether the Noakes diet works for everyone is still a fiercely debated topic. His acolytes claim it’s the way of eating to end all diets. Others remain sceptical at the idea of eating fat to lose fat. In my nutritional experience, I believe that Noakes is incorrect when he blames carbohydrates for illness. Why? Because I think the quality of your calories is far more important. In other words: while an apple indeed contains sugar, I highly doubt whether anyone has developed diabetes from gorging on them. Most people are generally educated enough to understand the basics of healthy eating: cake is bad, broccoli is good; beer is bad, water is good. Nutritional problems are frequently caused when people ignore basic nutritional sense in favour of short-term gratification. If you feel that it’s easier for you to stick to a diet because it was put together by Prof Noakes and he markets it very well then that is fantastic, but that has less to do with the effectiveness of the diet and more to do with the fact that you are now aware of what you are putting into your body.

Many of the rules in the Noakes diet would be at home in almost any healthy eating plan — these include reducing your consumption of refined food, eating more greens and limiting your alcoholic intake. The biggest difference would be the macronutrient makeup in the Noakes diet being so heavily tilted towards fat. Every human is different, and has different lifestyles from one another and different goals — health or otherwise. It could be argued that pigeonholing us all into one method of eating is therefore a somewhat parochial way of thinking. We have masses of information from sporting professionals, books, magazines and, of course, the internet. So: instead of blindly following a diet because your running captain saw Noakes at the Two Oceans Expo and it worked for him, rather educate yourself about food and nutritional needs, and then make an informed decision.

There are plenty of successful athletes and weekend warriors who thrive on different diets – whether it be paleo, intermittent fasting, IIFYM (“if it fits your macros”), or just plain common sense and moderation. If the Noakes diet works for you, fits into your lifestyle and lets you achieve your goals then that is fantastic. The Real Meal Revolution is the perfect handbook to ensuring you can understand it, adhere to it, and still feel like you’re indulging in delicious and filling cuisine.

The Real Meal Revolution is published by Quivertree and is available from