WILD SAGEAmasi, sage, ash, nectarine
I went to the Slow Food Festival in Torino tree years ago where they invite people from all over the world to showcase their indigenous cuisine. It is incredible. They literally plucked remote tribes from amazing South American locations and they bring stuff that we have never seen, tasted or heard of. The idea is to try make sure that their indigenous practices would not die out. I was there with Zayaan Kahn, the Slow Food Youth Network South Africa coordinator and she took me to the Kenyan stalls and we tasted this amazing yogurt made from sheep’s milk flavoured with ash. Originally the ash was added as an antiseptic and a bit of a preservative that basically makes that yogurt last forever. They put the sheep’s milk in a calabash that they burnt and add a spoonful of this very fine ash and it becomes this vivid grey drinking yogurt, it’s beautiful.
And then a friend of mine, botanist Elzanne Singels, she sent me photo of the excavation from the Wolfgat cave of an old digging stick with a weight that was a round rock with a hole in the middle. It was really inspiring. It looked like a plating to me; this digging stick surrounded by Stone Age tools that to my untrained eye looked like gravel. It was such a beautiful combination of textures and shapes in a pile.
So all of these things just came together - tasting that yogurt 3 years ago, seeing this picture of the digging stone and seeing the textures of the gravel in the cave - and it became an amasi ash ice cream with meringue shards flavoured with wild sage and nectarines smoked over wild sage branches.
I was a little bit scared to put this on the menu because I didn’t want to seem like I appropriated a traditional Kenyan product and I was tormented. But it was quite an organic process how it came out and Kahn advised me that if I do use it on the menu I should tell its story. How it is not just inspired by the Kenyan ash but also by the idea of techniques that would have been used by the cave dwellers of the region, using ash to preserve dairy, burning things on wild branches and fermenting milk. That kind of communication is necessary to understand appropriation and now this journey is explained at the table.