Cooking with Gamidah!

Alexandra Szotka
June 5, 2014

One of the perks of being an IES Abroad blogger is that I get to justify my abundant activities all in the name of writing a GOOD blog. Thus, even though I am running dangerously low on money, I decided that a cooking class in Bo Kaap was a good investment in my cooking future. I convinced my friend Atara to join me on this adventure because one thing we have in common is that we both love eating (she also seems to like the cooking part…). We got a cab to Bo Kaap which is an area of Cape Town that is home to many Cape Malaysian people and Indians that were forced to live in the geographic area called the Cape Flats under Apartheid. Post-apartheid, the colorful houses in Bo Kaap were first sold to many Cape Malaysian families. Since we did not quite know which house the lesson would take place in, the cab dropped us off at a random block of houses and I just decided to knock on a door that looked welcoming. I ended up making the right choice and Gamidah, (pronounced Hamidah, soft H) our wonderful and beautiful cooking teacher opened the door to welcome Atara and I into her home. Since our cab arrived late, we were already late to the cooking lesson, but Gamidah didn’t let that sway us. As Gamidah started to talk about the chicken curry we would be cooking, I quickly let her know that we were actually both vegetarians, another thing that Gamidah didn’t seem to mind. After all the warm welcomes and a run down on what we would be cooking, Gamidah took us across the street to the local spice shop that imports all their spices from India. Anyone who knows me knows that I am obsessed with India, so the spices were just one more connection to India that I have made since being in Cape Town. We quickly walked through the store and Gamidah told us some things about different spices and pointed out which spices were her favorite. I’m glad we left quickly because I was beginning to sneeze and cough because I was suffering from spice overload.

The Blue House is Gamidah’s humble abode!

We walked back to Gamidah’s fun blue house, just in time for Heather to arrive, another American that was traveling Southern Africa with her friend. It was so nice to meet Heather because Gamidah, Heather and Atara and my personalities all perfectly mixed together. Heather and Gamidah provided the base of the conversations and Atara and I threw in one-liners for comic effect. We started off by spelling and photographing all the spices that Gamidah already had, and then starting on the vegetable curry. Gamidah’s pride and joy is that she is a very clean cook, and that is for sure! She made cooking look quick and easy. Chili poppers, samosas, veggie curry, roti and little sauces all attacked my taste buds. Everything we cooked was wonderful. I don’t even think I have a final picture of our food because we were just so eager to eat, once the cooking was done. Towards the end of meal, we began to hear this beautiful singing and I realized that because we were in a Muslim community, it was the afternoon call to prayer. Gamidah said that she knew the man who did the call, and that we would later meet him at the nearby mosque. I decided right then and there that I could definitely get used to hearing this beautiful singing everyday. The sound filled the air with a delightful calm feeling.

Artsy spices!

I’ll miss the abundance of languages in South Africa :(

Can’t get enough of these houses

For once, the saying “no religion, sex or money talk at the dinner table” was actually incorrect. We all talked about religion and I think I actually learned a lot. During this meal we connected cross-culturally, while also seeing how similar people from around the world, if we just remember to relate to each other, can connect to all other humans.  After eating and cleaning up, Gamidah took us on a walking tour around the area, showing us the oldest Mosque in the Western Hemisphere, and we did indeed meet the man who did the call to prayer. This man was a silly little man who teased us about smelling like food (which we did) and for not bringing him any of Gamidah’s famous Roti, which is a puffy Indian bread. Our conversation during the tour basically centered on food, and how much we love it. Food really does make the world go round! We finished the walking tour by doing a photo-shoot in front of the numerous, beautifully colored houses, and then had a group hug telling each other that we would all stay in contact by email. I don’t have pictures with Heather or Gamidah because those are on Heather’s camera, but I will get them in due time.

Atara cooking up a storm, and probably making a song about food…

SMILE, we have food!

The oldest mosque!

While taking a cab home, I was just reflecting on how wonderful the day had gone and it had completely exceeded my expectations. The day was just a reminder that there are still so many caring and life-loving people that I haven’t met yet, and that I will still have to travel the world to find. The day definitely supported the corny quote that preaches, “Strangers are just friends you haven’t met yet.”


Locals, no big deal.


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Alexandra Szotka

<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Alexa is a sophomore at Ithaca College studying both Public Health and Politics, while also hoping to dapple in her new found interest in gender studies. She grew up in Windsor, Connecticut, famous for being the first town in Connecticut. When Alexa doesn&#39;t have her nose in a book, she can be found singing, eating (especially anything pumpkin), being sarcastic or exploring the fantastic world that we are lucky enough to call home. Studying in Cape Town in a dream come true, and Alexa is ready and willing to soak up every last bit of adventure that comes her way!</span></p>

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