06 August 2012 by Julienne du Toit

Auntie Evelyne’s restaurant in Nieu Bethesda

If you’re looking for delicious, wholesome, home-made food while travelling through the Karoo, make a point of heading to Auntie Evelyne’s place in Nieu Bethesda. You’ll leave feeling good, and not only because of the delicious food in your belly…

Auntie Evelyne at her home-restaurant. Photo Chris Marais

Auntie Evelyne Olifant (62) learnt to cook on the Karoo farm where she was born and raised.

She remembers it as an idyllic, innocent time. She and her friends would seek out crabs in the clear rivers. All the food they ate was from the farm.

It was a chilly day, and we ate in Auntie Evelyne’s kitchen. We had come hungry and it was a good thing.

Evelyne later found work at a guest house in Nieu Bethesda, and guests knew her for her the delicious, wholesome food she prepared. When the guest house owner got sick and closed her doors in 2000, Evelyne wondered what on earth she was to do.

But the guests who knew her sought her out and asked her to cook for them. In fact, a former guest unexpectedly sent her boxes of kitchenware – everything from tablecloths to salt and pepper sets, plates and cutlery. And so her little cooking business slowly took shape. She transformed the outside of her simple township house into a sheltered eating spot.

A delicious repast, made with food mostly sourced from farms around Nieu Bethesda. Photo Chris Marais

Auntie Evelyne’s Eetplek (restaurant) had begun, and it has since become a notable success in Nieu Bethesda's township. To her joy, her daughter, Juliet, joined her and cooks just as well as her.

'That’s why I say, you must lift yourself up. You mustn’t wait for the government to sort things out for you.'

In 2007, Evelyne hit a low when she was sent to bed with complications from diabetes. After a few days of misery, she suddenly had a revelation that her healing lay in feeding people – and not just at the restaurant. She got up immediately and bustled about, putting her plan into action.

The God Sal Voorsien (God Will Provide) soup kitchen was started right there and then and has made an enormous difference, especially to children from impoverished families who cannot afford to give them something nourishing in the morning.

It was a chilly day, and we ate in Auntie Evelyne’s kitchen. We had come hungry and it was a good thing. First was a thick broth made with split peas and meaty bones dropped off by a local farmer. Then came a feast of tender mutton, lamb chops, cabbage in a home-made tomato smoor, slow-cooked pumpkin, potatoes, rice and a colourful salad.

For pudding, there was hot quince preserve cooked in a custardy sauce, and then moerkoffie (strong coffee made on the stove). A bargain at R100 a person.

'No preservatives, no instant food, just about everything from the farms around Nieu Bethesda,' said Auntie Evelyne proudly as we ate.

When we emerged, we saw 6 or 7 ragged children sitting in the weak winter sun, eating Auntie Evie’s hot nourishing food in silent bliss.

To book or make enquiries, call Auntie Evelyne on + 27 (0)83 873 5526 or + 27 (0)78 448 1586.

Category: Food & Wine

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