10 October 2010 by Chris Marais

The Master Bakers Of The Karoo

Sometimes it takes three seconds to look a person in the eye and just know there’s gonna be a party tonight.
That’s how it is when Jules and I shake hands with Dirk and Sonja van Rensburg in their funky backyard in Calvinia in the Hantam Karoo. A look in the eye. A meeting of the minds. A sense of humour shared. But in Dirk’s case, it’s his story-telling that had us hooked around a bag of cheap wine in their kitchen, with the Karoo winter winds howling outside and the old stove keeping us all warm.

    “I grew up with my father in the Sand Kalahari on a piece of land that initially had no water. My brother and sister were packed off to boarding school and it was just Dad and I. We built a one-room shack with a sand floor, grass walls and a corrugated iron roof, and called it the Dune Bushes Hotel. On clear nights we would drag the single bed out, lie on it and look up at the stars.

    “They were constantly drilling for water, so Dad could start farming. We bathed in the water that had been used all day to sharpen and temper the drill blades. Once the borehole people had left for the day, we’d jump in and wash. All we ate was springbok biltong and cream from our cow.

    “We lived wild.”

    Sonja comes in with a plate of steaming Oom Daan’s Pies. Not any old pies. Oom Daan’s Pies. With the maker’s face on the packet. We’re starved, and we tuck in. Hmm. The best lamb pies in the world. Guaranteed to never give you heartburn. Money refundable. Oom Daan has long passed, but Dirk and Sonja still proudly carry his brand banner all around the Karoo.

    Category: Culture & History

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