Introduction to Bacon & the Art of Living
The quest to understand how great bacon is made takes me around the world and through epic adventures. I tell the story by changing the setting from the 2000s to the late 1800s when much of the technology behind bacon curing was unraveled. I weave into the mix beautiful stories of Cape Town and use mostly my family as the other characters besides me and Oscar and Uncle Jeppe from Denmark, a good friend and someone to whom I owe much gratitude! A man who knows bacon! Most other characters have a real basis in history and I describe actual events and personal experiences set in a different historical context.
The cast I use to mould the story into is letters I wrote home during my travels.
Engaged to be Married
What an amazing quest I embarked on with your support! I tried to write to you every few weeks and keep you abreast of our progress, but it has not always been possible. I think back with great fondness to the meeting we had on Oscar’s farm where the company was founded. Of everybody who was there, you were the only one to support our quest besides Anton. I hope that life is settling into a rhythm for you in Los Angeles.
I think with great fondness of us growing up in Pretoria. Yes, we thought we were men when we met, but we were only still boys. We could spend an entire night just talking without ever getting tired of the discussion. We had the best of times! Together we learned about life and love! I wrote to you a couple of months ago that I intend asking Minette to marry me. I was in Calne at the Harris factory when I decided to come back to South Africa for a short break. I have been growing ever closer to Minette and I wrote to you about the amazing time we had when she visited in Denmark.
I finally decided to ask her hand in marriage. I now know what it is like to be around someone and enjoy their company insanely but never realise that you are falling in love with her! That is what happened to me. Julie Pickton, Kevin’s wife, had a real heart to heart with me in Peterborough. Ever since I left for Calne I have been plotting to get away to Cape Town to make another dream come true and ask Minette to marry me.
Right now I am on a steamboat with Minette, en route back to London and from there to Calne. How I wish that you could have been with us for our engagement. I know America is very far!
My first week in Cape Town was hectic! I wanted to spend as much time with Tristan and Lauren whom I have not seen for almost two years. They have grown so much and are developing into the most amazing two human beings alive! In between everything, I met up with two old mountain friends of Minette and me, Tahir and Achmat.
I discussed the plan for our engagement with them and we set a date for Tuesday, 18 October 1982. (3) They would meet Elmar, Juanita, Pieter Willem, Luani, Liam, Tristan, and Lauren at Kloof corner at the front of the mountain and hike up with Corridor Ravine to the spot where Minette and I would be waiting. It was all a complete surprise for her.
I thought I had a lot of time to plan everything but this was not the case at all. I had no time left! If it hasn’t been for Tristan and Lauren I would not have finished everything in time.
In Cape Town, I commissioned the work on the design and production of an engagement pendant. The company I used is freeRange JEWELS. They assigned the most perceptive designer to our case, Dawn Bolton. Her love for nature and for the indigenous tribes of southern Africa made her perfect for the job.
To use on the pendant, I chose words from the Korana language that describes Minette and my relationship. Close to Parys on the Vaal River is a Korana village that I like visiting whenever I have a chance. The Korana is a nomadic Khoe group and got their name from a chief called Kora (or Gora), who was the first leader of the Gorachouqua. They are related to the Griqua who originated from a freed slave, Adam Kok. He got burgher rights and a farm near the present Piketberg. Here he founded a vigorously mixed community. Some say that he was married to the daughter of the chief of a Khoikhoi (Khoe) clan, the Chariguriqua, during the 1750s. As he moved up from Piketberg to Little Namaqualand he attracted a following and by the 1790s the community moved to the Orange River and then eastwards along the bank. The place where they finally settled became known as Griqualand West. The leader at this time was Cornelius who gathered a large number of Basters, some Khoikhoi and escaped slaves around him. (sahistory.org.za)
They are a very talented people! The Korana, like the Khoe is semi-pastoral people who grow their own crops and keep cattle and sheep. They live in villages and they used bricks for building and have an efficient method of government with a legislator. Their revenue sources are taxes, trading licenses, and fines. They printed their own currency in 1867. The coins and notes had a limited circulation use and levies were paid with cattle, goats, sheep, and grain. (History of the Griqua) The Griqua was free but for only a very limited time. This is celebrated in astronomy with asteroids with a short lifespan being called Griqua.
This history is important to explain why I chose phrases from the Korana language for Minette’s pendant. I selected a pendant because I remembered Minette had previously said that she wouldn’t be very keen on a ring. I wanted something which reflects her character who always identifies with the lowly and downtrodden of society. Her spirit is bound to the earth – to what is beautiful and natural. She is very careful to treat poor former slaves and the richest of our community exactly the same. In this regard, she reminds me very much of the Korana. It is this spirit that I learned from her which motivated me to visit the Korana village at the Vaal River as often as I could. The story of Adam Kok and the kind of followers that he attracted beautifully reflects Minette’s spirit. If we were alive in the time of Adam Kok I, I have no doubt that we would have joined them in their trek their own homeland. I used their language on the pendant and planned to follow their tradition of courtship when I propose to her. These I learned from the Korana people.
The reason why I chose a pendant is not only because Minette preferred it, but I saw it when I visited a Griqua village just South of Bloemfontein on the farm Wilhelmshöhe. It was part of the farm Bruidegomspruit which was owned by the Griqua tribe. Adam Kok III, who was the captain of the tribe, gave the farm to Johannes Witvoet as a wedding present. The name Bruidegomspruit which literally means Bridegroom’s creek is in celebration of this event. The farm was later bought from Witvoet by a missionary by the name of Friedrich Wilhelm Salzmann. It was Salzmann who divided the farm between his two sons, Carel and Martin, and so, part of the farm became Wilhelmshöhe. Martin Salzmann built the original house in 1885.
There was a large Khoi community who once lived on the farm, the ruins of which are still visible to this day as well as the old stone kraals that were built by M.J. Salzmann (Snr.) in amongst the stone ruins where the Khoi people lived. It was here where I met a man wearing one of the coins that were minted in 1867 which gave me the idea of a pendant. I attach photos of the ruins and the view they had from their homes. The sheep they kept were fat tale sheep along with game from the area.
The other group that I, of course, interacted with a lot when I was riding transport, was the San or, as many people call them, the Bushman. I selected 8 words that are important to Minette and I being, Family, Peace, Fire, Friendship, Marriage, Joy, Love, and Beauty. These I translated into the Bushman and Korana language to honour the hunter-gatherer people who roamed this land for millennia and the Griqua.
The words were placed around the image of an eland which I chose from a painting in a cave in Larinston, Barkley East. This is engraved on the one face of the pendant. The eland is a symbol of growth and spirituality in San culture. It is their most sacred animal, often evoked at rites of passage for women and men and features in a wedding dance.
Dawn suggested that for the other side of the small disc, the Quiver Tree, which is indigenous to South Africa and known as ‘choje’ to the San people. They hollowed branches out to use as a quiver for their arrows. Around this image she placed our names with the phrase, I love you, translated from Khoekhoe (Nama), a Khoisan language spoken in South Africa, Botswana and Namibia, by a bushman scholar from Namibia, Dr. Niklaas Fredericks. Dr. Fredericks consulted with his tribe and got permission from the elders that we may use the two images. They also checked the translation of the words and their spelling.
Will You Marry Me?
All was set for an amazing day. The ruse I used to get Minette to go on the hike with me is that I told her that her sister’s son, Liam, is hiking up with Achmat from the other side which is easier and less tricky, to meet us on top. She has always wanted Liam to do the route with us and despite her initial reluctance for such a strenuous hike she agreed quite excitedly. She was convinced the great surprise was that we will meet Liam on top.
On the 18th of October 2018 (3), we hiked the Suikerbossie route from Hout Bay, and halfway with the ascent towards the mid-way point I stopped and picked up a stick. In the tradition of the Korana people, I broke the stick in two and asked Minette to marry me while I explain the Korana tradition. I did this as we were ascending a very steep hill on top of the mountain. Minette thought I was telling a story, as I often do, and remarked that it was a nice story and that we must press on. She was concerned about Liam and Achmat being alone on the mountain. For a second I wondered what on earth I was to do now. I tried again. “Will you marry me?” I asked her again. Slowly but surely the reality of what I am doing dawned on her. She was completely taken by surprise. When she said yes, I handed her the one half of the stick and kept the other half. We completed the short distance to the midway point where we sat down and I gave her the necklace with the Eland/Quiver-tree pendant.
I served her coffee, an act that was also inspired by a Korana tradition. The young man would ask the mother of his bride-to-be, if he could marry her daughter, in the presence of her father. If she agreed, he would return to his home where his own mother would give him coffee. He would return to his fiance’s family where he would serve them the coffee as a sign that his own mom agrees to the union.
Minette and I had just finished our coffee when our two mountain guide friends, Taahir and Achmat arrived. The first thing she knew about the visitors was when her sister appeared through a hole in the rock. Minette exploded with excitement! Completely unbeknown to Minette, at 5:00 that morning, Achmat Jackson and Taahir Osman guided a small party of family onto the top of Table Mountain, and joined the Suikerbossie trail. This small party was made up of my brother, Elmar and his son, Pieter-Willem, Minette’s sister, Luani and her son Liam, as well as you two.
When we all settled down I recounted how I proposed to her and that she had accepted, and I further explained the symbolism of the pendant, the breaking of the stick, and the coffee. Each person was given a mug, on which we had printed the pendant designs on each side, and each person’s name. I served the rest of the group coffee, and we drank together.
Fanie, Luani’s husband, graciously offered to stay home with Luan, her second son, who is still too small for such a serious treck. On the way back we went past Tranquility cracks. We delayed here and soaked in the magic of this amazing place. It was an amazing gift we could give our guests who don’t make it onto the mountain and Tranquility Cracks is as special as it gets on top of Table Mountain. It was all in all the most magical time imaginable. When everybody eventually made it off the mountain, the celebrations continued at Klein Constantia wine farm.
Tristan and Lauren were magnificent and made the day possible. All the preparations were done by them and without their involvement, this would not have been possible. Johann and Julie attended as did Oscar and Trudie.
The Art of Living
The basis of our quest to understand and make the best bacon on earth is seated in family and love and great friendship. As we did during the wedding, so I will do now and not speak about business or bacon, but can this really be separated? Is bacon not the supreme example of how life is lived. One small discovery at a time! Loads of hard work. Luck! Serendipity! Commitment! And love! In the end, it all merges together into a beautiful relationship, as all the hard work we put into bacon will one day bloom into what is the best bacon on earth!
Everything I am learning about bacon culminates in a delicious delicacy and like discovering the art of bacon, our friendship and love culminated into what is nothing less than a mountain peak of our existence – such as what Minette and I experienced on Table Mountain with family and friends. We celebrated deep into the night on a beautiful wine farm. So, the story of bacon and the art of living merge into one.
I am blessed to have you as my friend, Dawie en even though you were not here, still, your spirit soared with us over mountain tops. With my brothers and their wives and family; Luani, Fanie, Liam, and Luan; Minette’s mom and dad; My mom and dad, the amazing and beautiful Tristan and Lauren, together with my most precious friend, you Mr. Dawie Hyman, we embrace life and all the good it has to offer.
Most of all, in this letter I celebrate my beautiful fiance. As we sail towards England, Minette is with me and I am insanely excited to introduce her to John Harris and the many friends I made in Calne; Michael and to Kevin and Julie Pickton and their family; to Lord Landsdown and his family and the beautiful people of Bowood. It all leaves me speechless and a bit afraid because I know I must find a way to do even better when it comes to our wedding! I, like you, am a firm believer that if one is going to do something, we may just as well do it excellently! For this, I trust the spirit of bacon to take us on many more adventures among which will be our wedding! Life will show me the way and I can hardly wait to see what is installed for us!
I am planning to visit you when I am done in Calne. I will love it if Minette can join me! Maybe we sail for America after England! In America, there is much to learn and we have a lot of catching up to do.
The warmest greetings from Cape Town,
Eben and Minette!
(c) eben van tonder
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(1) Dawie Hyman
(2) Elmar and Juanita is my brother and sister-in-law.
(3) The actual date was 11th of March 2018
Trench, William Steuart, 1869, Realities of Irish Life, London, Longmans, Green, and co.
“History of the Griqua”. Griqua Royal House. Retrieved 8 December 2017.
Griqua with coin around his neck: Scott Balson, Children of the Mist