Women’s month might have gone past but that doesn’t stop us from celebrating the women in our lives and community right?
I had a chat with one of my favourite inspiring ladies in the South African food scene, Ishay Govender. There are several things I love about Ish, one being the fact that she manages to stay trim and looking fabulous while being a food blogger. I’m not making excuses but it is hard! Secondly, she is a technological junkie and always up to date with the latest apps. I tasted one of her recipes at the filming of Sarah Graham’s show and I was really amazed. Personally, I am fascinated with her love for culture, not just South African culture but different cultures around the world. She is one of those people that whenever she travels you look forward to her pictures from Instagram and Twitter accounts. Lets get to know her better:
Tell us a bit about Ishay. Who is Ishay and where were you born?
I grew up in Pietermaritzburg, and loved words and stories, while most of my classmates loved Pythagoras and the periodic table. I studied in Bloemfontein and switched from medicine to law. I have a masters degree in Commercial Law and extreme respect for those who practice in a commercial enterprise. I ventured out into running my business with my husband which we operate while travelling and I write for a number of publications and develop recipes. I appreciate the autonomy and freedom more than anything, and remind myself of that whenever I consider all the things I left behind.
How was your childhood like growing up? What did you enjoy doing?
I had a rather sheltered upbringing and tended to be the odd-ball in terms of my interests. An example: a heavy metal ‘phase’ through my teens while everyone was listening to popular RnB, which for years sounded like a version of tortured hell to me. Funny how things change a bit as we grow older. I was fortunate that we were all nerds, it seemed. We all grew up with a strong focus on education and excelling. I don’t think it was the ideal school environment for dreamers and arty types, and I think my brother and I possess both a love of all things creative, and the sciences which is how we got through. I was athletic but awkward in school but thanks to a grounding in martial arts that started at age 7, I could focus on that and not dwell on my unease with my teen body. I have fond, fond memories of my grandmothers’ food, of my mother making us popcorn on rainy days and hot rotis after school. We always celebrated with food and ate at the table when my father came home. It annoyed me terribly in my teens when I wanted to eat alone, but now I truly see the value in spending that time with your precious family over a meal.
When, how and why did you start blogging?
I had always travelled, even if just to my mother’s house in Martizburg, for food and stories. I’d plan the menus of what she had to make and follow her around the house begging for news about the family and all that I missed (I still do). She’s always so wonderfully obliging, I love her. I started the blog in 2010, post World Cup after tweeting pictures of my meals and places we ate and visited. It just happened one evening with a post on quick pan fried lamb chops with caramelized onions. Finally, I had a place to store a combination of my thoughts and the recipes I loved making for my own family to follow. Soon enough I incorporated the travel I was doing in the form of ingredients I bought back, into recipes.
Tell us a bit about your blog? What is your blog all about? Why food, culture, travel etc.?
Food and the Fabulous is an exploration of food and travel. My ideal posts are a recipe, using ingredients we can find here, or close approximates, along with special spices or such that I bring back, interwoven with a story about the destination or some practical tips. I also use the website (it’s evolved from a blog) to showcase the work I have written to other publications. It has been a springboard for me to delve into my first love: writing and experimenting with words.
Why food, culture and travel? Possibly my most favourite thing in the world (some) people: can be better understood when you travel out to meet them, eat with them and understand their culture and traditions. If you can do all three in one sitting – it’s magic.
How did you come up with the name Food and the Fab? / What inspired the name?
The infamous evening the blog was created on a push-button platform (it’s long been upgraded and gone through several transformations), I thought up a few names, checked which domains were available and this one stuck. It’s catchy, hopefully without sounding flakey. And ‘fabulous’ is a nice catch-all for any future interests I may want to write about. Food and the Fabulous is in the last leg of becoming a registered trademark, but it’s an arduous process and you can never be sure until the papers are in hands.
What is your favourite food from your childhood?
So very many things. In a pickle (mango, please), I’s say trotters and sugar bean curry, mutton and ‘kidney’ bean breyani with raita and yellow dhall and an excellent homemade potato samoosa – from my aunts or my late grandmothers.
I see you have upgraded your website, can we still expect to see recipes from your kitchen posted on your website?
The blog has evolved into a website with a proper place for travel posts and new ventures, but I will still continue to share my recipes and my food travel stories based around recipes.
Sometimes as a blogger I feel demotivated especially when I feel like I’m not connecting with my readers (when they are not commenting ) as a result I’ve realised that you need to find something to keep you going. What keeps Ishay the blogger going?
I don’t always get interaction with readers on the posts and I’ll tell you why it doesn’t upset me: I truly believe that micro-blogging, in other words, images and stories posted on other social media streams such as Twitter, Instagram and Vine are the future of blogs as we know them. I post my blog content and related content in different forms on those media, and I get a fair amount of interaction there. People who read and rewteet a post feel it’s enough of an acknowledgment, people who like a photo on Instagram and go off to read and subsequently make the recipe that they then post an image of, are ‘commenting’. So, while you can’t always tally up the comments in one place, I’ve grown to enjoy this type of multi-faceted interaction. We’ve all become pulled in so many directions, I think we need to work with readers and adapt our expectations. As for the rest? You can’t please everyone and why would you want to? You need to ask is ‘everyone’s’ approval what you honestly desire? Then it means your message and content is rather generic.
How do you manage to look fabulous the way you do and be a food blogger/writer at the same time? How do you maintain your figure and keep the glow on your skin?
I have fallen, Thuli, and ballooned by an entire dress size, somedays a dress size and a third! I’m super grateful that I eat and enjoy (everything) in moderation. I don’t have any rules about what’s allowed and what’s not. I don’t restrict or limit any food groups. I do try to exercise but my efforts are often short lived as I travel very often. I think of foods like nuts, coconut oil, daily freshly squeezed juices as nutrition for the skin and body. In winter I drink litres of rooibos with ginger or lemon. A top food tip: sugar is one of the best and most inexpensive exfoliators for your body.
Tell us about your culinary tours. I think it’s a clever concept but how did you come about it?
Thank you. I have been going on food walks and market visits combined with cooking classes on my own travels for a few years now. It’s often a highlight. Earlier this year Bord Bia, the Irish Food Board approached me, after reading a blog post I wrote about foraging, to assist them with a week long tour by members who were specialists in the industry – 5th generation butchers and bakers etc. Together with my friend Dawn Jorgensen, we trawled our pocket books and created an intense week of food exploration that was anything but ordinary. We also accompanied the team for the week. We’ve since decided to pool together our experience – mine in food and her’s in tourism and we’ve created 4 tour options. A local hotel has asked to partner with us to create packages for their client. Our goal is to set up tours that showcase the best of the Cape’s culinary delights and her fabulous people.
Can you share your favourite experience at a travel destination?
Hard to pick one, but my most recent experience in Vietnam stands out for absolute abundance of produce and warm, friendly people. When you transcend language and cultural boundaries and get someone to return a smile, it’s a high like no other. My husband feels we could easily live in Saigon, and that’s not a thing he says often. It’s a mix of urban sophisticated city with the rustic charm of the East and the street food is something I will have to return for.
Which countries that you’ve travelled to and fell in love their food, culture, architecture etc.?
I feel I have a special bond with Lisbon – it’s rickety steep streets, cobbled pavements and faded tile facades. We were based there for 3 months last year and met some of the most amazing people, including a friend we lost tragically at the end of the year. On the last day of our stay, we walked from Estrela to Bairo Alto and Rossio Square, down to the Harbour and I wept softly trying to trace the shape and smell of everything and etch it safely into my memory.
It is women’s month, what inspirational message would you like to share with the women out there?
Educating yourself is the most important thing you can do for your future. My other wish is that more of us banded together to be happy for and proud of each other. If the headlines are anything to go by, it’s a man’s world with little respect for our hard fought freedoms. Being selfish with praise or quick to see achievement of one as a threat or a challenge to one’s self does nothing for the collective, but rather creates further, unnecessary division. Spread joy, judge less and always believe in your worth.
Visit Ishay’s website: www.foodandthefabulous.com
Follow her on twitter: @foodandthefab
Follow her on Instagram: @foodandthefab
Thank you Ish for the interview! Stay awesome!