Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Interview

The interview meme is doing the rounds again and I can't believe that it is already a year and a half since the last time I did it. Back then I sent questions to Charlotte and yesterday when I saw she had done another interview I couldn't resist asking to be interviewed by a real journalist - fame at last!! If you'd like me to interview you, leave me comment asking for questions and I'll think of some. These are the questions Charlotte asked me:

1. Your blog is a little quieter than it used to be. Are you a) tired
of blogging, b) too busy with with real life, c) blogging under a
pseudonym somewhere else? Discuss.

It is definitely b. I still love the blog world and am reading blogs as much as ever. Right now though my creative juices seem to be sucked up by work and everyday life, school, food, sleep, school food, sleep, leaving me with no inspiration to blog at the end of the day. It also has a lot to do with my work involving sitting in front of the computer all day, so that in the evening I hardly feel like sitting down to it anew. But I am determined to keep it going and am hoping for a new blast of inspiration to strike. Until them I’m relying on interviews, memes and food events to keep my blog alive and kicking!

2. Would you rather be a really famous food blogger, a really famous
book blogger or a really famous mommy blogger and why?

I really don’t want to be famous at all in any shape or form, I’m happy with small audiences of friends and family, the glare of the public eye would have me running and hiding! But if I had to choose one it would be as a food blogger – famous mommy bloggers have to take so much flak and open so much of their personal lives to criticism by all and sundry, so that the comfortable and friendly small scale mom blog transmutes into a controversial monster that is a free for all terrain for the mommy wars.. Food bloggers can lunch at wonderful places, talk about delicious meals, cook, enjoy sharing and only let people into their personal lives as much as they feel comfortable with! And for some reason people feel less inclined to criticise your food choices than your parenting choices. I’m not speaking from personal experience here at all – my blog friends and commenters are the loyal and wonderful few who keep coming back even if I don’t post for a week or two.

3. Money is no object. Describe your dream holiday.

A beautiful, comfortable and unpretentious house somewhere gorgeous near water, full of books and shady places to read them, boats and activities enough to keep everyone happy and a magical source of delicious meals completely unorganised by me appearing at regular intervals. Occasional excursions to beautiful historic Italian towns and markets for some art and culture and good friends and family joining us.

4. If Nigel Slater was catering your birthday party what three
recipes would you demand he made for you?

My birthday is in August which is usually still chilly here, so I would go for a really greedy and rich meal eaten overthe course of a nice long evening by the fire.

To start with I’d like him to cook us some grilled fish with lime leaves on the outside braai, so they’d be full of smoky flavour but with an extra zing from the lime leaves. We could start the meal early so he would be cooking at sunset and we could keep him company with a glass of wine by the braai!

Then a bit later we’d have his Italian slow cooked aromatic lamb, braised with orange, red wine and herbs with cannellini beans. Or else the Moroccan lamb shanks with aubergines ...

And this being a fantasy meal where we don’t need to worry about the seasons, we’d finish off with a fig tart with honey and mascarpone and still feel as light as a feather and able to dance till dawn …this is a fantasy after all.

5. You educate your children at a Waldorf school. What does the
Steiner philosophy mean for you and your family?

Do you want the short or the long version!?!

Short: – friendly comfortable school, where our kids thrive.

Long: – read on…

The Steiner philosophy is very broad and all encompassing, not just about education, and we don’t really live our lives by it. We really like his educational ideas and the way the primary schools work with it. Steiner really observed child development thoroughly and worked out what ages were best suited to learning certain things and what teaching methods worked best at which age. (Interestingly several of the new, modern schools here in Cape Town have adopted quite a lot of his methodology and also poached quite a few Waldorf teachers!)

He says that until the age of 6/7 children learn best by non-academic methods, really by observation and imitation and are busy taken up with learning about social interaction and their place in the family and the immediate world around them. Kindergarten is all about play, learning rhymes and rhythms and games, developing co-ordination, but with plenty of free play and physical activity. For our children it meant a really relaxed and positive start to their school lives.

Children in the first three years of primary school learn a lot through the use of stories, starting with fairy tales, then the stories of the saints, old testament and ancient mythologies over the years. Once they get to age 10/11 the stories evolve into history and science and a more academic but still holistic approach.

One of the more controversial things for most people is that the children only start to learn to read and write in grades 1 & 2 at quite a slow and thorough pace. We had to make a leap of faith for this too. I could read when I was five already and my children could easily have learned, if we’d tried to teach them then. However with our son we can now see the results. He started reading at the end of class 2, when he was about 8 and has been a voracious reader ever since. Our middle daughter is slower to read by herself but is doing well and looks set to take off any minute. Her writing is coming on well and that always seems to develop first with the Waldorf approach.

I think what this approach allows is more time for children to develop a broad and solid base of abilities: they draw their stories, learn them by heart, practise writing them and thus absorb them very deeply as they learn to read. They first learn the fine motor skills needed to form their letters, learn the patterns of the letters, the feel of them, then they learn first to write and only then learn reading from what they have written.

I like the way that subjects are integrated and the fact that the children remember effortlessly the things they learned several years ago, because they really did absorb them, rather than learn them by rote and then forget them again. They don’t use text books in primary school but write and draw their own main lesson books for each subject, which become really beautiful works of art.

I also like the way that spiritual development is considered important, but is fostered by stories and appreciation of beauty and the world around them rather than any specific religious teaching. They learn the bible stories as stories without any dogmatic baggage attached.

Waldorf gives children time to grow up at a child’s pace – they don’t rush things but still seem to get there, in a much less stressful way than traditional schools in our experience. Our son gets little bits of homework which he usually finishes off himself without any help in 10 minutes or so, while his friend at a good Cape Town school spends afternoons grappling and getting stressed out over his, leaving both him and his mother exhausted and fed up!

I think the two best things that our children have really gained from Waldorf, which they might not have got from a mainstream school, are self-confidence (they are all quite shy but have learned to speak in public and take part in concerts without thinking twice about it) and creativity, not just in the way they draw, but also in the way they are learning to think for themselves.

Having said all that we are looking at more mainstream high schools for our son in two years time, partly because the Cape Town Waldorf high schools are just too long a commute for us and partly because we think by then he’ll benefit from a more academic approach and with the Waldorf grounding we hope he’ll be able to keep a balanced and creative approach to life and hang on to that precious self-confidence.

The Rules of the Interview Meme
1. Leave a comment saying, “Interview me.”
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. Please make sure I have your email address.
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment, asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.


  1. Great answers, Kit! I enjoyed reading them, and hope that planning your fantasy Nigel Slater meal was fun. I like the way all the things he cooks for you are South African too - fish, lamb and figs. Very yummy.

    I do admire the Waldorf system, and I think a lot of it is included in the general German school system, especially the idea of kids coming to academic subjects late. Here they only start reading between 7 and 8, which seems very late, but they certainly do catch up fast! Within a couple of months of learning to read, L was reading Harry Potter. I think there is nothing more wonderful than a gentle start for children, especially since things get very stressful later on.

    Thanks for playing. Hope you get some interviewees.

  2. Kit,
    Interview me, I so enjoy your blog from far across the ocean over in the states.
    Best regards

  3. I really enjoyed your answers! Confirms why your blog and writing and your personality is so appealing to me. So many American blogs are full of the "dig me" attitude I abhor. You keep it real, honest, lovely. Is this Rudolph Steiner? His biodynamic methods are really catching on here in agriculture. I admire the Waldorf system too..it makes so much sense. How I wish that youngest had been educated this way. I'd love to be interviewed.

  4. Great answers Kit - can I come too when Nigel is cooking?!

    And interesting about the Waldorf school - not having kids myself I have heard that there is some debat re. to Waldorf or not to Waldorf, but never really knew how the system differs from the traditional teaching methods - now you've educated me!

    If I hadn't already asked Charlotte to interview me, I would have asked you :)

    And btw, I won't be visiting Cape Town this trip, otherwise I would have organised a meeting ages ago ;-)


Thanks for your comments - I appreciate every one!