Steel magnolia


    Rina Theron proves that you can’t keep a good woman down.

    Adversity sent Rina Theron on the road of transitioning from farmer’s wife to award-winning farmer and author. After her husband Marius died tragically in a motorbike accident in 1996, she faced the choice of do or don’t. Do won the day and at the age of 48 she took the reins of the potato and Brahman cattle farming business on Aan Het Berg in the Leipoldtville district.

    Over the years her pluck paid off as she notched up a number of firsts: first female director of Boland Agri (now Cape Agri); first registered Sandveld female potato seed grower; first female vice-chairperson of the Sandveld Potato Growers Organisation; and first female chairperson of the Leipoldtville Agricultural Society. She was also named top producer for national markets in the Department of Agriculture’s female farmer competition 2000.

    Originally from Knysna, Rina explained that adapting to the gritty Sandveld life was no piece of cake. “But somehow this area gets into your bones. Even though I officially retired two years ago, ready for a little house at the sea, my heart belongs to the Sandveld. So this is where I’ll stay.”

    In 2007 she started farming in partnership with her brother-in-law’s son, Francois Theron. “Six years into the partnership with a bit more me-time, I finally could tackle the book I’d been mulling over. The original idea was to preserve the history of Sandveld life and its one-of-a-kind personalities for posterity. But I needed a unique selling proposition and seeing that there’s no love sincerer than the love of food, this proved the perfect USP.”

    After four years of research, interviewing, writing and much laughter, Sandveldkos: Kosnostalgie en stories van gister (Sandveld food: food nostalgia and tales of yesteryear) saw the light of day in 2017 – days before Rina’s 70th birthday. Not surprisingly, the book was named Best Local Cuisine Book on the African continent at the 2017 Gourmand World Cookbook Awards.

    As the title suggests, this isn’t a recipe book per se. It also contains profiles on born-and-bred Sandveld personalities who share their tales, humour, ingenious household maintenance tips and veld medicine used to cure a laundry list of ailments. “In those years, with no roads or shops, survival was key. And even though many Sandveld inhabitants were quite poor, they managed to cook wholesome, tasty meals from whatever was available seasonally. It was an eye opener! As it were, this book essentially is a tribute to the resourceful Sandveld women.”

    Rina said her personal favourite recipe in the book was undoubtedly Jodetert (pg 81) – a Jewish tart similar to baking a rusk tart with baker’s custard between seven layers. “I also love Wasgoedbondeltjies (pg 46) – a square type of mince pie, curried bean bredie (pg 130) and not forgetting the Sandveld piece de resistance: potato fritters (pg 135).

    Even in retirement, Rina considers boredom an insult to herself. Still living on the farm, she’s active in the community, keeps the garden ship-shape, grows the uniquely Sandveld bean variety called herebone and reads incessantly under the watchful gaze of Siamese Tweenie.

    To veg out I read and write
    My pet place on the West Coast is Langebaan
    My favourite restaurant is Die Rooi Granaat in Aurora
    I love eating steamed vegetables
    My signature drink is a single malt whisky
    Best TV programmes are Air Crash Investigation & anything on nature
    Favourite reads are biographies, mysteries, John Grisham & Deon Meyer

    To buy the book for R485, contact Rina on 083 6910808 or