Louis Jansen van Vuuren and I have a lot of mutual friends – ranging from artists like Kevin Collins (as a celebrated artist and art lecturer, Louis knows everyone in the art world), Tiffany and Kate Turkington (Kate features in Louis’ book “Almost French” and is a big fan of La Creuzette – more on that later) to Anet Pienaar-Vosloo (they’ve been best friends for ever and have a multitude of stories to share) – the list goes on.

But we had never met. Until September 2021 when the Stellenbosch AGM – the trio of Rikus, Celeste and Anne who kindly tolerate me as part of the group – visited La Creuzette in Boussac, right in the middle of France.

The region is beautiful, “undiscovered” gem of the French countryside. A place where around thirty South Africans have homes and contribute to the local community in ways one would expect from our phenomenal diaspora.

The AGM fell in love with Louis, his partner Hardy Olivier and all the people we met via them. What ensued were a few days of minimal sleep, stunning memory-making experiences, continuous laughter and friendships that feel as if they have existed for ever. I think the universe purposefully kept Louis and me apart until now because post meeting, we’ve had a lot of fun in France and South Africa and cooked up a few projects! With Hardy, himself very busy with numerous renovation projects and his work at La Creuzette, always behind the scenes to assist and influence. And maintain some sense of sanity!

Cut to the present day. A year later. Louis is busy with a book titled “There’s a vegan on my verandah” (also being printed in Afrikaans and French) as well as a doccie for DStv Via titled “Tuin en Spens”.

Both the book – where Louis has collaborated with long-time friend and award-winning cookbook writer, fashionista and downright gorgeous Isabella Niehaus – and the doccie are recipes and stories grounded in veganism. Yep, you read that right – all this fuss about VEGAN food!

The word “vegan” for most people doesn’t conjure up amazing images, memories or experiences. Louis told me the word sounds like a wet dog. Not ideal! BUT TRUE.

However, once you have tasted a five-course vegan meal prepared by Louis, listened to his stories of sustainable bee farming, seen him making pesto from dandelions and walked in his garden, you begin to realise that while we may not all be turning vegan overnight, being more aware of plant-based foods and the creativity they can inspire, is in fact a delight.

I feel very privileged in my personal capacity and via CN&CO to be involved in Louis and Isabella’s book and the doccie. A few surprises await – like a visit to the Priory garden at Notre Dame d’Orsan – the inspiration for Babylonstoren. The team is working hard to have the book ready for Woordfees in October and the VIA team, post magic by the WYRD team, will be airing the doccie towards the end of the year.

Keep an eye out on CN&CO for more info on the vegan feast!

PS – The AGM visit a year ago to La Creuzette was inspired by Anet and so only fitting that while in Boussac towards the middle of August, I’ll be working with Anet and her team on a ten-part series for Via called “Mooi Frankryk.” Rikus from CN&CO will also be assisting – and, again proving the smallness and wonder of the world – only fitting as Rikus met Anet while working with her one daughter Loren at Media24 many years ago.

The Mooi Frankryk production promises to be as beautiful as Anet’s previous Mooi series on Via and with a trip for two to Europe from Club Med to be won, EasyEquities being involved (many of the South Africans with homes in Boussac are EasyEquities clients) I cannot wait for you all to see the final product. Anet is a freelance journalist and photographer, so keep your eyes peeled for the beautiful images she’ll be sharing.

And since it is now, as I finish this blog, a lovely Sunday winter afternoon in Johannesburg, I think the time is perfect to light the fire for a braai. After all, I am not yet a full-on vegan …

Photo credits: Louis, Isabella, La Creuzette