Food for Thought: John Didlick

John Didlick of The Gee Jays… loves a good braai or to make a potjie.

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BILLY SUTER talks to popular Durban singer and funnyman JOHN DIDLICK about his food and drink likes and dislikes. A recently retired teacher and a longtime member of The Gee Jays vocal group – alongside Grant Bell and Marion Loudon – Didlick will next perform with the trio in a new show titled Love Shack. Meshing mirth and music, it is scheduled to be staged at the Rhumbelow Theatre in Umbilo at 7pm on Friday and Saturday, February 26 and 27, and 2pm on Sunday, February 28. The production features 38 songs inspired by love – hits associated with, among others, The Beatles, Bon Jovi, Shania Twain, Kenny Rogers, Sheryl Crow, Bee Gees, Smokie, Michael Bublé, Queen, Lionel Ritchie and Nat King Cole. Tickets cost R160 each and booking is through Computicket or by calling Roland Stansell on 082 499 8636.

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On a scale of one to 10 how good a cook are you? And why do you rate yourself so?

I’d say I’m a six. But I sometimes surprise myself and conjure up a creation that could rival that of even the most seasoned celebrity chefs!

What has been the meal you have had most during lockdown – and why?

Braais and potjies. Eskom’s frequent loadshedding has also made that an easy decision for us to make.

Your most embarrassing/awkward moment in a restaurant?

I haven’t really had one.

Favourite take-away meal order? And what are you unlikely to never order?

My favourite is sushi – I love it! I also enjoy a Chinese cashew nut chicken with noodles. I don’t enjoy the cardboard hamburgers and greasy chips from takeaways. I’d rather make them myself.

What is your first food memory?

Mother’s milk.

Your favourite meal – and also the meal you don’t enjoy much?

I really enjoy my wife, Linda’s, spaghetti bolognaise. She was taught the recipe by an Italian school friend of mine. Simple and memorable. There is very little that I turn my nose up to.

Something you loved to eat or drink when younger, which you can’t find today?

Prickly pears, served cold from the fridge. I don’t see them very often nowadays. I loved Oros as a kid, but have outgrown that.

As a child did you ever develop a taste for unusual foods or unusual combinations of foods?

No, not really. I enjoy almost all and any food. There’s very little that I won’t eat. I refused to eat tripe and onions as a kid, but quite enjoy it now, although I can’t cook it myself and seldom get to eat it.

What is the dish you tend to cook most often?

Beer is the beverage of choice for Durban’s John Didlick.

I braai/potjie quite often and my wife and I enjoy stir-fry grub too. Braaing is a social event and conducive to a couple of “dops”.

What do you like and/or dislike about attending dinner parties?

I enjoy the social intercourse… and the fact that someone else is cooking. I don’t enjoy the fact that one of us has to be the “designated driver” for the evening. Hey, but that’s the law!

What has been your biggest kitchen disaster?

My wife and I were preparing beef stroganoff for dinner guests. We realised, too late, that the red wine we had added was sour, so we proceeded to “wash” the beef. On completing this unusual task, and while trying to replace the lid onto the dish, we dropped it and it shattered into many pieces into the now-washed beef.

We then rewashed the beef, taking great care to remove the earthen pot shards from this unique creation. I can’t remember how the rest of the evening went. We are all still alive, but it has been a talking point for many years.

What has been your biggest culinary success?

My potjies! My family and friends seem to enjoy them. Maybe they’re just being kind?

How serious a wine fundi are you, and what is your favourite tipple

I’m not a connoisseur at all, but enjoy a good, dry, red wine with a meal and dry, white wine on a hot day (with lots of ice). I love beer! Any beer! Lots of beer!

What three people would you most like to invite to dinner?

My two sons (and their families)… but that’s more than three.

What kitchen utensil can you simply not live without?

My little, red-handled Victorinox knife. It’s a lifesaver.

What’s the most kitsch thing in your kitchen – and why is it there?

My wife and I recently retired after 40-odd years in the education field. During lockdown, we have utilised the time to purge and spring-clean every room, cupboard, shelf in the house, of any unwanted/unused items in preparation for the day when we have to clear out the house… so no fancy appliances.

What are some foods you simply refuse to try?

Not keen on oysters!!

What is your favourite restaurant in Durban or KwaZulu-Natal and what do you usually order there?

I enjoy The Bierfassl on The Midlands Meander. They serve a great selection of beers there and the Germans know their Eisbein with sauerkraut.

Favourite restaurant in South Africa and/or abroad?

We used to love Buds on the Bay in Durban but they are no longer operating. Linda and I enjoyed our time in Phuket, Thailand, where we savoured duck, prepared and served in a variety of ways.

Favourite cooking ingredient/s?

I enjoy slapping meals together with whatever is left over/available in the fridge or cupboard.

What marks the most memorable meal you’ve had?

Recently, we travelled to the UK to celebrate my mom’s 90th birthday. It was held in a private venue in a restaurant in Oswestry and was attended by my three sisters, their kids, grandkids and family members that I had never met before. So, all in all, absolutely memorable!

Who is your favourite celebrity cook? And who is your least favourite?

I don’t really enjoy any celeb chefs. They all seem to make a complex science seem easy… and that peeves me!

Your favourite tipple and meal on a hot, humid day? And on a freezing day? 

An ice-cold quart of beer and a braai on a hot, humid summer’s day, preferably around the pool. On a cold day: a triple brandy/rum and Coke with a great stew or a home-made pot of soup!

What is the sexiest of all foods?

All food is a “turn on!”

What do you tend to tip in restaurants?

The customary 10%… but if the service has not been up to standard, I will let the waitron know what my concerns were and leave nothing. Hopefully they will learn from the experience, to assist them in their future serving.

Have you/would you send a dish back at a restaurant if you were not happy with it?.

Steaks! Rare or medium/rare means exactly that… and they often get that wrong! So back it goes!

Favourite dessert/s?

Vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce, but my daughter-in-law’s Peppermint Crisp tart is great too!)

Store-bought sweet you most enjoy?

Maynard’s Wine Gums.


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