In 2018, Damhuis Restaurant released Damhuis: Recipes and Memories of a House, a collector’s item that features recipes curated by Executive Chef Stéfan Meintjes and co-author Dirk Nagtegaal and stories from the visionary writer Reinet Nagtegaal.
Each chapter of the book includes essays from Nagtegaal that draw on available historical facts and embellished with elements of fiction.
Building the Visschuur (1780-81): A short excerpt as written by Reinet Nagtegaal
The building is getting on Gesina’s nerves. She stays in the tent at Melkbos for a week or two, but Krisjan is always busy with something. Mostly she stays at Papendorp for long periods, alone with the three children. She nags Krisjan for a slave of her own because she feels terrible always having to borrow her mother’s, but Krisjan refuses to pay for another hired slave.
‘The building at Melkbos is costing too much,’ he moans. ‘And for land that is not even in our name, I might add.’ She turns her back because she knows that once he starts complaining about old Governor De Graaff, there is no stopping him. ‘Right is right, and for the right of way, the militia must honour their promise.’
For years now, they have tolerated the soldiers taking a shortcut across their small piece of land in Papendorp. As compensation, De Graaff paid Krisjan with the land amongst the milkwoods. Tax-free. But it has been two years since Krisjan started clearing the milkwoods and cutting stone, and the land has still not been transferred into his name.
Gesina knows very well when to stop nagging. ‘The price of hiring a slave is enormous. And besides, you have Kassien April,’ Krisjan mumbles.
He’d won the slave in a card game. April, blind and toothless, who had lost his eyes in a fire long before Krisjan won him as a prize. Still, he is able to chop wood, and in between meals he helps with the lime kiln on Melkbos. He carries buckets full of shells from the beach, and once a week he stokes the lime kiln. The kiln at the beachfront was built by the previous neighbour, burgher Nicolaas Laubser. It is still in good working condition, and the lime brings in enough extra money for them to keep stoking it.
To Gesina’s frustration, Krisjan starts building the barn next to the fountain first. ‘Damhuis first, because the fish that we are going to dry there will be our bread and butter,’ he says. Everything he can lay his hands on goes into the walls, even the old whalebones he finds strewn on the beach. ‘It is for luck,’ he says. ‘According to the slaves, these bones will bring good luck and lure even more whales to our shores.’