Monday, 18 January 2010

Fools Gold - All that glisters is not gold

When I was about 8 or 9 years old, I acquired a piece of "fools gold", which is actually iron pyrite. I was so excited; I had a real lump of gold! I proudly presented my treasure to my folks and it was then I learned the lesson: "All that glisters is not gold"!

South Africa is a country that has rich gold reserves, so I wasn't so far off the mark in thinking I had the real thing.

The first European prospectors found alluvial gold in Limpopo Province (South Africa's most Northerly province) between 1840 and 1870, but the first major gold rush only started in February 1873, at Pilgrims Rest, which is in Mpumalanga further to the East.

Legend has it that when Alex "Wheelbarrow" Patterson discovered his major strike, he shouted "Now at last, a pilgrim can rest!", within a year 1500 prospectors were there, having staked 4000 claims.

By 1898, the gold production was in the Witwatersrand (which stretches from Johannesburg to Welkom), part of the Zuid Afrikaanse Republiek and had exceeded the entire production of the United States of America! It was this discovery which led to the city of Johannesburg, which is aptly named by the locals as "Egoli" (The City of Gold). Within 10 years of finding gold in Johannesburg, the city had already grown larger than Cape Town, which was more than 200 years older.

It was only in 2007 that South Africa was surpassed by China as the world largest gold producer. It is estimated that 40% of the world's gold reserves are held here. The Witwatersrand basin, has produced more than 41 000 t of gold and remains the greatest unmined source of gold in the world. As of 2009, the deepest mine in the world is TauTona (Great Lion) in Carletonville, South Africa at 3.9 kilometers deep (2.4 miles).

The first claim (with the then government of the ZAR) was registered by an Australian, George Harrison. He sold his claim for £10 and was never heard of again. It is thought that he was forced to sell and leave the country, and then killed before he got home!

The Witwatersrand Gold Rush was a major contributing factor to the Jamison Raid and the outbreak of the Second Boer War. This war lasted from 1899 -1902, and it saw the introduction of the Scorched Earth policy.

This policy is where everything that might be useful to the enemy is destroyed by fire. The British systematically destroyed crops, burned homesteads and farms and poisoned wells. The Boer women and children were imprisoned in concentration camps, instituted by Lord Kitchener. Over 26,000 women and children were to perish in these concentration camps.

Towards the end of the war, British tactics of containment, denial and harassment began to yield results against the Boers and made it harder and harder for the Boers and their families to survive.

By May 1902, to prevent further bloodshed, the last of the Boer troops surrendered, mourning the deaths of mainly women and children who died in British internment camps. The independent Boer republic of the Transvaal was no more - the region became part of the British Empire . In 1910 the Transvaal became a province of the newly created Union of South Africa, a British Dominion. The war ended with the Treaty of Vereeniging signed on 31 May 1902.

The gold in South Africa was a prize far too tempting to the British Empire, and so the South Africans lost their independence and some would only regain it again in again in 1934. It would be another 60 years, almost to the day, before all South Africans could participate in a democratic general election.

So, back to the Fools Gold and Homemade Heaven Kitchen.

I didn't manage to manufacture gold bars (or Fools Gold) in my kitchen, that would be Alchemy, an ancient practice focused on the attempt to change base metals into gold. But I did make a pretty good cheats mayonnaise, which is worth more than a wheelbarrow of Fools Gold. And judging from the heartache that came from the discovery of gold in our country's history, I think I'll stick to making mayonnaise.

Quick and Easy Homemade Mayo
With a Stick blender

1 Egg (fresh as possible)
Juice of Half a Lemon
White Pepper
½ Teaspoon Mustard (I like English)
± 125ml Sunflower Oil

Place the first 5 ingredients in a jug (I use the plastic jug that came with my stick blender)
Place the stick blender in the jug and start whizzing.
Pour in enough oil until you have the consistency you wish.
Using a stick blender means you don't have to pour the oil in drop by drop, you can add it quite fast.
Check the seasoning, and serve.
Keep refrigerated and use within 2/3 days.


Nina Timm said...

Looks truly divine!!!

Dharm said...

Yeap...visited the old Gold Mine in Gold Reef City too before going up to Entabeni reserve. You can tell that I really loved SA!! Can even sing the first few lines of N'kosi Sikelelei Africa... anyway, lovely blog you have here and can't wait to find a Potje recipe!!

Gattina said...

heart really aches when reading the history... allows me to join you making the mayo then.

Kasha said...

Homemade mayo?! Great for my future food storage project! Thank you and YOU have a great day!

Jeanne @ Cooksister! said...

Oooh - I think a good mayo is probably worth MORE than gold. To me, at any rate!!

Jeremiah 17: 7-8

"Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. He will be like a tree planted by the water."

It is not your business to succeed, but to do what is right : when you have done so, the rest lies with God.
C.S. Lewis

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