If there’s one chef in SA who knows a thing or two about water-wise cooking, it’s Kobus van der Merwe, who owns and runs Wolfgat in Paternoster on the West Coast.
The food he dishes up at the seaside restaurant is largely from the area, which is dry at the best of times. Van der Merwe uses endemic wild edibles and seaweed in his cooking,
as these need very little in the way of fresh water. "Samphires, for example," he says, referring to halophytes, or plants that grow naturally in highly
saline water. "We use them in our cooking and I see that Woolies is
selling them now. They’re even being cultivated in southern Namibia to be used for biofuel."
Seaweed in particular is a great year-round water-wise option, and if you have a recreational fishing permit, you’re allowed to pick it.
The Wolfgat team also minimises fresh-water usage in the restaurant in simple ways. Waiters don’t change wine glasses after every course, and four of the dishes on the seven-course menu require no cutlery.
"We do a dish that’s plated on a cabbage leaf — so you can even eat that too," the award-winning chef says. "You wouldn’t believe how much water we save by not having to wash so many glasses, dishes and knives and forks."
Van der Merwe reckons people need to take a long, hard look at the way in which they use resources, and they need to be more self-reliant. "We’ve got to look at diversification of our diets too," he says.
"If you eat a hundred different kinds of food versus, say, 30, that immediately takes pressure off production of a small number of products. You only need a little bit of each."