Lunch #26: Car-shopping and a R70 sandwich with the Cringe-Inducing Ex

As you may have gathered, I’m fond of having budgets – usually so I can ignore them. But about a year ago, I decided I didn’t feel like having a job any more, and I became an avid disciple of a blogger who calls himself Mr Money Mustache.

Mr MM advocates early retirement (not as in ‘at age 55’, but as in ‘within 10 years of starting work, around age 30’) through badassity. It turns out that badassity is Canook for ‘using your common sense and not spending money on heaps of crap’. It’s amazing how you can change your life just by getting good at not buying things. And, as a not insignificant bonus, you also end up being far nicer to the planet.

Now, a sensible Mustachian would obviously do all their saving before retiring. Naturally, I poo-pooed that idea. And, just before waving goodbye to my desk, I did something else that would have had Mr MM crying into his stash in despair: I bought yet another fancy clown car.

I blame Top Gear, but it seemed natural at the time to fork out close to R200k for a shiny Audi. Besides, I’d recently survived a major accident, in which my last fancy clown car (an overpriced Mini) successfully saved me and my passenger from injuries too awful to contemplate. (We tried contemplating them. It wasn’t fun.)

But, after a year of doing whatever I wanted – which, oddly enough, involved very little driving – that beautiful, expensive piece of machinery suddenly stopped making sense. One day, I woke up and realised I didn’t want it. What I wanted was a vintage hipster bicycle for tootling around town and a tiny little Noddy-car for groceryering. (Unlike Mr MM, I can’t see myself growing enough facial hair to use a bike trailer.)

The Audi quickly found a new, more appreciative owner, and I trawled Gumtree looking for one of these:

Top Gear can also be a good influence on car buyers.

Top Gear can also be a good influence on car buyers.

It was an educational experience. Here are a few of my favourite ads:

Ag dad, man!

Ag dad, man!

This guy's got his priorities straight (and his CapsLock stuck)

This man’s got his priorities straight. (I’m pretty sure it’s a man.)

Yes! Yes! I deserve it! My time is... hang on a second.

Am intrigued by this democratic approach to Lambo ownership. Wonder if they’d let me own it for hmmm, three and a half seconds?

Not entirely sure 'neck breaker' is on anyone's list of motoring must haves.

Not sure how neck brakes work. They sound uncomfortable.

Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 2.31.04 PM

Sardines might work at a push.

Maybe it's got something to do with being so close to the coast?

Minnows need not apply.

I just can't. Even.

I just can’t. Even.

I worked really hard at my car-buying. I read reviews for almost every tiny car made in the last 10 years. I read detailed instructions on how to inspect a car. I read a 12-page undercover report by a journalist who’d been sent to spy on car salesmen. I read Terry Pratchett. (That wasn’t technically part of the research, but it was necessary after several straight hours of Gumtreeing.)

I drove to Somerset West to grimace at a mangy Panda. I drove to Paarl to get a speeding fine. I went to see cars in the dark and rain and cars that would have looked much better in the dark and rain. Until, eventually, I’d had enough.

I’d like to say that the car I ended up buying is the best possible fit for my budget and requirements, but there’s a chance I simply bought it out of fatigue. Plus, the friend I took with me to inspect it (as per expert car-shopping instructions) was about as much use in this regard as a week-old newspaper.

The Cringe-Inducing Ex is one of only two ex-boyfriends who still actively seek my company. Since, like Taylor Swift and most other women in the world, I’m a psycho bitch from hell, this makes him a very special friend indeed.

On the down side, the CIE’s chief pleasure in my company is retelling the same embarrassing stories about our relationship and making the same mortifying observations about my taste in subsequent boyfriends every single time I see him. In fact, in case you were ever considering dating me, I advise you not to. The CIE will come up with a nickname for you so hideously accurate that I won’t be able to get past it.

“Seen The Turtle lately?” the CIE inquired for the hundredth time as he drove us through the mist towards Montague Gardens.

“No, I haven’t seen him for YEARS. You KNOW that.”

I dashed into Broadway Bakery to buy some pasteis in the forlorn hope he’d lose his train of thought. No such luck.

“So, any news on The Queen Mother?” he asked, crunching pastry. “Is he married yet?”

“I told you, I don’t follow him on Facebook. Why don’t YOU stalk him if you’re so interested?”

“I used to, when you were dating him.”

At last we reached the dealership and took the little car for a test drive.

“What do you think?” I asked him as we pootled along in an underpowered kind of way.

“It seems very small,” he said.

“Yes, that’s the point.”

“But you’ve always had nice cars. What will The Walking Dead think of you driving a car like this?”

“It doesn’t MATTER what he’d think, since I’m never going to SEE him again.”

Back at the dealership, I reminded the CIE to kick the tyres. He pronounced them all present, so I went into the Wendy house and bought the car.

As a thank you for his sterling service, I then dragged the CIE through the icy, windy streets of Lower Woodstock to find some lunch. The CIE looked around nervously.

“Do you walk here often?” he asked.

“Yes, all the time.”

“Are we anywhere near the Old Biscuit Mill?”

“It’s just around the corner.”

“Can we go there, then? I’d feel safe there.”

“I won’t,” I grumbled. “The prices they charge can be very dangerous.”

We wandered through the empty, echoing cloisters of the Old Biscuit Mill. Behind the cutesy artsy bucket mill fountain thing, a warm, inviting deli doorway beckoned.

Saucisse deli.

We went inside. They had bread.

Bread.

Bread.

They had meat.

Meat.

Meat.

They had cheese.

Cheese.

Cheese.

Since these are three of my favourite things, we sat down and asked for a menu.

There’s a well-documented phenomenon in behavioural economics called relativity (it’s not the Einstein kind). Essentially, when you’re dealing with large amounts of money, smaller amounts of money seem relatively insignificant.

For example, if you were at the Waterfront buying a handbag for R12,000, the chance of saving R200 on it would be unlikely to cause you to drive to Century City. But, if you wanted a pair of jeans that cost R250, you’d probably drive all the way to Belville to buy the same jeans for R50. I think this is why I barely flinched when I looked at the menu and saw that the sandwiches were around the R70 range*. After all, I’d just bought a car.

I ordered a roast beef on sourdough with shaved Gruyere. The CIE ordered a more reasonably-priced bowl of R55 pea and brie soup. We sat and waited for our food.

“I like their sign,” I said to the CIE, pointing at the deli’s branding on the counter. “I like how they’ve used such a tiny little sausage. It’s cute.”

The CIE considered it for a while.

Then said: “Doesn’t it remind you of …”

A R70 sandwich.

A R70 sandwich.

*If you think it’s ridiculous that I’m examining why I went ahead and ordered a R70 sandwich – thus violating my strict R50 lunch budget – I’m sorry to say it, but your Mustache needs work.

 

Lunch #25: Pregos and Pasteis at Broadway Bakery

When one gets to the grand old age of *mumble mumble mumble*, it’s very important to place a high value on your work. After all, you’ve spent decades accumulating your skills and experience, and they’re now almost definitely worth something.

Let’s take my Photoshop skills, for instance. I was taught Photoshop about *cough cough* years ago by a now-world-famous artist and, if I say so myself (and I usually do), I am not bad with a magic wand. Of course, I am absolutely crap at using every single other tool and I routinely can’t remember how to create a mask, let alone what to do with it when I have.

Nonetheless, I once entered a competition at Design Indaba, using Photoshop to create a hideous poster featuring photographs of my toothy grin next to the somewhat confused grins of several random strangers. We had 30 minutes to design our posters and I spent 15 of those minutes trying to remember how to add text. Incredibly, I won. So I am, in fact, a prize-winning designer and Photoshopper, as judged by an international panel of (clearly barking) design experts.

However, this means that I am occasionally faced with a quandary. Some of my best friends are bloggers, and one of them is even world famous. But, while she has wisdom and insight beyond anyone else I know into this crazy little thing called life, she also thinks that I can design things. (She never saw the Indaba poster.)

And, if there’s one thing more important than not working for free once you’re over 23 (unless it’s for a registered charity), it is never to let friends pay you for work (at least, not with their own money). Because that is just awkward. And weird.

So when The Yummy Mummy came over this morning to suggest some improvements to the great work of art that is the header image I made for her blog, she not only praised my efforts with an effusiveness that reminded me strongly of those deluded design experts, but she also insisted on taking me out to lunch afterwards. (Ha! I bet you were wondering when I’d get around to the lunch.)

Now, she knows that, aside from Societi Bistro, which occupies its own dimension of restaurantaurial perfection, I am not fond of fashionable eateries. So we went jousting the taxis around the Salt River circle, then down the gorge of the vile beast that is Voortrekker Road where, at number 109, she led us into an unexpected treasure-trove.

Broadway Bakery is like a miniature, Portuguese version of everyone’s favourite German deli, Raith, minus the annoying accompaniment of Gardens shopping mall. There’s a bakery counter, a coffee counter, a few shelves of imported food-type things, and six tiny bar tables with high chairs where you can sit and order prego rolls, grilled chorizo and other great staples of Portuguese haute cuisine.

Broadway Bakery interior

Free wifi and Frankie’s Cinnamon Cola. Not what I was expecting on Voortrekker Road.

I almost ordered the bifana, a roast pork roll, but in the end we both stuck with classic beef pregos, responding with detectable levels of outrage when the waitress asked if we wanted chips or salad with them.

Prego roll and chips

Honestly, who orders a prego roll with salad? Yay for chips!

They were delish: soft, fresh Portuguese rolls, obviously baked right there this morning, with tender, tasty steak in perfect amounts of marinade, and hand-cut chips that were much less greasy than most (so probably as good for us as salad in any case).

And, because I am halfway to becoming another Mr Money Mustache, I was thrilled to see that our lunches were less than R50 each. (Back in 2011, my lunch budget was R40, but I’ve made a generous concession to inflation.)

Unfortunately, The Yummy Mummy still has a long way to go on her journey towards Mustachianism, because, not only did she buy my lunch, she then insisted on buying me half a dozen of the most fabulously flakey, crunchy, creamy pasteis de nata to take home. (R7 each – take that, Vida!) And she wouldn’t even take one of them for herself.

Pasteis de nata

Yes, I know they look fluorescent yellow and they aren’t really. But bad food photography is one of the things I pride myself on in this blog.

So there you go: I will do Photoshop for praise, pregos and pasteis.

(But only if I love you very, very much.)