A bit of hora with your kneidlach, anyone?
There’s something entertaining about asking your first-time dinner guests to pronounce “kneidlach” especially when they’ve never heard of it or partaken of the traditional fare.
Skye Mac Arthur, 32, who unabashedly describes herself as a “Joburg Jewish girl born and bred” is a recent winner of the popular BBC reality television show Come Dine with Me South Africa on BBC Lifestyle channel 174.
From the get-go she set out to entertain and enthral with a Jewish-themed vegetarian menu coupled with her seemingly exaggerated – but not – Joburg Jewish accent, and her vivacious and infectious energy.
“I’m proudly Jewish, and I wanted to share my culture and traditional food with my guests and television viewers,” she told the SA Jewish Report after winning.
The animated Grade 2 primary school teacher is the real deal, embodying Joburg Jewish vibes more authentically than any imagined version ever could. She’s not the spoilt, materialistic, entitled type, more a single city girl looking for Mr Right cum Yiddishe mama in the making. All this with a healthy dose of bubbly charm, warmth, and exuberance packaged with flair and straight, jet black hair.
“I can be a bit much,” she says, but “I am who I am, you get what you get, and this is me.”
Describing herself further, she says, “I don’t drink, I’m a vegetarian, and I’m an animal lover.”
Mac Arthur is Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, The Nanny, and Tali Babes rolled into one fizzy ball of energy, except she’s the genuine article, delivering line after line of hilarity without even realising it.
“I don’t eat shrimp because I’m Jewish,” she explains to the camera, with dramatic hand movements telling a story all their own.
Come Dine with Me is a British reality series that has aired on Channel 4 for many years and is narrated by Dave Lamb. It has many international versions including in South Africa. Amateur chefs who live in the same town each host a three-course dinner party for the other contestants at their own homes. Each competitor then rates the hosts’ food and hosting skills, with the highest scoring chef winning R10 000.
Mac Arthur decided at the last minute to enter the show because she loves cooking and has been told that “she’s made for television”.
“I applied online at the very last minute when applications were closing,” she says, persuaded by her family, who said she would be a perfect contestant.
“I ummed and ahhed about whether to go for it, and in the end, decided I had nothing to lose, never for a minute thinking I’d actually win.” She was amazed to receive an email two days later saying that she’d made it to the next round of auditions which involved filming herself saying why she’d make a good contestant.
“I said, ‘I’m a Joburg Jewish girl, I love meeting new people and getting to know them, and of course, cooking my type of food.’”
Before serving wine to her three guests upon arrival, she taught them to clink their glasses and say, “le chaim” which she explained was a Hebrew word for “cheers”.
Her menu included a starter of vegetable soup and kneidlach served with challah.
“I specifically used the word ‘kneidlach’ because I knew it would be funny to hear them pronounce it. I mean, everyone can say ‘matzah ball’,” she says.
Her starter received mixed reviews, with one guest intimating it was “nice but not for me”, saying it was an “interesting experience” for which he was grateful, and another saying she wasn’t a “big fan” describing the taste as “sour”.
Next, she served melanzane, calling it “aubergine schnitzel”, served with a green salad on the side.
Mac Arthur rounded off her meal with a traditional crustless Jewish baked cheesecake, which was well received.
One guest seemed confused when he read what was on the desert menu, saying, “I’m trying to figure out if the cheesecake is Jewish because it was baked in a Jewish house or is the cheese cake Jewish because the cheese is Jewish? I mean what kind of cake is Jewish?”
While being filmed during the making of her meal, Mac Arthur wore a white t-shirt with the words “Oi vey” written across the front.
Dramatic and exuberant, Mac Arthur told her guests, “As a teacher, I use my classroom as a stage. I feel like I’m a performer.”
Her guests were agog as she regaled them with stories from Jewish speed dating sessions; taught them how to do the hora to the upbeat sound of Hava Nagilah; and sent them off with a hearty “Mazeltov guys – you’ve got this!”
And there were lots of mazeltovs when her name was drawn as the winning contestant.
“I was so excited, I wanted to dance the hora. I had the best time,” she says.
Season 9, episode 8, featuring contestants Skye Mac Arthur, Tinashe Zwambila, Warren Hickinbotham, and Sasha-Lee Findlay was aired a few weeks ago, and can be viewed on DStv catchup.
- Come Dine with Me South Africa airs on Wednesdays at 20:00 on BBC Lifestyle, DStv Channel 174, repeated every Thursday at 17:00.