By Gen Terblanche25 May 2023
Recipes for Love and Murder in 10 essential objects
Crime comedy series Recipes for Love and Murder follows the adventures of the local police, newspaper office, and villagers of a Karoo small town called Eden. The Karoo Gazette’s former recipe columnist Maria Purvis (Maria Dolyle Kennedy) has to pivot to writing the advice column, but when someone reaching out for help is murdered, Maria and the Gazette’s rookie reporter Jessie September (Kylie Fisher) meddle in chief detective Khaya Meyer’s (Tony Kgoroge) investigation to find out whodunnit.
When writer-producer-director Karen Jeynes adapted Sally Andrew’s 2015 novel Recipes for Love and Murder: A Tannie Maria Mystery for the TV series, she and her team had to transform all the words and ideas on its page into real places, people and objects. Read on as Karen talks us through just 10 objects that were essential for shaping the story.
1. A chicken named Morag
Recipes For Love And Murder had a huge cast of trained animals under the supervision of Animal Coordinator Garin van Munster of Animal Attraction. But Morag was the star.
Karen: Morag was everyone’s favourite. She came into being because part of adapting a novel is about how you get interiority onto the screen. Having Tannie Maria just talk to herself seemed too convenient, and then we thought about pets. And she’s living in the countryside, so what if her pet is a chicken? We spoke to some animal wranglers early on, who started training chickens from little tiny chicks to see which ones were the skilled, talented chickens. We got sent chicken casting videos – definitely a highlight of my career. We had to have stand-in chickens as well. We had one chicken who was chased by the rooster because we didn’t want to upset Morag. Morag came to the launch with Faizel Sallie, her animal wrangler. She now lives a life of luxury as a retired lap chicken.
2. Three dead ducks
One of the most heartbreaking moments in the series comes courtesy of three ducks.
Karen: They were very upsetting. Their symbolism is quite clear in the show. They were a gift, and the killing of them is a pointed attack on the person, and on the giver of the ducks. It’s the first real sign of violence in the show.
The animals were such a lovely, joyous part of this show … apart from the sheep. The animal wranglers were in the pond, in the water, having to nudge the ducks around. So there were real, live ducks, but these were not the killed ducks. The dead ducks were just dead ducks. They were very distressing to a lot of people, but that was the most effective way to do that.
3. Tannie Maria’s green pendant
Tannie Maria wears a delicate green stone pendant throughout the series.
Karen: This It wasn’t something that was in the script. But as soon as we had a conversation with wardrobe (headed by costume designer Nawaal Hendricks), we decided she wasn’t a fiddly person. She wasn’t picking stuff to match her outfits. But she likes beautiful things, and this became one of those things that she had inherited from her mother.
Tannie Maria is a chameleon in that she’s between different worlds. She’s a South African, but she’s not. And she lives in Eden, but she doesn’t because she’s on the outskirts. There are few things that are central to her and that connection with her mother. It’s seen through the cooking, and through this beautiful thing – it’s this sense that you are loved. She always wears it … until at some point, she doesn’t, because it gets taken from her
4. One red copy of Kook En Geniet
South Africa’s kitchen essential, Kook En Geniet by SJA De Villiers (first published in 1951), tackles everything from boiling a sheep’s head, to planning a formal dinner. There are two copies of the book onscreen, Maria’s faded red, cloth-bound edition (printed around 1970), and the revised format, illustrated edition (published in 1992).
Karen: That was always so central to the story for us. Her mother maybe wasn’t very loving in a lot of other ways, but cooking was always the expression of care. Maria didn’t pop out and buy it once she arrived in the Karoo. No, she’s grown up with that since she was the tiniest person. It allows her to connect to the people of Eden. They have Kook En Geniet as well, and she understands them in that sort of way.
The art department (headed by Art Director Stefan Benade, with Kristan Giliomee acting as props buyer) brought us several copies of Kook En Geniet with different covers. The different iterations, and the different covers, speak to different generations. We had long discussions about which one it should be, and which one was the most iconic. We loved the simplicity of this (Maria’s) one, as well as the real sense of age and being part of someone’s life.
5. One green cake tin with a bullet hole in it
Tannie Maria’s kitchen is filled with gorgeous vintage treasures, including her big, mint-green cake tin.
Karen: One of the glorious things about Maria is that her food is not just in the cooking of it, it’s in that enjoyment of it, from beginning to end. When she’s serving up her cake, she’s presenting it with a flourish from her gorgeous cake tin and giving a little dollop of cream. The cake tin is emblematic of some of the conflict between Maria and the police. Her cake tin is right there in the middle of the investigation, getting in the way.
Rocco Pool (the series’ production designer) and his department did a fantastic job finding the visual ways to bring the show to life. Our art department spent so long looking for that tin. They raided our executive producer’s (Thierry Cassuto) kitchen at one point because he has a wife with the most excellent style. They went out to a lot of markets, to a lot of prop stores. But in this industry often you need doubles of things. You need the cake tin, and you need the cake tin with the bullet hole. Sometimes you find a beautiful, beautiful thing but there’s only one. And you’re like, “Oh, guys, this is so risky!” because if anything happens to it, we don’t have shooting doubles.
6. One crime fiction novel titled Killer With a K, by Ava Doyle
Recipes for Love and Murder created their own in-series crime novel, as read in bed by Aileen McClintlock (Robyn Scott), the sister of Tannie Maria’s late husband Mickey Purvis (Ashley Dowds).
Karen: We spoke a lot about what books she was going to be reading. We had various potential jokes about what it could be, and we ended up loving the idea of having a crime novel within a crime series. It’s a little nod to crime fiction enthusiasts who like to solve the mystery as they go along. And it’s a reminder that you don’t know who to look out for – much like when you’re reading a crime novel.
On screen it’s got to be something that reads quite quickly. So we were always looking at that sort of knife (on the cover). If we do a future series, we might have to figure out what the next book in the series is for that as well.
7. One shed full of carcasses
You cannot fill a metal shed with real kudu carcasses during a film shoot under the blazing Karoo sun. But when it comes to TV, we need to believe it’s there.
Karen: We had fake carcasses there, which were quite terrifying. The art department created these incredible carcasses from some kind of plasticky thing. They were then painted within an inch of their lives and spread with something so that they glistened. Then a lot of thought was put into, well, if they’re hanging then what would be around them? What would be under them? That was not like the duck stuff, though, it was definitely not real.
It’s a reminder for our viewers that we are in the Karoo; we’re not in Cape Town. And the country people are used to wielding axes and finding some of their own food and being more connected to nature and the wilder side of things.
8. One cork-board full of pictures, notes and string
The Karoo Gazette’s amateur detective cork-board, filled with clues and connections, is worth a pause to check it out when you’re bingeing the show.
Karen: Because this is a crime series, we have the classic cork-board filled with photos, string and notes. We always knew, when we designed the office, that that board was going to be there. It evolves over a few episodes, and that was quite a thing for our art department because we had to have continuity on the murder board and we were shooting some scenes slightly out of sequence. The eagle-eyed among you will see which things Maria blocks on that board when someone comes in to visit the office.
It was speaking to us about a couple of things: if you’re amateur detectives, what are you going to do when you’re trying to solve something? Well, you are going to do what you’ve seen in the movies. And then it gets a little upgrade when Hattie (the Karoo Gazette editor Hattie Wilson, played by Jennifer Steyn) gets more involved. You can see the business woman taking over and bringing a little order and little less crazy thinking to the situation.
9. One pair of red veldskoen with the toes cut off
Tannie Maria’s red veldskoen come to a tragic end when they’re stolen and used to threaten her.
Karen: We had to have veldskoen stunt doubles! Tannie Maria’s red veldskoen are 100% from the books – like her sky-blue bakkie. They remind us that you’re in a place where you need practical, comfortable shoes. This is a piece of her that has become iconically hers, but that was found and grounded here in Eden.
Her cake tin takes a hit, and then her veldskoen take a hit, and that’s designed to scare her off. If there is something that you’re used to wearing every single day of your life and you suddenly have it taken away from you, you’re unsettled a little bit. It really gets under her skin, but it makes her determined that she will see this through.
10. One colourful hospital waiting-room wall
Even the scenes shot in Eden’s hospital are lively and colourful thanks to its fun, jungle themed mural.
Karen: The hospital wall was a delightful serendipity because it’s there. It exists at the location we were shooting at! We painted half of Prince Albert, but we didn’t do the mural. As soon as we saw it, we loved it. It’s speaking to this thing of nature and, to (our co-producer) Christiaan Olwagen’s (Kanarie) wonderful “boere modeware” (farmer fashion) aesthetic that he’s brought to the series.
The waiting room became a very interesting space, because so many of our cast wrapped on those last few days at the hospital. We all got quite emotional, having them there.
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