Category Archives: women’s…”Issues?”

An Interview with South African Gourmet Baker Kari Mansfeld


Have you ever eaten something so good it stopped you in your tracks? When I was at the Fancy Food Show earlier this year I tasted one of the most incredible things in the world. It was Kari’s South African Tea Cake from Kari’s Desserts.

This recipe I later discovered was passed down through the generations. Kari Mansfeld, the founder, like so many other female entrepreneurs in the gourmet food industry was working in retail when she decided to realize her passion.

Kari was encouraged to start a business to sell the desserts she made for her friends and family at dinner parties.

She “fell” into the gourmet food industry just out of passion for baking. I had never seen anything like what she made, and was absolutely enamored with the desserts I tried. I’m not the only one who has discovered Kari’s Desserts. Malva Pudding is the favorite dessert of Nelson Mandela. Art Smith and Oprah Winfrey’s personal chef.

Women like Kari who take a big risk by leaving steady corporate jobs to pursue their passion are my heroes. She answered some questions for me at the Fancy Food Show. Check out our interview below.

What got you interested in the food industry?

I was never a very good cook – at least not in my opinion, and was very happy to source out easy and delicious alternatives to actually making something myself. But when I did cook, it was dessert as I always liked it. I served my desserts at dinner parties and finally enough foodie friends said that I should make it and sell it.  I set about producing the first Kari’s Malva Pudding.

Where did these recipes come from?

The recipes for Kari’s Malva Pudding and Kari’s Chocolate Malva Pudding are based on traditional South African recipes. It took a while to come up with one that really tasted just the way I liked it and came out consistent in production. The recipe for the Kari’s Fridge Cake is my granny’s. My granny used to make it and then my mother made it all the time, and I have been making it the same way my whole life.

Kari, at the Fancy Food Show 2012, is on the left.

Do you feel you were ever treated differently because you were a woman, in the U.S. and in South Africa?

I do not feel really like I have been treated unfairly in either place, but have some simple observations. When I first started working in South Africa, I was designing bathing suits for a very large international brand in the South African division. I worked with all women on the textile end, but all men (with the exception of one secretary) on the footwear end.  It never struck me as odd at the time, but I know that I would not have had the respect as a designer if I had been constructing the complicated athletic sports shoes – it was understood that I could make a bikini, but I would be out of my league with a rugby boot.  Truth be told, I think we were all doing what we were best at, it just was very sexually divided. I never knew if the footwear designers were getting paid more or the same as I was.  The administration in the company was all male.

When I moved to the States, I also worked for a large sports company and the administration was all male with the exception of one woman.  She definitely was constantly fighting for herself and as a result, was always under attack and scrutiny. The men in the office she reported to were always finding reasons to fault her methods.  It was very hard for her.

Now in the food industry, I have found that the male buyers are all more relaxed than the female buyers. The male reps do not work as hard as the female reps. People are very careful in the demographic where my products are sold (natural and specialty food stores) and I also believe that professional and working Californians in general are very conscientious and do their very best to be as politically correct, culturally and sexually accepting, and fair as possible.

Although it is not the most important thing, I have been treated differently because I was a woman – In South Africa, a man will always hold the door open for a woman and have her walk through it first, but here in the States, he will not want to offend her, and may not do so as a result.

You can find Kari’s incredible desserts at Whole Foods market. Follow Kari on twitter at @Karisdesserts.


Andy Cohen the New Betty Friedan? And other thoughts on “Reality” shows about women.


I have something important to get off my chest.

As a young woman, I grew up watching Sex and the City–but as a younger kid I grew up watching 90210. I even had a “Donna” barbie doll (not sure why I picked her over her much funnier classmate Brenda!).

I find myself somehow disgusted and engrossed by the “Real Housewives” series on Bravo. What is it about these malicious self-involved women that keep us watching?

This week one night I was watching the Real Housewives of Orange County. It was an episode where two of the cast members are on a boat with their moms. They are having a “girls”  talk about their getting work done on their noses . At a certain point even their moms chime in about how much better their self-esteem is after having their “faces done.” I find this notion of getting your “face done” absolutely frightening. However plastic surgery numbers have boomed in the last five years.

In the past 10 years, the number of women seeking breast augmentation rose 39 percent, for a total of nearly 300,000 procedures in 2010, according to statistics released by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons . Another 90,000 sought breast lifts, a 70 percent increase. Botox injections surged in popularity, rising 584 percent since 2000. A total of 5.4 million treatments were performed last year. In all, plastic surgeons performed 13.1 million cosmetic procedures in 2010 an increase of 5 percent over the year before. They also performed 5.3 million reconstructive procedures, up 2 percent. The total spent on cosmetic procedures: $10.1 billion. Ninety-one percent of cosmetic procedures were performed on women.

I imagined Andy Cohen, CEO of Bravo, laughing as his team edits this “real footage,” and takes a bath in the money he’s made depicting silly housewives and how maniacal their behavior is.

And then there’s me (or you) sitting on her couch, thinking holy smokes if these ladies are complaining about their noses, I am really in trouble (along with the millions of us “normal” people who don’t look like this).

I was recently reading an article that struck a chord.

You might have noticed Former Housewife of New York City Bethanny Frankel on the cover of Forbes Magazine this month–she sold her liquor line “Skinny Girl” for 100 Million Dollars.

She has the girls from Sex and the City to thank for opening up the door leading to the world of glamorous drinking. Cocktails are now a sign of female power–a sign of a woman on top who is “in control.” If you don’t believe me just turn on your TV. You will see a plethora of diet alcohol drinks marketed to women. It’s a big market.

I was then reminded of the truth about alcoholism. Many women suffer from it and in a recent article in Weight Watchers Magazine, I read that alcoholism among women–and DUIs are at an all-time high.

There ain’t nothing glamorous about that.

The article in WW Mag talks about how advertisers make alcohol look glamorous–makes women look “in control,” when in fact many of us have made some bad decisions as a result of the alcohol.

I’m writing this blog because I just can’t believe that we don’t have more REAL characters on TV. REAL powerful women who are not defined by the egg whites they consume or the recent “work they’ve had done,” but rather by “the content of their character.”

Perhaps it’s the fault of the networks, who are not run by women, but rather by people like Andy Cohen. I will be honest with you. I don’t think Mr. Cohen has a sincere interest in depicting what life is like as a woman today. His depictions of women–while somehow engaging for us to watch–are actually disgusting.

Apparently “real” women are nothing more than gold digging, clothes-addicted alcoholic cats, looking for the next culprit to claw.

I really hope by the time I have a daughter something changes in this society. I feel that while we have made progress in leaps and bounds in our careers, we are actually regressing.

In times of struggle, I look to older, smarter, funnier and wiser women to cheer me up. At the risk of turning off future employers, my parents and my boyfriend, I really am tired of not sharing how I feel about this stuff. I have a feeling your tired of not laughing about it too. So….

Here’s what Tina Fey had to say in her new book Bossypants. If you can–grab the book. It’s a breath of fresh air.

My daughter has a reversible doll: Sleeping Beauty on one side and Snow White on the other. I would always set it on her bed with the Snow White side out and she would toddle up to it and flip the skirt over to the Sleeping Beauty. I would flip it back and say, “Snow White is so pretty.” She would yell, “No!” and flip it back. I did this experiment so frequently and consistently that I should have applied for gov. funding. The result was always the same.

When I asked her why she didn’t like Snow White, she told me, “I don’t like her hair.” Not even three years old, she knew that yellow hair is king. And, let’s admit it, yellow hair does have magic powers. You could put a blond wig on a hot-water heater and some dude would try to f**k it. Snow White is better looking. I hate to stir up trouble among the princesses, but take away the hair and Sleeping Beauty is actually a little beat.

Sure when I was a kid there were beautiful brunettes to be found–Linda Ronstadt, Jaclyn Smith, the little Spanish singer on The Lawrence Welk Show–but they were regarded as a fun exotic alternative. Farrah was vanilla and Jaclyn Smith was chocolate. Can you remember a time when pop culture was so white that Jaclyn Smith was the chocolate? By the ’80s we started to see some real chocolate: Halle Berry and Naomi Campbell. “Downtown” Julie Brown and Tyra Banks. But I think the first real change in women’s body image came when JLo turned it butt-style. That was the first time that having a large-scale situation in the back was part of mainstream American beauty.

Girls wanted butts now. Men were free to admit…….

Beyonce brought the leg meat. A back porch and thick muscular legs were now widely admired. And from that day forward, women embraced their diversity and realized that all shapes and sizes are beautiful. Ah ha ha. No. I’m totally messing with you. All Beyonce and JLo have done is add to the laundry list of attributes women must have to qualify as beautiful. Now every girl is expected to have:

-Caucasian blue eyes
-full Spanish lips
-a classic button nose
-hairless Asian skin with a California tan
-a Jamaican dance hall ass
-long Swedish legs
-small Japanese feet
-the abs of a lesbian gym owner
-the hips of a nine-year-old boy
-the arms of Michelle Obama
-and doll t*ts.

The person closest to actually achieving this look is Kim Kardashian, who, as we know, was made by Russian scientists to sabotage our athletes. Everyone else is struggling.

Thank god for women like Tina Fey. Tina is talking about the difficult stuff–and making us laugh. Because in actuality everything she said is true. The one factoid she left out is women are the ones sabotaging each other. We are the ones who are first to judge each other. Wow Andy Cohen, congratulations, you have truly caused some damage.

disclosure: I still cannot seem to not watch this show, no matter how hard I try. I tell myself it’s some kind of sociology education.