Rights offering detail :
PS... That's Love
June 14, 2022
Michelle Diab & Paulo Santo
Digital: Non-fiction: Memoir
“PS That’s Love” is a journal and recipe book that documents my friendship and romance with one of South Africa’s award-winning chefs and restaurateurs. Set against the backdrop of the horrific COVID-19 lockdown months that crippled the hospitality industry globally, the story reveals Pedro’s background, character and personality that have made him a master of his craft: the ultimate host, deeply empathetic to the needs of others.

The introduction chapters on foundations explore Pedro’s Mediterranean upbringing, the parallels with my own, woven with explanations of the origin of good food: a vegetable garden, prominent cooks who influenced us as children, Pedro’s tips for encouraging his two-year-old daughter to eat broccoli as well as the beginning of our love affair: a vision of how we wanted to spend Christmas in our twilight years and the pivot that would be required in our lives to achieve this.

Pedro’s chef’s secrets are revealed in the section on preparation: a lesson on mise en place which took place in an impossibly romantic beach cottage, instructions on how to select a good knife with a sentimental story of Pedro’s childhood friends (a cut above the rest), a backstage look as his professional commercial kitchen and a comical anecdote on kitchen equipment including how to solve the problem of missing Tupperware lids. My story is revealed in a chapter entitled “Corks (and marriages) that crumble”.

Staples and basics cover the five classic mother sauces exploring my reflections of parenting a pre-schooler who wants to know how doctors tell the sex of a baby, comments on a failed marriage told in the format of bread requiring a good, unbleached flour and a side-splitting story on using quail eggs to make Hollandaise. A heart-warming recount almost missing a flight because Pedro took me cheese shopping at a deli close to the airport concludes the section.

Our early romance is explored through visits to a few exceptional restaurants which serve as inspiration for the book: a cosy midlands Italian restaurant with a wood-burning fireplace, an intimate fine-dining establishment, notes on designing menus for Pedro’s new roof-top bar as well as dinner we planned to cook together for my family so that we might have the opportunity to be in each other’s company.

The romance gathers pace in the starters section with Pedro’s recipes for Paella, cured salmon and his famous fennel crema the chapter for which is entitled “I fell in love with you before I met you” as this was my favourite dish at a restaurant I frequented not knowing that he was the chef and creator of the dish that became loved by so many Johannesburg residents. The story of an impossibly romantic evening at Pedro’s restaurant where he prepared sea bass especially for me marks where there started to appear a bit of trouble in the paradise that was our love story. The section concludes with a recipe for clam chowder as I found myself in Boston insufficiently consoled by chicken soup as my heart started to break, realising that I could lose Pedro.

The section on Pirimi Piatti takes a detour from the chronology of the love story and celebrates Pedro’s relationship with his sous chefs over the years, his prized cauliflower soup recipe which he prepared in my home one winters morning, our first date in Johannesburg where he ordered his gnocci that has Johannesburg’s foodies begging for the recipe, the secrets of perfect carbonara which introduce the sensitive subject of mental illness and a chapter called “Too many cooks spoil the broth” which reveals my attempts to replace the hole Pedro left in my heart by dating other men.

The heart of the book is in the main course which covers the essence of a life-giving relationship enriched with a recipe for simple but perfect roast chicken. Whipped Idaho potatoes are the comfort food that help me process my lost love with dignity. Depth to the story is created with a tribute to a colleague with breast cancer, reflections on grief and purpose (which are ended with Pedro’s recipes on beef burgers and lamb gyros). A humorous anecdote on dating a man from another faith supports the recipe for Pork Belly and a graceful chapter explains how Pedro and I find our way to a beautiful friendship, cooking 6 hour roasted lamb together for Easter.

The side dishes section makes space for exploring a few wild, but fabulous dates everywhere from New York (Pizza and Asparagus) to Summerveld (Baby Marrows in Saffron Butter) but also creates room for a deeper exploration of Pedro’s character (Are truffles fungi?). A chapter on the darker side of romance is explored with the recipe for lichi sorbet: seldom sweet, and always cold.

Dessert celebrates Pedro’s gift of generosity with chocolate, my continued struggle with striving for excellence (Apple & Almond tart: when life needs to be simpler) and an outstanding colleague who brings vegan ice cream to life in my corporate banking career. The liquor cabinet opens the magnificence of drinks Pedro created especially for me during KwaZulu-Natal’s civil unrest, a personally curated wine list and an anecdote of how a champagne thief was caught in Pedro’s restaurant.

A final section on service reflects on our ideal dinner guests and is a window to our shared value set. The book concludes with the recollection of the opening night at Pedro’s restaurant, his magnificent secrets for disarming customer complaints and finally the menu and recipes for my Christmas table. As I processed my emotions I layered into this menu enough symbolism to ceremoniously end my heartache and transition with intention into a time that honours Pedro’s role in my life. He will always be the man who carried me through a difficult time with such grace that I soared above the speedbumps of the road I had chosen to travel and have arrived at a wonderful place to reflect on a remarkable year where I ultimately discovered the greatest love: my own.
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Michelle Diab
phone: +27728892472
14 Alexander Ave, Kloof, 3610
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