I am standing in our pantry room, over a kilogram of old, sad potatoes from last year in a wicker basket. They are ugly, wrinkled like a rhino’s skin, and already a little bit soft, but beside of that they are OK. What shall I make with them? I could experiment once again with a new recipe I have been testing recently, a special version of a potato “lángos”, or I could slice and deep-fry them like chips for a snack, but I actually none of the two ideas make me feel enthusiastic.
Driven by a sudden idea, I set the question aside for a short time and I walk to the table where I store all my grandmother’s stuff in boxes. Recently when I feel a bit lost or confused- for more serious reasons than some old potatoes- I take into hand her things, and read her notes. Doing so calms me down, inspire and forces me to act. Mysteriously, every time I browse through her stuff, I discover something new, that I haven’t seen before. A quote written on the edge of a notebook, a short poem or proverb. Or a recipe.
My grandmother liked writing by hand and taking notes and I like reading her very typical cord cursive writing and the way she loops “R”s in her words. She made notes from things that were important for her in different places- maybe she was afraid she would lose them. She kept different little notebook by hand but any piece of paper would suit her if she wanted to write down something.
Prayers. In German or Hungarian. How to use melissa in the kitchen. Recipe of cottage cheese noodles, maybe from someone who cooked them really well. Addresses of people that I don’t know. Gas meter reading. Ingredients of an herbal tea which contains a lot of iron.
A small piece of paper with the following text:
“Don’t forget the place
where your cradle stood,
nowhere else in this world
will you find another home.”
Finally I open a sheet of paper folded carefully and I find a poem. It makes me smile, because this was exactly what I needed and it immediately forces me to take the next step.
I call my other grandmother on my mother’s side and ask for advise regarding the potatoes’ destiny.
‘Make nudli, it is the best if you use the old potatoes’, she says and adds some tips that I otherwise couldn’t find in any cookbooks.
‘I don’t shape them in the traditional way any more- it is too tiring for my hands. I only make little balls and push them to get a cylinder-like shape. Usually I don’t fold them in toasted breadcrumbs, only in a little butter and use as a side-dish for ‘lecsó’, the Hungarian ratatouille. If you have some more potatoes left, you can make real noodles, in form of little balls. Just cook them and freeze them. They can come really handy when you need a side dish for any meat with a sauce. You can work with the recipe in Ilona Horváth’s cook book, the ratio of the ingredients is right there.
My grandmother has a very good sense of intuition. Because I could say that I hardly remember when I last time ate ‘nudli’, but the truth is, that as soon as I fold in the freshly cooked nudli into breadcrumbs I can recall a memory perfectly detailed: taste brings me back to another kitchen, led by a Swabian lady who had very similar blue eyes, as I do. I can sense the smell, I can picture her yellow vintage kitchen cupboard and see her as she brings some powdered sugar from the kitchen pantry room and sprinkles the top of the ‘nudli’, as we call it in Swabian language: ‘Schupfnudel’
In this moment the legacy that I inherited from both of my grandmothers mingle and I go to the pantry room to pick up a jar of plum jam and I realise with gratitude and happiness that I finally have the topic of my next blog post.
Finally, I would like to share the poem, which my grandmother wrote down on that carefully folded piece of paper. I need to do some investigation to find out the author, who is Karol Woytila, AKA Pope John Paul II. (Since I didn’t find any English version, I have translated it myself.)
May your smile, which comes directly from your heart,
bright up your face!
It doesn’t cost you any money,
but it has true value for another human being.
It enriches who receives it,
but doesn’t make the one poorer who gives it.
It lasts only for a moment,
but leaves its trace for eternity.
Nobody is rich enough,
to be able to live without it,
And nobody is as poor that
she wouldn’t deserve it.
It is the visible sign of a true friendship
so sprinkle the whole world with it.
Your smile: is peace for the ones in exhaustion,
Brevity for the hopeless,
Comfort for the depressed.
Your smile is valuable, a great goodness,
but it is not purchasable.
It can be neither borrowed, nor stolen,
because it has only value in that minute,
when it appears on your face.
And now, when you meet someone,
who doesn’t radiate that smile you are expecting,
Be generous and give him yours,
Because nobody else is in greater need of a smile,
tan the ones who cannot give it himself to others.
Textiles I use for photography are hand-woven and botanical dyed, made by @textil_szakacsniki
Nudli (Hungarian potato noodles)
based on the recipe of Ilona Horváth
600 g potatoes
120 g all-purpose flour
1 level tablespoon of semolina
20 g pork fat (My mother swears that it is better using it instead of butter or oil, but it depends on you)
1 pinch of salt
30 g butter
60 g fine bread crumbs
sugar and cinnamon or plum jam
Cook the potatoes in salted water, peel them while there are still hot and crush them. Let them cool down. Mix pork fat with flour, add the egg, the crushed potatoes, the pinch of salt and the semolina. Knead until you get a smooth dough. Roll it out on a lightly floured surface to 1,5 cm thick. Cut the dough into 4 cm stripes, then each stripe into 0,5 cm wide batons.
Then you have two choices: You can roll each of them slightly on the lightly floured wooden board, or you can roll them between your two palms.
Melt the butter in a pot, and toast breadcrumbs until they get a light brown colour.
Boil water in another pot with a teaspoon of salt and cook ‘nudli’ in bunches in the boiling water, until they come to the surface. Remove them with a slotted spoon, rinse them under cold water and fold them into the toasted breadcrumbs. Continue until you cooked all of them. Serve with cinnamon sugar or plum jam