It has been quite some time, since I wrote my last blog post. Sometimes I had the feeling that I assimilated so much in our garden, that I am becoming like our fruit trees: apparently they do not show any sign of life, however they are already dreaming about the beautiful and tasteful fruit they are going to produce in order to bring joy to others.
When I didn’t cook or shoot, my loved ones could often find me staring with glazed eyes into nothing. Those were the moments when I was thinking and brainstorming about Taste of Memories.
If you plan something too long, close to the end of the process you feel like you are going to explode because of the tension: You would rather hurry up things, but also, something keeps you back from the next step. All you need is a final push, to write down the first sentence in that new chapter in your life.
Most probably it wasn’t an accident that my grandmother gave me that final push. I called her because it has been a while since I visited her and I felt bad about it. She picked up the phone and her voice was slightly tense, or even irritated.
‘ Hello Granny, how are you doing? ‘ I asked full of worries.
‘ I am fine, honey, I am OK ‘ she answers, but she sounds annoyed.
We continue chatting for a while, but I cannot stop myself and ask directly:
‘ Granny, are you angry with me…? Because I haven’t visited you for a while?
‘ Oh, no…! I am angry actually, but not with you…
She pauses for a second as if it would be hard to express her feelings with words, than continues:
‘ I had to throw away a half liter of milk! There was a little leftover, I started to heat it up to see if it is still good, and its texture became awful not mentioning its smell… It is not even a real milk! I never throw food away, and this makes me really sad. I think I am going to put the packaging to the bottom of the bin, so I won’t see it. ‘
I take a deep breath with relief, so it is “only” a half liter milk. We continue talking about difference between farm milk and UHT milk, then we go on and discuss how the quality of sour cream is getting worse. We both noticed that our layered potato dishes (rakott krumpli) is not creamy enough. I hear she is more relaxed and her voice sound joyful, so before we say goodbye I promise to visit her in the next couple of days.
I just pass by quickly at the farmer’s market before visiting her, when it pops into my mind that she might need something. I grab my phone and ask her. She is unprepared to the question.
‘Oh, yes, I think I would need a few things, but I don’t know what…I wish I knew earlier that you are the market, I could have written a list’’
My grandmother is going to be 88 years old this year. She cooks every year, she keeps her little apartment perfectly tidy and clean, she repairs the broken handle and nicely styles her white hair every day, even if she doesn’t go out of house. But her legs become often weak and her heart doesn’t bear very well when she is climbing stairs. So her opportunities to do shopping is quite limited, sometimes she walks down to the corner shop (or as she describes herself: toddles) or her daughter’s and granddaughter’s help her if she needs something.
So it happens, that on this beautiful, sunny early spring morning I do a shopping with my grandmother together at the farmer’s market. I am her eyes when I fly from one stand to the other
one and describe her on the phone what I see.
‘ Granny, cabbage looks nice, and kohlrabi, there is a smaller butternut squash here… I see wild garlic as well. Do you need any meat? Or farmer’s sour cream or cheese? There is one which I bought last time and it was delicious. ’
I stop at an empty stand and start writing the shopping list she is cheerfully dictating to me, when another customer comes to me and asks whether I am an inspector with a notebook in my hand. I laugh at him and shake my head saying ‘no’ and continue listening to Granny:
‘Take a bag of spinach, and sorrel, my dear, I am going to blanch and freeze them. Buy three chicken drumsticks and some minced meat as well. Oh, and I would need some tomatoes and peppers…and a butternut squash maybe. And beetroot. Oh, so many great ingredients!’
My wicker basket is slowly getting full of all the treasures of early spring. My grandmother welcomes me with a warm hug and a shiny face, because if she has good ingredients and she can cook, she looks 20 years younger again.
And I decide, with two bunches of wild garlic in my basket, to make layered potaotes. This time instead of the traditional Hungarian version with sour cream, a French recipe gives me the inspiration. And of course, my grandmother’s love for life and cooking.
Ps: Textiles I used are botanically hand-dyed and woven by @textil_szakacsniki who happened to be a soul sister and became a dear friend. More about her and the textiles in the next blog post. Stay tuned!
Layered potatoes with wild garlic
Ingredients for 4:
(In case you eat it as main meal, double quantity of each ingredients. As a garnish, one recipe must be enough)
600 g potatoes
330 ml milk
120 g grated cheese (parmesan or Edam or Gouda)
1 small bunch of wild garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper
butter or duck fat for greasing the baking dish
Lightly grease a 14x20x5 cm ovenproof dish. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees (with fan).
Wash, peel and thinly slice potatoes. (Using a mandolin is the best) Chop wild garlic and save a little bit for decoration. Put potatoes and milk into a pot, add salt, pepper and nutmeg according to your taste. Bring to boil then reduce heat and continue cooking until milk thickens a little bit. Put aside, add half of the grated cheese and wild garlic, then carefully fold in.
Spoon potatoes into the greased baking dish, push it down lightly and sprinkle with the rest of the grated cheese. Bake for ca. 45 minutes or until the top is dark brown and the potatoes are soft when you poke with a fork. Before I serve, I sprinkle with the rest of the chopped garlic.