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.
There is a sadness, a finality awakening in the death of foods. Reaching into the refrigerator, I often pause; is there some ingredient, begging please use me, now my life is short, time is passing. Hurry!… in a happy good mood I’ll reach in and a pie or casserole is soon born.. but if weather or sore knees are the louder voice -then -peering into the cavernous cold storage brings darker thoughts. I get sad to realize that all life has a shelf life and somewhere deep in me that rings a different knell.
That was that brief interlude that your grandmother might have experienced.. the joy tho . You called right at the right time. A younger voice, softer, still green. You shopped for her, included her; her mind racing to keep up, which ingredients, what meals– a rebirth of spirit, she is green again! Love has that way, of breathing into our souls, life, passion, energy, hope, excitement.. peace .. as we put aside those darker thoughts as our hands create goodness. Our faces light up because the sights and smells of this energy expended will boost our existence into nirvana. We climb the mountain again. Our hands revel in the textures of each ingredient.. we find our oneness in the creation. It will feed our senses as it nourishes our souls. You gave your grandmother much more than company or ingredients, much more that relief or hope.. you gave her life.
Dear Angel, this is so beautiful, that there is no words that could express what I felt when I was reading your comment! Thank you so much, it brought tears into my eyes. I am going to read it more times I am sure, especially the times when I feel a little bit lost. Sending you lots of love from the Hungarian spring!
Dear Lady, thank you … it always feels like a homecoming to me, when goodness,kindness is greeted in kind. I heard the soft sigh of your inner child when you wrote, when i feel a little bit lost. Lost is such a vast ocean. All the waves look the same. Even the depth of each movement can drawn you down. The blues and aquas of sunny day waters are never there in the mist of a tumulutuous time. Then the sea seem dark, unknown.. where are those carefree days of summer sails? Lost…
But a good sailor knows to look up. Cast a wide net upon the stars. To trust the compass. To see beyond what crashes upon the decks …now.. and it is now only. Then sun and horizon and land beyond, say.. you re safe.. no longer lost.
..for when are we but lost ,a little, but we we stared too long upon the depths. Just a bit..and now it is dissolved, this bit.. like watching the white foam dissapate upon blue waters.
If you find your heart heavy just a bit..find your compass. Read aloud to someone. Sing a lullaby to those fears ,while you watch the sun setting. Days take their charts with them.so tomorrow.. you choose a course.
You are so lost as you are loved. And so.. you are. You are found! Not just a little bit, but vast. Glorious goodness.. sending you every ood thought.
Please excuse typos. I broke my arm and goggle voice is impossible to correct. ! Plus i just yuk at it. Forgive
Dear Angel, this is so beautiful I have to read it several times and it is like a balm to the soul. Thank you so much. I keep the compass in sight, and having friends online and offline like you help me to stay on track! I am so sorry to hear that you broke your arm! I hope you get well soon! Sending you big hugs from Hungary!