My parents moved to their first flat just before I was born. The tiny apartment was located on the 9th floor of a new building block in a microdistrict, which my mother decorated with lots of love, since it was their first home. However, it was really small for a family of four and if the elevator was out of order- which happened quite often at the beginning- she needed to climb up with all the grocery, guarding my 4 years-old sister while holding me in her arm.
My grandfather on my father’s side came up with the idea, that my parents should move to their home so that they remove the roof and build another floor on their house. ‘Children should grow up in a house with garden’, he argued.
My mum loved their tiny apartment, but she loved us girls even more. So finally the whole family joined forces and did what the could to help to build the new home for us. My mother was carrying mortar, polishing and varnishing the wooden floor, my grandfather made stair spindles, our neighbour tiled the floors and bathrooms, my dad, if not working 12 hours, was travelling around Hungary to find the right tiles.
We moved to our new home with the garden when I was 2 years old, and although we loved it very much, it didn’t give us the feeling of a romantic secret garden, since it was built next to a quite busy main road.
But we would have the weekend orchard of my other grandmother, which would be a real paradise for us, and which I already mentioned several times on this blog, as frequent readers might remember.
Csatár hill, where our secret garden was located, was and is a place for people from Veszprém (my home town) to have a small piece of land to grow vegetables and fruits. Electricity was available, but tap water was not (and still isn’t) so we would need to carry water from home in demijohns and be really careful with every drop of water we would use.
In return we would have silence, only birds singing, that we would never hear because of the overwhelming noise of buses and tracks passing by in front of our house.
In the middle of this orchard my grandparents would build a small wooden cabin. My grandmother would sew pretty curtains on the windows and she would put one on the entrance door made from colourful stripes to keep away bugs. Right next to the door there would be a kitchen stool with an enamelled washbasin, with a soap next to it and an always clean towel hanging ready for use. The cabin would be really small but big enough for an old-fashioned kitchen cabinet and a tiny fridge, two beds, and a narrow armoire closet to store a few warm sweaters, summer dresses, bathing suit and a straw hat. There wasn’t too many things in that little cabin, but we wouldn’t need many things to be happy.
When we would spend the day there, we would carry out the round table with the three red chairs and place them into the middle of the lawn and set the table outside for lunch while my grandmother would fry schnitzel and chips. Fruit trees, raspberry and redcurrant bushes would provide the dessert and we would have a slice of bread spread with pork fat as a snack in the afternoon. And if we would be willing to give up the comfort of a bathroom and stay for the night, we would roast hazelnuts that we picked from the bush and eat it with a hint of salt while watching the night lights of the town.
In the last decade my grandmother was not able to go to her orchard any more. You need to walk kilometres from the bus stop, and it is even challenging for a car, because roads are so bad. We picked cherries and apricots every year, my mother was taking care of the lawn being mown frequently, but “Csati”, as we used to call it was not that paradise any more that it used to be, the time when my grandmother was still active.
A couple of years ago my granny felt enough strength and energy to come with me by car. I slowly drove up the hill, we opened the locked gate, carried out the chairs from the house and were sitting under the trees talking about memories. It was a real gift for both of us.
In the last couple of years we knew we should find a new owner to Csati, who finds as much joy and pleasure in it, as we used to. Since each one of us has an own garden which makes us busy enough, unfortunately we can’t t take another one to look after. At the end of last year somebody called my mother who discovered the beauty of this place. The deal was made and Áron and I promised my mother to empty the wooden cabin early spring. We have put the three red chair, the kitchen stool and the little bathroom cabinet in the car, alongside with the garden tools, our badminton rackets, kitchen tools and an old vacuum cleaner that supposed to work still (we haven’t tried it yet)
I asked Áron to wait for me in the car and I petted the trunks of the fruit trees and tears didn’t stop running down on my face, not even later in the car.
Something has to end, for something else to begin.
Weeks have been passed since then, filled with work, and to-do lists and stress and suddenly we found ourselves in the middle of a pandemic crisis. Finally I had more free time than before, so things that were planned can be done now, like painting the kitchen stool, the cabinet and the chairs. Thanks to the Nemiskacat shop, I could order the old white and light green paint that I have already chosen before and I started giving new life to granny’s old pieces.
I painted the chairs light green, so they will make a good fit with the cushions that I am going to sew from the old fabric we inherited with the house. The bathroom cabinet got an old white colour, and I painted the top of the kitchen stool green, the legs white so it will look nice with the chairs in the dining room.
Then I grabbed the phone and called my grandmother.
‘Granny, I have painted the furniture’, I told her joyfully.
‘Oh, I am so happy to hear that. Your mother has already mentioned it, and it is such a pity that she is not allowed to visit me and cannot show me pictures…Tell me more, how do they look?’, she asked me and we get immersed in conversation about colours, memories in Csati, and the day when she painted the chairs red (because she found the original brown colour way to boring)
Suddenly time seems to vanish, as the kilometres and the current situation in the world which separates us and prevents us from hugging each other.
Everything is changing, however, one thing seems to be everlasting: the legacy I inherited from her that made me paint those chairs and bake semolina soufflé.
Textiles I use for photography are hand-woven and botanical dyed, made by @textil_szakacsniki
I have created this recipe by adapting Mrs. Andrea Kollman Lemhényi’s soufflé from her 1941’s cookbook. It is a perfect closing of a lunch after a rich soup and it only requires pantry staples. If you serve it hot it is light and fluffy, but we enjoyed the leftover also the day after, it only needed to reheated a little bit.
750 ml milk
110 g semolina
3 eggs, separated
125 g granulated sugar
25 g butter
1 pinch of salt
grated zest of a lemon
1 package of vanilla sugar
some fine breadcrumbs and butter to grease the baking dish
- Bring milk to boil, add butter, the pinch of salt and two teaspoons of sugar. While stirring continuously add semolina, reduce heat and cook until it gets a thick, creamy consistency. Let it cool down (if you want to accelerate the process, transfer the semolina to a porcelain or glass bowl, it helps a bit)
- Butter a 28x16x5 cm ovenproof dish and sprinkle evenly with fine breadcrumbs.
- Preheat the oven to 200 ºC (190 ºC with fan). Beat egg yolks with sugar, vanilla sugar and lemon zest, until pale and fluffy. Whisk egg whites until it forms stiff peaks.
- Add the egg yolk mixture to the semolina, then finally carefully fold in the egg whites. Pour into the prepared baking dish and bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown. The plum jam with cinnamon that I made last year was a perfect fit to the the soufflé however any tangy jam will do well.