Fond Food Memories

This is an entry in the Fond Food Memories Competition, held by Jennifer at The Domestic Goddess

Even though my life these past years seems to have evolved around food (whether it be cooking it, serving it or eating it), it hasn't always been so. I remember a couple of months back when Meg from Too Many Chefs encouraged commenters to tell where they got their appetite for food and it's preparation from - who had been their inspiration and idol, who had guided them forward and helped them do the dirty dishes on their way. Her own story was a fascinating read about a Mom and two grandmothers, who all through her childhood had made fabulous food and homemade cakes, and who's strongly influenced the way she cooks and generally go about the kitchen today.

I never had that. Now, don't get me wrong. I don't feel deprived because of it, nor do I feel I've been a victim of neglect or anything. It's just a fact. My mom wasn't so enthusiastic about the kitchen. And who could blame her for not wanting to spend never ending hours in front of a hot stove once she got home from a 8-9 hour day at work, had done the grocery shopping and picked me up from kindergarten - and squeezed in a half hour chat with my older sister about the latest girlie gossip from school. I for one couldn't.

But we did spend a lot of time in the kitchen. It was a large, white marble, black hardware and birch wood kitchen, with lots of cupboards and a great view over the back garden. My Grandad build the house and left it to my Mom when he died. There was a huge, also white marble dining table in one end of the kitchen, with black chairs around it. Once, when my sister and I played circus, she dropped me on the white marble floor, and I got a concussion.

My Moms favorite dish was rye bread with cold cuts - herring, spegepølse, leverpostej. I used to suspect it was because she didn't really have to cook to make that, but later found out it's always been her favorite dish - she put it in a friend's book once when she was 8 or 10, you know, those books where all your friends answer a lot of questions: what's your favorite color, what do you want to be when you grow up etc. etc. I know it is to this day, her best friends favorite dish too - it's what they always eat when they meet up, as they do about every other week or so.

One thing she did cook for me and my sister, was grilled sausages with (bought) potato salad and sweet mustard. Okay, so maybe you can't really call that cook, but she plated it, and it looked darn good every time. We used to eat it in front of the TV, the three of us together, me and my sister probably on the floor, arms almost not reaching the glass table top, but scoffing down sausages with bright yellow mustard and sweet potato salad. Mom on the sofa, head over the plate so as not to spill too much on the couch, although that was never anything that would get anyone in trouble in that household. If I was lucky, there'd be sausages left, and I got them in my lunchbox the next day on rye, complete with potato salad and mustard on top. WHY on earth would a little girl want something like that in her lunch box? Well, I loved it. I truly did. I loved the fact that my mom did my lunch, each and every single day, until I got too old and thought it embarrassing to bring lunch when I could buy it just as easily, and feel cool with the cool people at school.

So for a couple of years, I didn't bring lunch. And I didn't get her sweet messages that was a must in that lunch box. A simple faded, yellow post-it sticker stuck to the inner side of the lid of my lunchbox. "Hi Sweety! Remember we're going to J's tonight, so you have to come home after your dance lesson or let me know if you just want to go straight there. Love you! Mom"

When I got in high school, I went back to bringing my own lunch, but this time I made them myself. Mom baked me sandwich buns (still not entirely from scratch, but that wasn't really what mattered) And yes, she still wrote me post-it sticker messages. I still have a jar filled with them. I'm pretty sure she'd still be doing it if I still lived at home.

Where am I getting at? Well, I don't live at home no more. Luckily, she doesn't live to far away, and she drops by every now and again. Of course, all too little, but isn't that just the way things go when you grow up? There's too little of everything, especially time. Nowadays, I'm the one doing the cooking, and even though I'd do her the most elaborate meals, if that's what she wanted, I can always be sure that if I call her, asking what she'd like to eat that evening, she'll go quiet for a second, just because she's a teeny tiney bit embarrassed that she always likes me to cook the same thing for her, and then she'll say: "you know. I want Caesar's!" Yes, she could have gone for the whole rye bread thing, but afterall, she can do that herself. I know she eats rye bread almost every night when she's home alone, so every time she does drop by, I try to make sure that I've got a freshly baked rye bread ready for her, to take with her home and enjoy on the evenings where she sit at that glass top table, head pulled over the plate, watching the couch and enjoying her dinner. She might not have been the one teaching me to cook, but she's the one that's always encouraged me to go into things with an open mind and an open heart - and a little yellow post-it sticker stuck somewhere...

Rye Bread - adapted from a Camilla Plum recipe

Makes one large loaf

Day 1
1 dl. rye sour dough
750 ml water
2 large teaspoons salt

- stir the three ingredients together. Add to this:

75 g. rye (whole kernels)
75 g. linseeds
150 g. rye flour
150 unsifted spelt-flour
150 g. sifted spelt flour
1/4 bottle "hvidtøl" (beer with no alcohol) - about 10 cl.

Leave for 12-24 hours

Day 2:

Add to the dough:
250 ml water
225 g. rye flour
100 g. linseeds
100 g. wheat kernels, cracked
50 g. rye kernels
25 g. sesame seeds
25 g. sunflower seeds
25 g. pumpkin seeds
25 g. poppy seeds

Pour into a buttered loaf pan, about 2 liter capacity. Remember to keep a batch of sourdough for your next loaf. Leave to rise for 2-6 hours.

Bake in a 150 C hot oven for three hours- Turn out of the pan, then leave the rye bread to cool in the turned off oven.


OsloFoodie said…
Zarah, I am especially touched because my mom was like your mom when my sister and I were growing up. She didn't cook much at all, my dad did much of the cooking if we were to have warm food at all. But I have always treasured whatever she served us and she does make one good dish, grilled chicken. Until now she doesn't want to tell me her recipe because she said,"You'll have to come to me to eat it and then I'll get to see you". A smart one, my mom :).
Barbara Fisher said…
Your mother was training your palate, which is just as important, if not more so, than learning the "hows" of cooking. Your palate is a large chunk of the "whys" of cooking--and why we cook is more important than how, or when.

Your mom sounds utterly cool.
Anonymous said…
Hi Zarah,

That was a lovely piece of writing! It's definitely the time you spent together and the little things like the sticky notes that matter, not so much what you were eating or where it came from. That's the kind of stuff that I want my kids to remember, too.

LeeLoreya said…
Fascinating entry. I don't want to play the groupie saying "Me too"all time but tis strange because my own mother has been shopping in germany lately where they have industrial potato salad loaded with mayonnaise and that sort of american diner mustard (as opposed to highly sophisticated dijon mustard I grew up on...still am, as a matter of fact), as well as sausages (hey, it is germany after all) and oddly enough, these dishes reminded me of hungary, perhaps because hungarian food available at supermarkets or restaurants always had a similarity with german products. I promise that this is true, not just showing-off-some-pseudo- similar-tastes-with-the-writer-at-Food&Thoughts.

Anyway, your reminiscing of childhood (that's not so far away right?) is touching in that you seem to have had a really fond relationship with your mom and sis ( exclusively female company?). Not all family are blessed with stable mutual understanding.
Zarah Maria said…
OsloFoodie - It's funny, 'cause my Dad was actually the one that, through my childhood, cooked the more "elaborate" meals I tried - he took French Cuisine lessons and introduced me to the more classic kitchen, spending hours in the kitchen. I always loved that too, it's just funny they where so different in how they went around the whole food thing. And yes, your Mom is a clever woman - no one makes a cup of tea like my Mom! I know, it's a quite simple thing, but there really is nothing like my Mom's tea - it's the exact right amount of tea to sugar to milk.

Barbara - I think you're very right. She might not have given me "great culinary experiences", but she did teach me that food is about what you like, and what you feel like, and about enjoying it in good company. She truly is a cool Mom!

Moira - Thank you. I think that these are the things I want to teach my kids too, come that day. I have no doubt that I am going to have a hard time when the time arrives for me to have my own little ones - I know that I'm going to be challenged every time we'll be at the supermarket and they'll be screaming for processed cheese, artificially colored yoghurts etc. etc. - and it scares the c*** out of me, that I know it will disgust me, but yet I might just let them have it. I'm very much for quality in food, but you're right, quality of food is just as much a matter of who's company it is eaten in and the feelings you associate with eating, as it has to do with sourcing the ingredients and spending hours preparing them.

Lee - I still have a weakness for grilled sausages, even though I don't eat much meat. I might make my own potato salad these days, but there's no doubt it's probably a tad sweeter and more mayonnaise-y than people would usually make it. But hey, what Mother taught you... I also love the fact that we all through our lives carry these memories with us - I couldn't smell sweet mustard without thinking about sausages, potato salad and the glass top sofa table.

Re. the exclusively female company - my Mom and Dad split up just after I was born, so I lived with my Mom and my Sister (who's not the child of my dad, but another man - weird family tree, wouldn't want to get into that one!:-))So I used to spend every other weekend at my Dad, who, funny enough, was the one taking French Cuisine lessons and make elaborate, time-consuming meals, cooking all weekend. I loved that, and used to help, peeling carrots, stirring pots. More on that some other time, I actually found this sort of writing quite giving, so I might do some more about on the family.

And believe me, I do count my blessing with my family. They're a fantastic bunch, all of them, and I wouldn't know what to do without their love and support. I just held my birthday party yesterday (26, so no, childhood isn't too far away!) and I love, love, love gathering everyone around that big table, having cooked MY favorite dishes, just for them, and seeing their happy faces. They're nothing short of GREAT!
Anonymous said…
Zarah, what a beautiful entry! I love this story -- and it's a great example of something you and I both know -- that it's the time we spend with our loved ones that's important. I have a good friend who constantly feels guilty that she's not much of a cook, and worries that her kids won't have "cooking" memories of her -- but she does many other wonderful things with them, as I'm constantly reminding her. I think I'll point her in the direction of your beautiful and moving tale...

...and I've gotta try that rye bread! It looks just delicious, nutty and wholesome.

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