A thieving little magpie

I have a confession to make.

I steal recipes.

Well, not really. I am more a collector. A collector of recipes – of those which invoke memories, which are tied up with food and joyful occasions, of smells and tastes and feelings, of experiences and emotions.

Over time I have been able to gather together some recipes that bring back those memories in our own kitchen. It’s quite amazing.

There are, of course, some cooking smells or tastes that are best left forgotten. I’m left bewildered at the 70s taste buds that thought peas set in lime jelly or carrots in orange jelly would be a gourmet dish – or olives. Green olives, green jelly. I can clearly see the connection. Only one small step better than Spam, I suppose, or anything set in aspic.

Here’s a link to cause you to wonder how anyone actually survived this era … (by the way, I am a survivor!) Unbelievable recipes!!

These are definitely not the recipes that I have accumulated!! (Although my very aged copy of the Complete Women’s Weekly cookbook may have some within, accompanied by a tasteful colour picture, or two.)

It was the smell of the freshly baked bread that got me thinking, along with the essential oils that diffuse through our house at night-time. It reminded me how when I even see certain foods, they transport me to another time or place.

Here’s a classic example – give me a fresh buttered brezel and instantly I am in an open subway station in Munich, 2004, making my way in the cold to language school, Not just any old station, but specifically this one:
Karlsplatz Stachus MunichKarlsplatz (Stachus), not in its all fancy bright lights and renovated state, but all concrete-y and looking like something out of the Communist Era (and I know, before you say, that this did not include Munich, but this subway …)


I have yet to try my hand at brezeln making – but I do have a recipe somewhere …

In my mind, when I make falafels, I’m finding my way through the streets of old Jerusalem, I smell naan bread and roasted spices and I’m wandering down the streets of Birmingham’s Balti Triangle, in its heyday, with a Balti restaurant on every corner. Hot custard takes me right back to Grandma’s kitchen, sitting at her red laminate table, looking at the plastic fruit.

I tried a new falafel recipe the other week, inspired by the combination of the efforts of an old school friend and co-incidentally a recipe appearing in the local supermarket magazine. Unlike other attempts, they did not disintegrate into tiny, impossible-to-eat segments in the oil. Not only that, they were declared a ‘keeper’, which is always a good thing, especially since we’d only eaten half of the mix!

I don’t even have a photo of them, which is really sad for a foodie, blogging type person, but as I commented to another old school friend, they were hardly photogenic, although very tasty. It’s not all about looks, you know!

There’s a name for this smell/memory thing – olfactory memory – and there are some interesting studies on it, which include how the brain responds to smell. There appear to be fewer studies on the compulsive desire to have lots of recipes with lots of pictures to drool over, which are never recreated.

It is an interesting thing, considering the brain injury experience in our home, to learn about the sense of smell. Did you know it is the only sense which makes its way directly to the brain, rather than via a series of nerve endings? We have also learnt it is often triggered as a pre-symptom to a seizure, which is helpful for being prepared.

But in the meantime, with my new stove (which, I assure you, was a very welcome change to the kitchen), I am inspired to hit the pile of saved up papers and see what sorts of (nice) smells I can conjure up, to create some new memories to stack away.

My feature photo today is of some preparation for just that. I’m going to launch a balti on my poor unsuspecting husband, so I’ve been cooking up spices and sauces, turning the kitchen a turmeric shade of yellow. I’ll let you know how it all ends up (only if successful of course! 🙂 )

And just for fun, I came across this photo taken by Philipp Kester, which is kept in the Münchner Stadtmuseum … titled “Breznverkäuferin im Hofbräuhaus”, which goes to show I am not alone in my liking of Brez’n 🙂

15_kester_breznverkaeuferin-hofbraeuhaus richard wagner & louis ii

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