Tag Archives: home life

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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Bread of life

I have been missing a cathartic activity while the football is in recess. I am also looking to tighten the food budget just a fraction, without food compromise. In my wanderings down the supermarket aisle, wondering how I could do the latter, I came across the bread flour.

Now, although bread is considered a staple, we don’t really eat a LOT of bread, unless we are on a constant diet of sandwiches, which I try to avoid. And if you run out, according to Erma Bombeck (an astute US newspaper columnist), this happens:

“The odds of going to the store for a loaf of bread and coming out with only a loaf of bread are three billion to one.”

I know you’re nodding your head in agreement, just as I did. So, to avoid the shopping trolley explosion, I decided to try my hand out at making it instead. And then a thought crossed my mind. What am I? Some sort of reverse Marie Antoinette? Let them eat bread, rather than cake? Good old Erma has something to say about that too:

“Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart.” (Note to self – find some more of this woman’s writings – she’s great!)

However, in a small consideration of our waistlines, bread it will be. I am liking the advantages of making bread at home, of which there are a few.

– Cathartic-ness!! I know that’s not really a word, but it suits me fine right now. Knead? Yes sir, I will bash this poor innocent flour ball to get rid of some frustration. What? Only ten minutes? Looks like I’ll have to make another loaf …

– I can make a half loaf (250g) for just over a dollar, with only ½ hour cooking time, and as a bonus, good old yeast does most of the work for me.

– I am supporting a local business.

– I can make it when we need it (pretty much …)

– I know exactly what is going into my loaf of bread, which is not choc-a-bloc with preservatives.

– Hey, eating fresh bread, straight out of the oven. All that rubbish about giving you indigestion? Not this little creature with her cast-iron tummy!

– I don’t need a lot of equipment, and so there’s not a lot of washing up.

Have I convinced you yet?

So, the flour of choice is from Laucke – a crusty white loaf, which comes in all recycled and recyclable packing.

1.  All I need is to weigh out half the flour, add my (supplied) yeast and 145ml of water at a yeast-friendly temperature.  Mix it up

2.  Knead it for 10 minutes and leave to sit to contemplate life for a while

3.  Re-knead (treading gently this time – after all, it’s feeling very sensitive after all that contemplation)

4.  Leave to again consider life

5.  Cook

6.  And EAT!!

 

I’m happy with that 🙂