I think everyone will remember what they ate the first time they met their parents-in-law. The memories imprinted in your brain of the awkward smiles, moving the cutlery from one side of the plate to the other, the nervous conversation. My mum also remembers what she ate, the first time…
Grandma uses a deep pot, always the same. I have a memory of that pot since the first time I tasted her stuffed round courgettes. Over the years it has lost a handle, but it remains, in her opinion, the perfect pot to use if you want to cook her…
Nonna Marcella, my grandma, oh she passed me so many recipes, either chatting lightly at the table, over a perfectly stewed rabbit trying to explain me why it was to tender and flavourful, or standing next to me in the kitchen, checking every movement I was making to verify it was made by the book, respectful of the traditions of many women of our family.
She passed me her recipes but also recipes that someone else passed her over the years, and every time she adds bits of information about the great woman behind a dish, a relative or a neighbour’s wife. A recipe is not just a recipe in front of my grandmother’s eyes, is a key to access to a past moment, unravelling stories of weddings, country works, family gatherings, short trips that back in that years looked like enormous travels.
There is lunch and there is dinner. There are many recipes that can be made indifferently for your midday meal or for your evening meal, they have a wild independent spirit, they suit your family needs and moods, they are welcomed anytime. Then, there is a bunch of recipes that are specifically tailored to suit your dinner, just as the potato cheese gateau. It is one of my family staple dishes, I can remember it on our table since I was a child, constant and reliable, with just a few variations, but just for dinner.
In my family we start making the potato cheese gateau around October, it comes along the first signs of the cold weather. There’s a moment when you realize that summer is over, and it is when your mum tells you: guess what I am making for dinner, it looks like ages since the last time we had it. I’m making the potato cheese gateau. And you welcome the gateau with a strange mixture of melancholy and excitement.
In Proust's book À la recherche du temps perdu - which I admit I have never read - the protagonist eats a madeleine and this awakens his childhood memories. Oh, les madeleines, tiny French pastries with a delicate buttery lemon flavour, elegant and refined. My madeleines are instead bracioline al pomodoro,…
Probably 50 years ago we would live all in the same neighbourhood and we would meet regularly for our book club or for cozy afternoon teas. We would play card games in winter and we would gather for garden parties during summer with men barbecuing pork ribs and beef hamburgers. We would share recipes written in a neat hand writing on tiny pieces of paper, adding real bookmarks in our grease stained cook books. We would be good friends and we would celebrate with a perfect baby shower Emiko’s baby girl, who’s due within Christmas, the best gift she could ask for.
Nowadays we’re still good friends, though we live scattered all over the world: Italy, England, Belgium, Germany, Hungary and Australia. We make up special occasions to meet and spend time cooking, eating and laughing, being it on the seaside, in the countryside or in London. We chat on line a lot, we exchange long e-mails and, notwithstanding the distance, we support each other throughout all our life stages, plans and dreams.
If we were closer we would definitely have gathered to celebrate Emiko’s baby, choosing one of our kitchens and living rooms and sitting one next to the other at the table, with a cup of tea or a sparkling pink drink. The distance won’t stop us from celebrating today, so we decided to throw a virtual baby shower party for Emiko. Everyone’s invited, as long as you are in a good mood for celebrating and are not intimidated by a bunch of girls laughing and sobbing in commotion in front of Emiko’s belly!
– Tablecloth by Urbanara –
Everyone’s bringing their special gifts to Emiko. We have cookies, and you can even choose among vegan pumpkin chocolate chips cookies baked by Zizi and delicate rice cookies made by Jasmine. As this is a party for a special girl, we have also cakes, a flourless chocolate cake with pears – La Belle Helene – baked by Karin or a soft cheesecake beautifully made by Rossella. Muffins can not be missed, so Valeria made festive gingerbread banana muffins, while Sarka offers us something savoury, tempting mini tartlets. Wait, this is a party, we need spirit, at least for the father-to-be… Luckily Regula is bringing cobnut brandy!