I was recently reading April’s issue of Red magazine and came across a feature called ‘Come dine with us’. It contained four interviews: with TV presenter Nadia Sawalha, local food promoter Maureen McKenna, organic baker Vicky Harford and PR consultant Alexa Perrin. All those lovely women talked about food, special ingredients and they happiness they feel when they cook.
It made me think of my own childhood, when I was indulged by my mother, aunt and both of my grandmothers, who were wonderful cooks. Each one was different, each one had her special secrets and recipes but just reminiscing about them makes me feel happy. There were many occasions for get-together with family and friends, when everyone-adults and kids-would gather around a big table-no one cared that apartments were small, it was the spirit of being together, eating, drinking, talking, reciting poetry and us, kids, creating mischief.
My father could invite friends at short notice and mum would create amazing feasts and no one left our house without a happy smile on their face. My friends were always indulged and mum always made sure we ate well-or we just weren’t let out from the table. Then there was my grandmother’s meat pie with lots of pastry or my mum’s meat pies that I love to this day. Syrnyky (cottage pie cakes) eaten with sour cream and sugar, jams or dulce de leche (condensed milk), pelmeny (meat dumplings) or a special cake that my mum used to make for my brother’s birthday, with short-crust home made pastry, condensed milk and jam. My aunt’s creative flair was also unrivalled, she fused russian cuisine with the flavours of the countries that my uncle worked in, be it Venezuela, Mexico or Peru. Or my maternal grandmother’s fried potatoes with meat patties (kotlety) that I can still taste in my dreams, even though she died when I was seven. No one made that dish taste as good ever since. There are so many things that mum makes for us still, when she visits us or we visit her but some recipes are gone, as both of my grandmothers passed away. Some things just cannot be re-created, can they?
Nowadays that art of getting together, for the simple pleasure of the company of the people you care about, is being lost at times. We go out to restaurants (don’t get me wrong, many of them are fun and inspiring) or don’t invite people over, lacking the time or the inclination to cook. And that’s a shame. Yes, it can be a tad stressful, especially if you are expecting a large number of guests, but it doesn’t have to be.
When I am in the kitchen, cooking, it becomes almost a meditative past-time. The flavours coming together and the simple pleasure of feeding the people you love is unsurpassed. Add to that nice juices and wine and kid’s laughter, some tea lights and pretty blooms on the fresh linen and the happy event will be complete.
When I was young mum did all the cooking but when I was close to finishing high school both my mum and my paternal grandmother decided to give me a cookery ‘crash course’-I enjoyed eating but not the cooking at that stage, the pleasure of cooking came later, when I got married and my husband had to be fed-he is a tall guy with an appetite that was a butt of jokes in my family to start with.
As I don’t live in Moscow currently I miss my family mealsgreatly but we have friends here and being with them makes me think of my childhood. And going to my best friend, for her roast chicken with honey roasted parsnips and carrots, gravy and truffle roast potatoes cannot be compared to anything else-it is just divine. And that is just one of her delicious recipes-she is just a natural cook, who puts in magic ingredients to create dishes that are unforgettable, but easy to make.
As we get older, we add precious pieces to our life and food and our family and friends are a big part of the quilt of life. Doing it more often just makes our lives more happy and complete, don’ t you agree ?