Today, I was absolutely stunned by a blog post on “Kitchen Vignettes” which combined memories of a much-missed mother with her signature summer recipe, together with a video of the daughter picking the fruit and making the dessert. There is a beautiful response on the blog post which says:
“The video stunning (because you weave film like your mother knit wool)”
Kitchen Vignettes blog post
I would encourage you to pop over to the whole blog post here because it is beautifully written: a lovely tribute to a relationship which nourished and expressed care by baking. It is that perfect mix of being personal without sentimental.
I wonder if cooking a recipe by someone we love is a way of remembering them, in a delightful way. It seems so ephemeral to make a plate of food as a way of expressing love – but over time, there is a repeating pattern of association with a particular dish and a person. It’s an association of name, scent, taste, sensation, colour. I think it has been well stated that the fastest memory path is smell – that a particular scent will suddenly take us back to a situation and memory – hopefully, a happy one.
In my small, very stained handwritten recipe book, I choose to name recipes by the person who gave me the recipe – and so it moves from their kitchen to mine, from their experience to mine. And so I have “Janice’s Green Thai Curry”, “Karen’s Pizza”, “Oonagh’s Sweet and Sour Chicken” and “Louise’s Lemon Cake”.
I can still remember the exotic kitchen smells of a Japanese lady who hosted my family – and the very different curry aromas from an Indian friend’s kitchen. I walked into her house, sniffed the woody scents and intrigued, asked “What did you make for tea?” “Lasagne!” was her surprising comment.
On film, there is a great example of food and remembering in the animation feature “Ratatouille”. In one scene, the extremely negative and fussy food critic is served food cooked by the resident chef (who is a rat) – and at the first mouthful, he goes straight into a memory of his mum serving him a comforting plate of the same dish. (At the moment, that clip is available via Youtube as “Remy cooks Ratatouille”, although it has not been posted by the film’s maker, so may in time be removed for copyright reasons.)
What smells and meals do you remember with affection? Have you considered finding the recipe and recreating them?
Do you have a signature dish, something tweaked by you to be personalised?
What do you make – in any medium – which is particularly you? Consider making one to give away/share with someone you love, early in the New Year. If you have a personal recipe, consider handwriting it out and giving it to a friend or younger person, as a lasting gift.