I honestly never thought I would see the day that I would spend so much time baking and trying out new things in the kitchen other than regular meals. Not only did I not see the need for it, but I grew up as a spoiled expat child and later on spent most of life as a privileged expat wife where it was easy to go out and buy the item or have it made.
Living on my own led me rediscover many recipes from my childhood, and now I am on a quest to find the flavours of my youth, learning to appreciate new ones in the process.
Popovers are something my mother used to make when I was a child. I vaguely remember making them once or twice for my family but without any roaring success. Pinterest to the rescue! and I found the recipe and exact texture I wanted.
Biscuits (from the American South) I associate with summers in the USA visiting my father’s foster parents (when he was a young trainee in San Jose, CA.), and I know it is a very specific memory, but for some reason I always think of biscuits with gravy, corn and steaks. It is Lent, so I skipped the steak for now, and am not a great fan of gravy either, but they were not bad with Spanish scrambled eggs, for example.
Pickled zucchini and onions is something I also associate to my youth, but the way my mother-in-law made them was something extraordinary. I fiddled around with several recipes until I got the right balance I wanted, wishing Daddy was around to tell me exactly what was wrong with it.
Chilli salt comes in infinite variations, but the specific one that I had tasted at a friend’s house brought me back to barbecues in Mexico, and partly to the street carts in Thailand. So I ground up some rock salt with dried red chilies, added a pinch of this and that, and am thrilled with the results!
Now that my daughter lives with me, we drink a lot of tea together (she always makes them with a spell and an affirmation) and I drink far less coffee these days. Lemons and ginger are a staple in the house in any case, but now so is honey. In the past we always got our supply from the relatives in the Black Forest, but that is a source no longer available to me, so I turned to local beekeepers and have been pleasantly surprised. Having been homebound and bedridden for two weeks recently, I had plenty of time to waste on Pinterest in-between coughing fits, and ventured into the world of infused honey. My first attempt was rose (i.e. petals) and dried lavender, using the thick forest blossoms honey. An hour later it landed on freshly baked dinner rolls and I have a new appreciation for honey. I am just waiting for my herb garden to flourish a bit more so I can try out a few more variations. If it doesn’t land in a tea, the rosemary, sage, and mint leaves the will certainly land in the honey infusion.
Last but not least, I have embarked on the grand cheesecake adventure. This is another world with infinite permutations, depending on whether you prefer North American or European recipes. I grew up on Chicago and New York cheesecakes, so I have a pretty decadent taste in that respect. But I like the subtlety of the European cheesecake better, and frankly, I cannot be bothered to go out and buy a slice just for myself each time I have a craving. Even more tedious was baking an entire cheesecake just for my own consumption at home! Last week I made what friend now refers to as the sunrise cheesecake, since I made it before sunrise on my daughter’s birthday. It took us a good week to finish it, having a sliver as dessert or before going to bed. Inspired by this, I returned to the flavours of my youth and searched for a lemon cheesecake. There was one particular level of sourness that I wanted to achieve which contours up all sorts of beautiful memories of travels and bygone youth. I landed on an Austrian food blog and tweaked the recipe. I nailed it! It doesn’t look perfect, and I am still working on that, but I got the flavour of my youth back!
For dinner last night I ventured into another trip down memory lane: garlic naan and tandoori chicken. My hands are aching from all the gardening, kneading, mixing, and baking over the weekend, but it is very satisfactory to wrap them around a hot mug of tea, knowing that everything that landed on the plate was homemade, not home-assembled, store bought, or from a food delivery service.