Rabbi Miriam Berger once said “I grew up in a family where we show our love through food and like any Jewish mother, providing food for people is a way of showing I care.” Well, while my family is not Jewish, we could easily join the ranks. Show people we love them through food? With the avalanche of culinary treats at family occasions, we could possibly kill each other with the stuff!
For us, food is not about preparing ingredients but sharing with one another. We cook to feed and we cook to celebrate. As anyone in my family can attest, a family occasion is not a family occasion unless there is an ‘Ice Mountain’ cake plonked in the middle of all other offerings.
I am honoured to follow in a great line of home cooks. For me, food is the ultimate extension of self. House guests are very familiar with my kitchen, always stocked with homemade food and the constant presence of something on the stove. Marauding teens often visit, scavenge in the kitchen and eat like termites before moving on.
In this house, cooking is also about coaxing. Instead of yelling up the stairs, I gently coax the Teen out of its attic by wafting delicious smells around the house. Slowly, it descends until seated and happily chomping at the dinner table.
To cook is to share but it goes far beyond plonking a plate down in front of a hungry Teen. It is about passing on recipes, skills and stories from mother to child. I remember only too well as a little girl, dragging the shabby, blue, stool to the corner, where I would climb up to sit, plumb legs dangling, and watch my mum cook. She would show me how to prepare the dish while chatting about all sorts of other stuff. As a working mum, I tried to share these experiences with my daughter but time was simply not there. I am hoping that this blog will fill some of those gaps for her. I believe this is especially important in a world where ‘cooking from scratch’ is becoming a rare occurrence in far too many homes.
The recipes I share are dishes and delights enjoyed in my home. They are not a lead up to me doing battle for the MasterChef crown or dusting myself in icing sugar to compete in the Great British Bake Off. Chefs might balk at what I do but this is my approach. This is simple fare prepared by a home cook and shared with people I care about.
What Miriam Berger said now has particular relevance for me. A year or so ago, I discovered that one of my grandfathers was most probably Jewish. So when it comes to cooking, I must say – Welcome to my Jewish Quarter!