Friday, February 16, 2007


I've been reading a book called "Toast, The Story of a Boy's Hunger" by Nigel Slater. He is a British food writer and cookbook author. The book is a short memoir of his childhood that uses food as an anchor. The food he had as a child doesn't sound very appealing but it is inextricably linked with his life. The book begins with his mother scraping the burnt part off the toast. She does this every time but this doesn't matter. Nigel writes:
"It is impossible not to love someone who makes toast for you. People's failings, even major ones, such as when they make you wear short trousers to school, fall into insignificance as your teeth break through the rough, toasted crust and sink into the doughy cushion of white bread underneath. Once the warm salty butter has hit your tongue, you are smitten. Putty in their hands."

This got me to thinking about my own childhood and how food fit into it. I don't think Nigel will mind if I borrow his idea.

When I was about four years old I began to help my grandmother in the kitchen. She was a wonderful cook who could feel when the dough was right or the chicken was done. Naturally I liked helping with dessert best. One of my favorite desserts was apple strudel. I loved everything about it. The thin, almost transparent dough that was stretched by hand. The mixture of apples and cinnamon and the smell that filled the house as the strudel baked. Ema would always make some extra filling so I got to eat it, licking up the apple cinnamon liquid that had collected at the bottom of the bowl. Is there anyone that doesn't like to lick the bowl? There is love in being allowed to lick the bowl or the beaters. It's kind of intimate too. You wouldn't let just anyone lick your bowl.
And when you're little there is joy in being allowed to help, to learn, and to participate in creating a wonderful thing. Whenever I go visit my sister I cook something, like plum dumplings (more about those later). Her two boys usually want to help cook and though they often make the process much more difficult I cannot turn them away. Cooking for others is immensely gratifying. I highly recommend it. It can take you back to those days in the kitchen when joy was a bowl of apples and cinnamon.

1 comment:

Epiphany Alone said...

Thanks for that. I'd been stuck in my "There's raw egg in that", even though they are organic and from free range chickens...