Melissa of The Traveller's Lunchbox has tagged me for the latest meme sweeping through the foodblogging community and it's a real pleasure to take part. I enjoyed reading the cookbook memes and the cook next door memes of fellow foodbloggers when I started in June 2005 - it was fascinating to get a small glimpse into the lives of more experienced bloggers. Although quite a few of my friends are very good cooks, I'm probably the only one verging on the obsession (you know, buying yet another cookbook, reading all food magazines, getting out of bed early on Saturday morning to go to the farmers market, getting excited about good/new/interesting ingredients, and gleaming proudly at everything she cooks), so it was comforting to find out that I am pretty normal after all..
Here are some food-related bits and pieces from my childhood - not strictly five, but a few more:
1. I have quite a few childhood food memories related to my grandparents farm in Paluküla, some 80 kilometres south from the capital Tallinn. I spent about one month there every summer, alongside with a varying combination of my 11 cousins. It was quite a large farm with cats, dogs, cows (in addition to my grandparents' cows, there were several collective farm cowsheds at the farm), sheep, chicken, and orchards, fields after fields of potatoes and other vegetables etc.
There were lots of forests near the farm and one of the most vivid memories is of going wild mushroom picking with my grandfather. He was a big, untalkative and somewhat scary man, who died when I was 7. Although I can't remember ever playing with him (he was probably too busy working for that) or chatting with him, I remember following him into the forest, where he'd show us the mushrooms to pick and the ones to leave behind.
There were lots of wild strawberry fields at the farm and at the nearby hillside. There's nothing better than grabbing a small jug or plastic container and heading for the fields. The first few handfuls would end up straight in our mouths, of course. After couple of hours in the sun, we'd head back, crush the strawberries at the bottom of a glass with some sugar, pour over some freshly milked cow milk and enjoy. Blissful..
I remember picking cloudberries, blueberries/bilberries, bog bilberries, cranberries, wild raspberries and lingonberries with my grandmother, Mum, aunties and cousins - whoever happened to be at the farm.
Making apple juice was always lots of fun. We'd spent all day collecting ripe apples from the orchard, washing them, squashing through the big wooden chopper/presser, and then drinking as much freshly squeezed apple juice as we could handle. This was an elaborate affair, often taking more than a day.
2. For whatever reason I used to dip tomatoes into sugar when I was younger. And I don't think it was to compensate for the lack of sweetness, as I did it with bright red and ripe tomatoes grown in my grandmother's greenhouse. Now I eat tomatoes with coarsely ground black pepper. Talk about changing tastes.
3. There was a childrens' TV programme, Kass Artur - about a cat called Arthur - in our only Estonian language TV channel back in 1980s. In one of the programmes, the 'cat' gave a recipe for a sickly sweet concoction involving toffees, butter and puffed corn. Almost 20 years on, this is still one of the favourites at children's parties and can even be bought in shops - and it's known as 'Kass Arturi kook' or the cake of cat Arthur. Here's one I made couple of months ago - my nephews absolutely adored it.
4. Chicken neck soup (kanakaelasupp) is one of the food memories I'd rather forget. In the Soviet Estonia of 1980s, the shops got pretty empty, and I've mentioned the need to be self-sufficient already. But despite of the empty shops, we never went hungry. Potatoes and other vegs came from my grandparents' farm, mum grew various fruit, berries and vegetables in our garden. Meat was slightly more difficult to get hold of, but my grandmother slaughtered a pig every now and then (yep, have witnessed this, too), and one of my Mum's younger sisters knew people in a chicken abattoir, so we were not on a totally vegetarian diet. Auntie Valve brought us some chicken necks (cleaned and gutted, obviously) every now and then, which my Mum used to make soup. And I hated it. There was no meat to talk about - just loads of tiny bones that you were expected to suck to get out the meaty juices. Not really my cup of tea. Chicken gizzard stew (kanapuguhautis), on the other hand, I quite liked and wouldn't mind cooking myself again in the future...
(Auntie Valve also brought us some smoked chicken roulade every now and then, which was absolutely delicious and a staple at any festive table).
5. Another sad food memory involves rabbits. It must have been in early 1980s, when my parents had got hold of two rabbits that were put into a special shed in our back garden. The aim - to raise two big rabbits for a stew later in the year. It was my sister's and my chore to feed the rabbits grass and salad leaves during the summer. Unfortunately, we both picked and bonded with 'a pet rabbit' over the summer. You can imagine our sadness when my Mum announced then that poor rabbits are at the end of their lives soon. And indeed, they ended up as a rabbit stew one after another. I remember not eating a single spoonful of rabbit stew made of _my_ rabbit. And my sister refused a single spoonful of a rabbit stew made of _her_ rabbit. We had no problem whatsoever eating the other stew though.. Life can be so cruel sometimes..
Come to think of that, I now also remember protesting once with my cousins when my granny made a big pot of veal stew. We thought it was slightly cruel of her to use the baby cows we used to go and pat and play with every now and then...
6. I have already mentioned kama 'chocolate' bar - this is also one of my childhood sweets.
7. There's another food memory that always brings a smile at my face. Roasting potatoes in the dying ashes of a midsummer bonfire, and then eating them with nothing else but a sprinkling of salt. This was pre-foil era, so our hands would always end up smeared with dark grey ash dust. But it was always a cosy and romantic affair, even as a kid..
8. Strictly speaking, this is not a childhood memory, as I have no recollection of it whatsoever. But my grandmother insists that I used to sneak into the larder and pick out all fatty pieces from the mortadella-type sausages when I was a kid - see those tiny white speckles on the right? I think she's lying. As I said, I have no recollection of that activity and in any case, I always choose the sausage from the shop with no visible fatty speckles. So it couldn't have been me, could it?
(Or maybe I did go OTT with eating fat from sausages as a kid and now avoid it at some unconscious level??)
I'd like to tag Johanna and Moira for this meme, who were my blogging by mail buddies recently. I also tag Paz for this meme, as a thanks for being such an avid visitor of my blog.*
That's the meme tree at the moment: -- when it's your turn, simply move down the list, dropping number one from the top spot, moving the numbers down, and placing yourself in the number five spot (and of course, linking to each):
1. Cuisine et Compagnie
2. Chocolate and Zucchini
3. A Finger in Every Pie
4. The Traveler's Lunchbox
* I would have really wanted to tag Anne of Anne's Food as it would have been interesting to hear if there're any other Estonian food memories apart from 'pelmeenid' - but then she has already participated in this meme:)