Recipes across the miles
In an age when technology allows us to find out almost anything with a Google search, it may seem odd to think of exchanging recipes personally with someone. But I will admit I still enjoy the chance to get a personal recipe from another cook, in their own handwriting. I have more than a few ingredient-stained pages glued in an old journal that I still cherish as one of my favourite cookbooks. It is not just the bits of ingredients on the page that adds to the magic of cooking the recipes and tasting them again and again. I think herein lies the true root of soul food.
This weekend I am making a recipe I call Best Friend Banana Bread. It’s an old favourite, one that comes from one of my best and longest-held friends, a soulmate who currently lives in England. This recipe is one she sent to me on airmail paper about 30 years ago, as one of her favourites. In those days she was living in her home country of South Africa, and had just started a family with her new husband and daughter (my goddaughter). It’s a wonderful combination of health food and decadence, and I love it for that as well as how it reminds me of my darling friend.
We have shared many great recipes over the years. I sent her my Mom’s Brown Sugar Shortbread recipe, and she sent me the one for South African Milk Tart. In my movie catering days, her recipes for bobotie and carrot cake were favourites with the crews I fed. And when she brought her family to Canada so we could share Christmas together, they were amazed at my husband cooking turkey in the BBQ, and they loved his French Canadian traditions of tourtière and bûche de Noel. Food was one of the ways that kept us connected across the miles and it added to our shared memories when we could get together.
I spent a week in England at my friend’s house 8 years ago this weekend, to catch up and join in the celebrations for her 25th wedding anniversary and my goddaughter’s 21st birthday. It was amazing to think that we had been friends almost 30 years, since my first trip to Europe. We hadn’t seen each other for 7 years, and yet as soon as I arrived, we sat down at the kitchen table with a cup of tea and some biscuits and picked up where we left off like it had been last Sunday. I could feel my soul filling up like I had stopped in at the gas station. All week long we savoured moments, many of them around the table.
My husband and her husband shared time at the stove – hers loves to cook, and with mine being a chef the two of them are often engaged in a sort of kitchen chat. It’s a bit like that Actors Studio show, where you have this interview/conversation between an expert and an admiring and not unknowing layman. Martin shared some of his secret spice blends on that visit, and he got to see a pheasant prepared for a weeknight dinner like it was chicken. The grand finale was the men cooking Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict for the group of 12 staying at the house – all hot and perfectly cooked!
After coming back home, I felt as though I had been replenished. I posted some new recipes in the archives for her husband Vic to try – poached eggs in red wine sauce is one I know he found interesting! And Martin became a new lover of Sticky Toffee Pudding; he used Merle’s similar recipe for the South African Cape Brandy Pudding as a starting point for his own recipe which he now cooks for clients.
We met again in person a few times over recent years while they travelled but I was ever so grateful that we had a chance to stay with them in Senegal where Vic was stationed up until the end of 2019. It was another lovely opportunity to share recipes and time around the table, reminiscing about the many memories we have made together. We ate delectable African seafood and sampled coconut and mango jams with the French pastries available in Dakar, courtesy of the colonists. Merle and Vic spoiled us again.
The kitchen continues to be one of the best places to stay in touch across the world it seems, and I like the idea that our friendship might help warm some other hearts as well. Martin and I are hoping that when the world gets back to some kind of regular existence, we can finally host our friends in our kitchen here in the Okanagan and toast to our fantastic history across the miles.
Posted on April 2, 2021, in cooking, family, food, friends, holidays, kitchen, recipe, sharing, travel and tagged banana, banana bread, celebration, comfort food, dessert, Eggs Benedict, England, friendship, love, Milk Tart, pudding, recipe, shortbread, spices, sticky toffee pudding, tradition, travel. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.