The first taste and smell that I can remember is the smell of my grandmother’s kitchen. Roasted coffee, scrubbed yellow-wood floors, my ouma’s lemony perfume, her clean washed night gown was the cloud in which my mornings started then – and so at age three, my obsession with food was born. Every morning she roasted the beans in the kitchen, ground it and turned it into coffee – coffee from Barrydale. It tasted exactly like the aroma that permeated the house. She made it with milk for me because I was very little, but it had real milk from a cow. Smells and tastes governed my life from that day onwards. When I was ten I named them ‘memory moments’ for no rhyme or reason and the name stuck and I continued to file them in the secret place in my mind throughout my life.
I was thirteen when I realised that I loved crayfish – on the rocks at Rooi Els near Cape Town where my father dived.
At fourteen I fell in love with snoek, freshly caught and not salted when it was prepared and served to us by a friend’s dad in Faure. It remained my favourite fish for the next thirty years when I discovered, in Norway, what salmon could taste like – but snoek is still my first love and the memory moment will always be there. I was sixteen when I filed large, creamy oysters from the Namibian coast, shucked by my father and served by my mother at the big table in the dining room for my birthday dinner.
It was only recently when, after a few miracles and medical disasters, I accepted that it was okay to be me, that my passion is my passion and that was just how it was going to be from now on. So now, when I look back at the highlights of my life it is only the birth of my three children that ever had more importance than food. They eclipsed everything forever and I shared it all with them and they are all endowed with that special thing, the love and respect for this artform.
In order to continue research for a book that I am writing, I would love to know what your food memories are, when the realisation dawned on you or whether you do experience these moments at all. Please leave a short answer – I would really appreciate it. Here are some of mine to show you what I am looking for.
I love good chocolate cake but can never find something just right. My mother’s chocolate cake was perfect and it made it very difficult to find anything to match it. One has to use the right chocolate – so to begin with look for a really good quality cocoa. For the fudge, at least 70% chocolate is imperative. Lindt make really good chocolate and I have always been happy with it. Slow on the sugar too – there is nothing worse than sickly sweet chocolate cake. It happened that my youngest son took me for breakfast at a coffee shop called Melissa’s last Saturday (Cape Town, South Africa if you EVER have the chance) and I tried again. Half heartedly because I didn’t want a chocolate fudge. I am so glad I did because there it was! A memory moment. The dense very dark cake was moist, yet light. It tasted of real chocolate, good chocolate – I was so relieved. Then the fudge – generous yet not over dominating; not too sweet without that overly strong butter smell. Deep, deep chocolate and with a few hazlenuts. Toasty, fresh hazlenuts every here and there. I loathe it when a chocolate fudge has so many nuts that it dominates the chocolate. It is a fudge cake, after all – not a nutcake.
The best samoosas came from the Voice of the Cape Festival at Green Point in Cape Town a couple of years ago. I tasted one at every stall and ate far too many, but not one was better than the other. There was potato, pumpkin, spinach, minced beef, shredded chicken covered in paper thin layers of flaky crispness. Golden bites of bliss! If I have the chance to go again this year, I certainly will.
A memory moment fondue was not Switzerland in a warm chalet, it was made by my Thierry child in Germany. It was sublime! The wine, the atmosphere, the cheese, the aroma …… nobody could ever improve on that fondue and I knew then that nobody ever would.
Italy has given me so many memory moments that I would have to devote and entire post to them – by good grace they are my countrymen too and I am so grateful of this and carry the honour so proudly that I will, certainly, devote a post to this.
I could carry on for pages, but that is not the aim of this short post – here I simply want to ask for your memory moments. Please.