Sunday, July 5, 2009

Day 185: Taste Carries Memories


Day 185: Taste Carries Memories, originally uploaded by susanvg.

We went to a Thai restaurant and shared a couple of appetizers - one of which was satay. I took a taste and memories of Indonesian rijsttafel were triggered. My late husband's family spent many years in Indonesia and, although he left as a very young child, he still had his memories of elaborate rijsttafels being served. After we were married, he decided to attempt to prepare one for family and friends. A rijsttafel is a banquet - based around rice with many dishes.

I remember one rijsttafel, in particular. His parents were staying with us - cooking became a family affair. In those days you could not get tinned coconut milk. We would pour boiling water over dessicated coconut, let it sit and then pour it through a sieve to capture the liquid. I can still see my late father-in-law, squeezing the coconut with his hands to get as much of the liquid out.

And my mother-in-law taught me how to make rice in a bed. Our stove, having only the usual 4 burners, was not big enough to cook the number of dishes we were making (satay, Indonesian meatballs, hot spiced eggs, fried spiced beans, curried beef....). We started cooking the rice in a very large pot. Once it came to a boil, my mother-in-law wrapped the pot in blankets and tucked it into bed - it cooked itself to perfection.

Food is such an important part of our lives. It carries the memories of events, occasions and places. A taste can make us travel through time and space.

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