Cooking – For the love of family and friends – Generation to Generation
Welcome to my kitchen!
One of my earliest memories are of myself as a three year old, cooking “soup” for my Apuka (Daddy, in Hungarian). My mom set me up on a little stool with a little single burner, a little pot and my needed ingredients to match hers, and I was off! I still remember the thrill as I added the fresh ingredients, stirred the bubbling broth and waited with baited breath while I asked my dad if he liked it. Only when I was an adult did my dad tell me how very salty it was! It reminds me of the first time my granddaughter seasoned a whole chicken to roast. She was having so much fun that I didn’t have the heart to stop her until the spike bottle was empty. She was two or three at the time. I had to wash the chicken and prep again when she wasn’t looking – but it was worth it.
My next memory that stands out was of myself as a 17 year old, just having moved away from home and in with a very special friend; Joyce Fleming (Liedke) and her roommate, when I went away to college. I began to think back of the meals that I loved. That was the first time I remember thinking of the delicious taste of something I loved, and calling my mom to ask how the dish was prepared.
Rummaging through the scantly filled kitchen cupboards, the closest thing we could find to a stock pot was the clay insert to a crock pot. Joyce and I contemplated whether a clay pot could be placed on top of an open flame. We decided to try it. I filled the pot three quarters full of water, added a nice big smoked ham shank, turned the flame on under the pot and waited in anticipation. I can still feel the shock to my system when “of course”(!) the pot exploded with a big crack as it split into two and the content of the pot flooded the stove top. Not one of my brighter moves… 😉 Today, the cooking of my mom’s bean soup has not only been recorded and mastered, but it has also been cooked and enjoyed by others in their own kitchens and made for those that they love.
The two greatest influencers in my life of cooking have been my mom and my mother in law. Both moms were born in Hungary and neither of them cooked from written recipes. They learned how to cook as a natural and integral part of their every day lives.
When I first married as a young 18 year old, I was visiting Dan’s family in Windsor Ontario, going from house to house, meeting all of Dan’s extended family and friends. The food everywhere was soooo good. I remember sharing my insecurity with an older widower; Farkas Néni. I told her I was nervous, because ,although I had a lot of experience with food, having been raised in a Hungarian family restaurant from the time I was eleven. I didn’t actually feel like “I could cook” … too many things that I didn’t know. Laughingly now, I am reminded of my granddaughter when she told me with such emotion… “Grammy! I have NEVER baked a CAKE before!!” Wow! Three years old? And you have never baked a cake?! We got right on it!
What Farkas Néni told me, touched my heart and spoke to me beneath my insecurities… She said, “Marika … you don’t have to worry about whether or not you know how to cook, if you love your family, you will learn how to cook everything you want to learn and you will be an amazing cook”. She didn’t say that word for word, but that was the message she gave me and that moment with her is something I still carry with me each time I set my intention toward cooking something for someone. She blessed me that day nearly 38 years ago and that blessing continues its positive, encouraging and nurturing effect.
Often, during my preteen and teenage years, working in the restaurant with my family felt more like slave labor than very much “joy of cooking”. I’m sorry to say this, but it is true, for me. Just way too much never ending work… and it hijacked my family and became a merciless slave driver. But! Cooking, once I left home took on a new dimension, and all of the experience I had of working hard and being exposed to the many ingredients that make up delicious meals and the cooking process have all influenced my cooking and I am a better cook for it.
It’s been over 38 years since that first call asking my mom for the details for making her delicious bean soup, and still to this day, I love being able to call my mom and ask her for cooking tips and for her memories and details of where her recipes came from and how they developed.
I’ve worked hard to try to capture as many recipes as I could. I am only recently realizing how many more recipes I wish I could have captured while my mom and mother in law were in their prime in connection to cooking and baking.
The quest to try new things and articulate my discoveries continues and I hope to leave these for those that will come behind me as well as for those that are walking by my side. I love sharing and being shared with.
May you find something here that nourishes you on every level and may you continue by sharing it with others as well. Cooking is an art and each of us brings our own uniqueness to it as we continue to learn and grow toward our potential.
From generation to generation in every culture we receive gifts and pass along our gifts… Recipes evolve. It’s funny because even though most of my recipes have been inspired by my two moms; Cser Mama and Marton Mama, as my kids know them … there have been times where my kids did not recognize my mom’s dish as what they know by the same name because I have tweaked everything I cook, fine-tuned to my family’s likes and dislikes … dietary needs at different times due to allergies, preferences, etc. And that is how it goes. It is an art and each person interprets and creates.
May we all keep trying new things, remembering that failed attempts can always bring us closer to success than never trying! Find your path and forge a trail!
Much love… <3 marika