They say home is where the heart is and that the kitchen is the heart of the home. I fully agree with this. But, the heart needs a pulse, something that makes it alive. An empty kitchen, one that is not used, where no experimenting with new recipes take place, where no celebrations or heartbreaks happen due to a successful or disaster outcome of a new dish, is as good as a dead heart.
My Mom most definitely is the pulse of my childhood home’s heart. I grew up in a home where the supper was already planned while still having lunch. It actually still is. When someone comes to visit, starters, dessert as well as something to go with tea are also on the menu. Every dish is considered carefully and the guests’ likes and dislikes are taken into consideration. Needless to say a visit home means food, snacks, treats, food, more treats, more snacks, more food and lots of it…
I love cooking and baking, maybe baking a little bit more than cooking. I love preparing a meal or dish with love and seeing people I love enjoying the food I made. I think it must be one of my love languages… blessing people with food. My husband always jokes and says that as soon as I hear that someone will be visiting I already ask “What will I make to eat”.
I definitely got this from my amazing Mom. As a housewife of a farmer she was the master at not only making us clothes, but also creating meals for our huge family… growing from 8 people to over 30 as we all have our own families by now. If you were looking for her she would either be in her little sewing room or in the kitchen. If someone special (like one of my siblings) was coming to visit, a meal was always planned and recipes tried out days, sometimes weeks ahead of time.
My mom’s recipe books are literally falling apart, she has made new covers and all of them have seen their good share of my Dad’s sticky tape trying it’s utmost best to keep the covers together. Still, they are bursting with little notes and pieces of paper with recipes written on. Some she scribbled down while listening to the radio or watching cooking shows, others she copied from friends’ recipe books, torn out of magazines or even gotten from us, her children. But if you ask her where this or that recipe is, she would know exactly in which battered recipe book to find it.
Since I was a little girl my mom gave me opportunities to explore and expand my baking skills. Sometimes the end results were somewhat tasty and sometimes not even the farm cats wanted to touch the end product, like when I accidentally added salt to the coffee cake batter instead of sugar. Talk about a disaster!
Planning for holidays were and still is a big excitement as we start to bake cookies and shop for everything we need for our special times away from home. My Dad always complains that we return with more food than we went with as a holiday always means food in abundance. And when you ask my Mom why she always packs more than enough food, her answer will be “We need options as we might not be in the mood for whatever we planned for that specific meal” 🙂
One item that was and still is always on the list is Rice Crispy Cookies. It is still an item you will find on any of our holiday lists, even now that all of us are grown up and not necessarily going on holidays with our parents. A new favourite has recently been added to the “must-go-on-holiday-list”, it is called “Kaasknappertjies” a cheesy savoury biscuit that my husband Louis and eldest boy, Luan are crazy about. Through the years all of us six siblings have developed our own cooking styles. Some are clearly better cooks and bakers than others (my sister Louise can give anyone on Masterchef and Kokkedoor a go) but one thing is certain, all of us love to make, eat and share good food with our families and friends. And it is even better when all of us are together eating our hearts out at some or the other family event. One thing is sure, we definitely do the “go big or go home” thing when it comes to food!
When I look back at my life there are definite memorable events, filled with food of course… Basically every Christmas Eve dinner has been such a feast. One that clearly stands out is when my sister Louise decided one year that we will have an Indian Christmas Eve Dinner instead of a traditional one. What fun it was to make our own samosas, spiced ice cream and how we enjoyed all the different curries! Another favourite feast that repeatedly featured in our lives was a Chinese “braai” or Mongolian “braai”, it not only featured during my brother’s 21st, but also mine! We’ve also made our own pasta from scratch on several occasions, leaving not just us but also the floors covered in flour and pieces of drying pasta.
A few years back my elderly mom browsed through all of her battered recipe books for all our family’s favourite recipes and very lovingly typed all of them on a very old PC. She categorised all the recipes and compiled “Mamma se beste resepte” (Mom’s best recipes). As she is almost eighty this was quite an accomplishment. I have to add that she is actually very tech-savvy for her age, staying in contact with her 6 children and 15 grandchildren on WhatsApp and Facebook! This recipe book is extremely special to all of us kids and it is interesting to see which recipes are our favourites, as the favourites are all different. This recipe book is not just a compilation of different tasty recipes, it also serves as a memory and a time machine as it so often can take me back to events where these recipes featured in our lives.
As I am a movie lover I definitely have some favourite food movies and they include “Julie and Julia”, “Babette’s Feast” and “A hundred foot journey”. I just love how these movies show how food can inspire and bring people together in incredible ways. And how I love all the sayings of Julia Child! One of my favourites is “A party without cake is just a meeting”.
I am blessed with the most amazing husband. He knows exactly what would bless me tremendously and when I turned 35 he orchestrated and compiled the most amazing composition of different recipes and put them all together in a recipe book called “The Covenant of Salt”. As salt was regarded as a necessary ingredient of the daily food, and so of all sacrifices offered in biblical times (Leviticus 2:13), it became an easy step to the very close connection between salt and covenant-making. When men ate together they became friends… This recipe book consists of a variety of recipes from friends and family, all with photos of special people in my life and personal messages from them to me. I treasure this with all my heart. This gift was particularly special as I turned 35 while our youngest (9 weeks old at that time) was very ill in hospital with meningitis. I love cooking from this recipe book, rereading the messages and looking at the photos of special people as it almost gives me a glimpse into the kitchens of friends and family, without actually being there. And it gives me the opportunity to bless those sitting around our table with amazing food.
I believe in the magic of cooking and baking and sharing amazing food with ordinary, yet amazing people. I believe that friendships happen around food and I believe that the most heart to heart discussions can only happen if tummies are filled… If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him. The people who give you their food, give you their heart… Cesar Chavez
My wish is that our kids would grow up in a home where the love of making and sharing food would be instilled deep into their hearts.
May the heart of our home have a strong pulse. May we create memories in our kitchens for our children and may these memories inspire generations to come…
It is fun to get together and have something good to eat at least once a day. That’s what human life is all about – enjoying things. – Julia Child
My amazing Mom, Sv Havemann. Definitely the pulse and heart of the home!
My Covenant of Salt Recipe Book