I woke up this Tuesday morning thinking about some of the comments from family on what I have written so far…and how this is for them a glimpse into my very private inner world, but when I share memories of a grandmother and father, it also tells of people whom they did not know in this particular way… I am the oldest grandchild on both my dad and mom’s side, so even just age wise my memories would differ from other cousins, maybe even siblings, though I am one of a non-identical twin…(the nature of memory fascinates me and I will no doubt explore it in another post eventually…)
My earliest food related memories are all about sitting at a table with grown-ups, a grandfather at the head of the table, and the deep rhythmic rumble of a table prayer, which we had to close our eyes for, coming from his throat bent to his chest in reverence of the god which he believed in. We never held hands during the prayer, as I’ve seen so many people do. Most recently even my dad and I, both somewhat in awe of Hettie’s fierce if well meant instruction to my dad to “Bid vir ons, toe?” dutifully extended our hands to be held by one another at her cue of hands outstretched, one towards me and the other to my father. My own fierce non-believing head went mute in that moment, where the joined hands and hearing my dad’s own sing songy version of my grandfathers prayer, my heart was touched , not by the content of it but the connection of three people, physically and emotionally in the shared ritual. The words of that original prayer for years eluded me, though I can remember the cadence of my Grandfather’s voice falling and rising. I wonder if he as a little boy heard his own father praying the same prayer, maybe even at a similar meal..
Comfort food I think one would call it now: A lamb or beef stew, whitest rice I ever saw long before I ever had my first look and taste of sticky oriental style rice… roast potatoes if there wasn’t already a surfeit of them in the stew, green beans, carefully topped and tailed earlier by my grandmothers swift, sure fingers holding a knife sharpened into an urgent curve and the handle dark and smooth with use: green beans cooked with potatoes and onion, sweet cinnamon-y pumpkin, earlier cut in wedges by my grandfather, pressing down hard with a bigger knife until with a cracking sound the hard outer shell of the pumpkin revealed the orange flesh inside. My grandfather always did that: it took a man’s strong hands to slice and peel those white, squat boerpampoen that had been grown in their garden or bought at the Portuguese greengrocer round the corner..
So, a meat dish, a roast or a stew, potatoes, green beans, pumpkin, or carrots stewed to sticky sweetness in butter and sugar… a typical mid week dinner at my maternal grandmother’s house….the memory there-of evoked rather sentimentally by my own earlier dinner of lamb, and this morning thinking about, what else? Food….