From Michelin to Our Heritage
A long time ago there was me. A girl with cheeks bigger than my skull and three nicely shaped “tires” from neck to shoulders. I had no idea what Michelin was, but I already belonged to the Michelin family. I liked to eat (as I do now), and I was like a sponge soaking up every little thing that was put in front, back, side and next to me. Was it a piece of cake or a whole cake – I was ready to eat it. When my hat was tied with strings under my chin, no one could see the strings – they just disappeared into the flesh of my cheeks.
I was a happy kid who liked to eat, and I had a great grandmother who liked to feed me, no matter how full I was. No, she did not force me to eat (like some grandmothers did); I could do whatever I wanted, but I never bothered to say no. Instead, I asked for an extra portion of ice cream cocktail or ice cream sprinkled with grated chocolate and peanuts. I liked to eat freshly whipped egg yolks with sugar just like that (we called it gogelmogel), and I never said no to late night pan fried potatoes with some extra bacon. We both were alike – portion size did not matter, as long as we were happily fed.
And then came the saddest day of my life - she died suddenly. I was just 7, and it was the worst thing that had ever happened to me. It was a tragedy, and I still feel that way. Time passed and I grew up (still loving to eat), and my husband and I started the website www.cetrassezonas.lv (four seasons). Later came a magazine, and then my daughters were born and I did my best in everything. But one day at an interview, somebody asked me: “What will be the taste your kids will remember when they grow up?” I started to think for a long time. I thought about them and me, and I remembered my childhood, my tastes, and my dear grandmother with her passion for cooking and all of the recipes she had in her head but never wrote down. It happens with many grandparents.
I sat down and there I saw her - sitting on that old couch, smiling, and looking at me and I knew – I have to make a book to save the recipes of all the grandparents who are still with us and still have their recipes in their heads. I dreamt about it for two years, and then, finally, it started to happen. With the help of my magazine and my Facebook friends and followers, we started to drive around Latvia to gather the recipes. Some of the grandparents were happy to share, some needed a little push or begging, some just did not want to show their “old looking” hands and old kitchens, and two of them did not make it to the day we had scheduled to visit them (may they rest in peace). It took us a year of traveling around Latvia, 12 grandparents and around 70 recipes to publish the first book, but by the end of that year, I realized there is much more to say and write about, and we started the second book.
It took 2 years, 24 grandparents, 24 lifetime stories of deportations and homecomings, pictures shown to us, stories about divorces and love, and so much more to finish this project. It made me realize how fragile life is, how something not well-kept can be easily lost (our grandmother participated in the first book and her hands are on the cover, but she left us during the second year we made our book), and what a great job I have done with my team. I know that I have done everything to save our heritage recipes, and I will continue to do more. In 2018, the book 100 cakes and 1 candle will be published, in which people from Latvia have sent their recipes and made cakes that we have put in a book – that will be my and our present to Latvia on its 100 year anniversary.
And it is not just a story about something I have done. It is a story about traditions, about heritage, about food and life. This story and these books prove, once again, that real life happens around food and that we all have a STORY ABOUT FOOD to share – be it breakfast eggs every Sunday or the most delicious apple cake or ice cream in a cafe with granny.
Text: Signe Meirane
Pictures: Armands Meirans, from book "Our Heritage"