Tuesday, August 02, 2005

5 Childhood Food Memories - yet another Meme!

This meme, sent to me by both Tarzile, from Quebec and Elvira of Tasca da Elvira (Elvira's Pub). Tarzile has a beautiful blog that features many French-Canadian recipes. It is definitely worth a visit. Elvira was born in Portugal, raised in France and returned to Portugal to live permanently not long ago. She is a journalist and her beautiful blog, written in French, has wonderful Portuguese recipes and photos of Portugal. Many times I browse Elvira's blog just to look at the pictures and remember.

And memories is what this meme is all about. It asks for five food-related things you miss from your childhood. It did not take me long to compile this list and thinking about each one of them brings back memories of the flavours and smells of my childhood.

Sweetsop/annona: When I was a little girl in Mozambique, no matter where we moved to there was always one or two of these trees in our backyard. The trees do not grow very tall and some of its branches are low, making it easy for us kids to reach up and pluck this most delicious fruit. They become mushy when ripe and do not travel easy. One day, some seven or eight years ago I found one small basket of sweetsops for sale in one of the Asian markets in our Chinatown. I paid $2.50 for a lonely smallish fruit which was flavourless, a clear sign that it had been picked green and ripened under duress.

Young coconuts: Are another tropical delicacy I miss very much. Its flesh sweet and soft is eaten with a spoon. I do love coconut and many times, when my supermarket gets a fresh batch I purchase one, open its "eyes" to remove the water and then peel it and keep it in the fridge to much on as a snack. Alas, what I get here is not young, but fully mature fresh coconuts. While researching for photos for this post I found out that Melissa from California does sell a package of 3 young coconuts for $US26.90, not including postage. Mmmm! Pretty steep, and I wonder if it is worth it.

Whole cashew nuts roasted on an open fire: As I've had opportunity to mention here before, my maternal grandparents had a farm in the north of Mozambique, where I spent many wonderful times. In the farm there were all kinds of tropical fruit trees native to the place (papaya, banana, mango, sweetsop), and some others planted by my grandfather (mostly lemon, orange, and grapefruit). The place also had plenty of huge cashew trees, that must have been almost a hundred years old, or seemed so to me. The cashew-nut, a bean-shaped nut at the end of the fruit, is covered by a thick meaty cover. It was not advisable to try and cut open this cover because the oils would "burn" your skin. These nuts were roasted over coals until blackened at which time they could be opened to retrieve the meat inside. The cashews were unevenly roasted. Some areas were a little burnt some quite pale, but the flavour was incomparable. The commercially available cashews do not even come close.

Beach Clam Stew: Beaches in Angola and Mozambique, if you lived far away from the main ports, were big expanses of white sand and clear water uncluttered by civilization. On Sundays, we would go to the beach and for lunch we carried a big pot where the cook had put olive oil, lots of chopped onion and garlic and some chopped tomatoes. We also carried some fresh bread and, of course, drinks. Pick the clams was easy. Every wave that splashed on the beach seem to bring tons and we easily picked them up as they tried to bury themselves in the sand. As we picked them, we dropped them in a big pail of salt water. Close to lunch hour a fire was lit using wood foraged from the vicinity and some rocks to support the big pot. After the onions were translucent the clams were taken from the water pail and dropped into the pot just to open. In about 5 to 8 minutes lunch was ready and we all dove in eating the clams with our hands and sopping the bread on the flavourful broth. Divine!

Chicken Piri-piri at grandma Adelina's: Chicken piri-piri is a typical dish of Africa. It is nothing but a whole cleaned chicken opened in the middle and flattened, seasoned with hot chillies and cooked over the coals. It probably was being cooked this way by the native people's of Africa when the Portuguese navigators dropped in around the 1500's; and it could be that our best contribution was the copious amounts of garlic we added to the basting sauce. At my grandmother's farm, chicken piri-piri was always cooked over the coals outside in the backyard. Grandma's marinade/basting sauce was simple: garlic, salt, lots of piri-piri (African hot peppers) the whole thing mashed in the mortar, then add olive oil and rub the whole bird with it. Put the "butterflied" (split the down the center enough to allow it to lie flat, but without cutting it into two pieces) chiken on a rack over the coals, high enough that it will cook slowly. Keep basting with the marinade, as you turn the chicken. It was to cry over, literally... sometimes the basting sauce had one hot-pepper too many for my taste.

Now, how this meme works:Choose four bloggers to tag (none of whom are obligated to take part):
1. Elizabeth of Blog from our Kitchen
2. Michelle of Oswego Tea
3. Ruth of Once upon a Feast
4. Dawna of Always in the Kitchen

Now, remove the blog at #1 from the following list and bump every one up one place; add your blog's name in the #5 spot; link to each of the other blogs for the desired effect.
1 - Becks & Posh
2 - Clea Cuisine
3 - Station Gourmande
4 - Tasca da Elvira / Tarzile.com
5 - Pumpkin Pie Bungalow


Oliver said...

Hi Ana,
What wonderful experience it must have been, spending time on your grandparents farm in Mozambique surrounded by tropical fruit plants and cashew trees. Apart from pine nuts, cashews are my favourite and I believe every word that those at your grandpa's were so much better than the ones you can buy off the shelf. I've just recently bought half a kilo and was so disappointed - they were plain and bland...

Ana said...

You are so right Oliver. I also miss so much all the fruits we had there, ripened in the tree and oh! so flavourful. I did not know what bland mango was before I left Africa.

J said...

hi ana, what a terrific and eloquent post! i particularly enjoyed reading about the beach clam stew, which sounds awesome...cheers,j

Ruth said...

Ana, the clam stew and chicken Piri Piri experiences sound sublime. I'm sure no matter how good the dishes are today, they can't compare to the ones you had when you were little.

Thanks for sharing.

Elvira said...

Lindo! Eu sabia que ia fazer um post desta qualidade sobre este tema. Está lindamente escrito e é muito evocador.

Tarzile said...


Thank you for playing with us. Can I find one Sweetsop tree? Wonderful stories, tasteful souvenirs.


ejm said...

I adore toasted cashews and can't imagine them tasting better than they do. And I have only ever had imported cashews!

Ana, lovely post and thank you for inviting me to join in.


my 5 childhood memories - meme

Ana said...

Thanks to all. I really enjoyed writing this post. It was so nice re-living those flavours. Know what? I'm really considering ordering the young coconuts from California. Now I got a real craving.

Andrea said...

Oh, wow!
Your blog looks more and more attractive every time I visit.
Have been renovating a lot, but now I am back, so will visit often.

Ana said...

Welcome back Dreska. I've missed you and was wondering what had happened! Glad to have you back.

emily said...

So nice to find a fellow sweetsop addict, though they were always known to me as custard apples. I get my fixes from Chinatown too - the trick is to let them sit on your counter or in your fridge for 3 days or so before eating them. It's sad to have to resort to that, but it's better than nothing!