***Series Summary – In an effort to clarify my personal definition of food culture, I’ve invited a few food forum friends to share stories and recipes on my blog, with the hope of it giving us insight into the culture developed within their own home kitchens.***
I met Anna on the original Nigella.com forum and quickly fell in love with her passion for cooking for her family as well as her profound interest in American food culture. Never one to fear a new ingredient, Anna is known to buy American goods on Ebay. Everything from Jiff Peanut Butter to Pillsbury Funfetti Cake Mix sparks Anna’s interest probably more than it would typical American folks. Although born and raised in England, Anna sticks very close to her Cypriot roots and her stories from that part of the world are the ones that captivate me the most. I here present a post by Anna herself showing just how much her family, her roots, and cooking, stem deep:
My Mother-In-Law, Her Green Beans and a Taro Casserole
Cypriot recipes come from far within me, deep within my soul, embedded in my psyche. Oh, yes, I may flirt with food from far off lands, embrace them, fall in love with them even, but I always return to the recipes I know best. The recipes that are in my heart. My mother is a brilliant Cypriot cook and it was from her, that as a new bride, I too, learnt the recipes of my ancestors.
I’ve been lucky with my mother-in-law, I just need to tell you that dear reader. I’ve heard many horror stories of Cypriot mother-in-laws from hell, to know when I’ve got it good! But my poor mother-in-law, who’s now nearing 85, is in poor health. Always a proud, strong woman, she now tells me on the phone that she has a live-in helper, a lady from Sri Lanka, who cooks for her, cleans for her and even combs her hair for her. She adores her.
Over the years we have stayed countless times at my mother-in-law’s house, she has cooked for us, cleaned for us and babysat the children when they were small. All we had to do was ask and whatever Cypriot food our hearts desired would, as if by magic, appear.
I loved her green beans yiahni. Yiahni is a Greek Cypriot way of cooking with tomatoes and onions, the [ingredients] – usually pork or chicken – are simmered slowly with potatoes and a vegetable, maybe green beans, okra, cauliflower or taro.
Taro is a root vegetable, also called “colocasia” or “dasheen.” Native to South-East Asia, it’s a perennial hardy tropical plant, which is why it grows so well in the climate of Cyprus. I remember my mother-in-law had a taro plant in her garden; it had large, lushly green leaves.
To make the taro casserole, the taro is peeled and cut into pieces, fried until it’s golden-brown, along with the meat, potatoes in peeled quarters and thinly sliced onions (half an onion will do) and the inner stalks of celery which also have leaves, the prized part of the celery in Cyprus I’ll have you know!
The whole lot is then stewed with passata, water and seasonings until cooked through and wonderfully melded together. I use my pressure cooker, which cooks taro in about five minutes.
[Today], while I was making the taro casserole, my mind wandered to when the children were small and [to] my mother-in-law’s green beans. I’m glad I called her, it was good to hear her voice.