Monday, June 13, 2005

Foreign food

When I was a child, my family would spend some time at my maternal grandparents' place every summer and during Easter holidays. We would often be joined by uncles, aunts and cousins. One of the highlights of these visits was my grandmother's cooking: fried eggs tasting implausibly delicious, fresh baked bread, tomato spaghetti, slow-cooked roast chicken dishes, pies... and the blasted mantı, of which I couldn't even pronounce the name, due to its foreign and seemingly indeterminate-sounding final vowel, which would come out as either 'manti' or 'mantu'.

To my child's eyes and taste buds, mantı, fervently adored by everyone else in the family, looked and tasted like a really good idea gone to waste: First came the oven baked thick fyllo pastry dumplings filled with a mix of meat and other stuff. So far so good. Then, alas, came the sauce made of yoghurt, water and mashed garlic. The mere sight of it I found repulsive, as for the taste, unbearable to even think of: the sourness of yoghurt entwined with the burn of garlic. Even worse, every plate filled with the poor soggy dumplings swimming soup-like in this yoghurt concoction was topped with a mix of butter and red pepper. Mantı cooking days were days of mourning for me and I would eat the dumplings straight, set aside especially for me, with a fork, looking away from the others' plates and the ceremonious choreography of their spoons stained with yoghurt going up and down.

I have just finished eating two bowls of the thing, which I cooked earlier tonight. With Russian frozen pelmenyi dumplings, unfortunately. Granma having been dead for 22 years now, this is as good as it gets. But, once more, I tonight felt that some chances should be grabbed while there is time.


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