It might sound a bit odd, but my mother-in-law’s pantry – which I gave the nickname “Little Shop” – is the true embodiment of what I think about keeping cultural and family traditions, as well as a fantastic way to reduce our household waste.
Maria is my mother-in-law, and everyone affectionately calls her Marica. She lives in Kiskőrös, a small town in the Hungarian countryside known for producing wines.
My husband Josef and I visited her last spring. In the two weeks we were there he showed me a variety of beautiful places and landscapes, but my soul and heart are forever in that moment when my sister-in-law, Évi, opened the pantry door to show me what Marica usually produces throughout the year.
Marica is one hard working lady! For many years now she has been planting and harvesting fruits and vegetables, which are quickly transformed into jam or conserve. In May, for example, strawberries become jam. As for vegetables, the cabbage and paprika are ready by September and go to a mason jar right after cooked.
All of Marica’s amazing production is stored inside the “Little Shop”. The room is small, it is a little over 5m2 with cold walls, which maintains an ideal temperature to preserve the food.
On the shelves are also peaches and plums jam, applesauce, tomato juice – the best I’ve ever drank in my entire life – baking trays, roasters, cookbooks and many empty jars and glasses ready for a new batch.
When I saw all of those full jars, and the sausages hanging from the ceiling, I felt as I was going through a portal towards a gourmet fairytale.
I imagined myself:
1) preparing a super Bloody Mary;
2) making sandwiches with sausage and paprika;
3) having a bowl with a huge scoop of ice cream and fruits.
Day dreaming, I began to craft a four course meal as my thoughts were interrupted by Josef telling me about his childhood’s rural food production.
So I was back to reality…
Josef explained that at that time, his maternal grandparents and his father also helped to plant, harvested and reared pigs, always three times a year, which provided lard and meat for steaks and sausages.
And they even had a pig day, which was organised for a massive family party, with a big dinner, five courses and a full table of sweets.
I felt a little jealous of Josef. He really had lived through what I thought only existed in my imagination, and what I consider an ideal environment to grow, like a taste in paradise.