A Merry Christmas from OUR STORIES/£50 raised for CHILDREN IN NEED by Maple Walk School

IMG_1596First of all a big thank you to Maple Walk School’s headteacher Sarah Gillam, reception teachers Mrs Brooksbank and Ms Dancey as well as Francoise Romand and last but not least parent Jo Dymond for making another Our Stories project happen. It’s always wonderful to see what we can achieve when everyone pulls together and I want to thank everyone, including the parents and grandparents, for being so forthcoming with their stories and photographs. We have at the same time also managed to raise £50 for CHILDREN IN NEED through the book sale, which is absolutely fantastic!

Putting the book together was once again a reminder of the richness of each single child’s background and how London, especially, is the most incredible melting pot of ethnicities and histories. There were stories from as far away as India, Australia, America, Kenya, Poland, China, Morocco, Iran and New Zealand. As with the children who have partaken in the Our Stories project previously, these Maple Walk grandparents and great grandparents represent a whole spectrum of human endeavour from those who had to flee war or persecution and came to England to start new lives to those who bravely defended their country and some of whom were even rewarded with the highest honours. There were fascinating encounters with such varied subjects as a rock star, a king and a deadly poisonous snake. And last but certainly not least there were some wonderful insights into how different the lives of those grandparents or great grand parents were from that of their grand- and great grandchildren. Great stuff!

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A Cookbook by Grandmothers

 

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To mark a recent visit, an old friend from my native Berlin gave me a newly published cook book featuring traditional German dishes called “Wir haben einfach gekocht” (Umschau, 2015), which basically means: we just cooked, meaning: in a simple fashion. Those who cooked are a group of elderly, but very lively women interviewed for this book, most of them well into their eighth decade.

The team behind the project, Jörg Reuter, Manuela Rehn, Cathrin Brandes and Caro Hoenes, went off on a journey across Germany with the mission to visit a number of care homes and to quiz the residents about their favourite recipes as well the memories associated with those. They cooked, shared the odd trick, and ate together.  In the absence of steady companionship or the opportunity to cook for themselves anymore, these senior citizens clearly enjoyed the chance to make themselves useful and to be sociable.

“Wir haben einfach gekocht” goes straight to the roots of the kind of cooking we associate with family and all things homely. It harks back to a fuss-free and regional cuisine that was supposed to nourish and sustain you, and most importantly, was always enjoyed en famille, at the table. As a result, such wonderful classics as “Sauerbraten”, liver with apple rings, onions and mashed potato, potato dumplings, pea soup and “Streuselkuchen” are getting the proper treatment here, not a make-over.

It is obvious why this idea appeals to Our Stories and why I should mention it here: housewives or not, these women had to cook for themselves and their families, day in, day out, the dishes often passed on to them by their own mothers and grandmothers and perfected over time. Sharing these recipes means sharing a piece of their history if not their identity.

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Much like Our Stories sees itself as an incentive for others to engage with the elders in their families, the authors behind this book want to encourage readers to visit care homes for the elderly, perhaps get acquainted with an elderly person, listen to them, cook for them.

How about a British version of this book…anyone?

 

 

The website and Facebook pages are in German:

http://wir-haben-einfach-gekocht.de

https://www.facebook.com/wirhabeneinfachgekocht/?fref=ts