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.
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: