Yesterday, I cooked for my grandmother. I pressed two heads of garlic into pans, diced most of a bag of onions, added laos and lemon grass and ground coriander to big pots of vegetables. Emptied a jar of sambal ulek. Two jars of peanut butter became peanut sauce and a block of tempeh fried up into a large batch of chips. My brother, parents, grandfather got cooking too and there were spicy eggs, chicken two ways and a large pot of rice. Oh, and a huge batch of sweet, tender beef cubes.
My grandmother did not taste any of it. Yesterday, we said goodbye to her.
My grandmother’s life was filled with people and there must have been at least 80 people at her funeral. We all sat around her one last time and told each other stories. Of holidays in tiny cars and so much stuff. Of learning to love orange juice because she added spoonfuls of sugar. Of beautiful hands with nails in a rainbow of colors. And, above all, of food and sharing it. If there was anyone who ever left my grandparents’ house without a happily filled stomach, I haven’t met them. My grandmother probably did not either, because she seemed incapable of inviting someone into her home without feeding them.
And so we cooked. She wasn’t there, wouldn’t ever be again, but at the same time she was and will be. In our hearts, yes, but also in our hands as we cook the food we remember. And in our contented sighs as we pick up our spoons and share a meal.
Recipe in English below, this is the Dutch version my grandfather sent to my brother and me:
Hete eieren recept van Non.
Voor +/- 6 eieren, zacht gekookt
- 3 kemierie noten
- 1 grote verse lombok
- knoflook 2 pitten
- trassi 1 afgestreken thee lepeltje
- kunier +/- 1. volle theelepel.
Dit alles goed fijn wrijven en dan in een beetje olie zachtjes bakken.
Verdere benodigd heden:
- Kokosmelk. Voldoende om de eieren net onder te dompelen
- Salamblad 2 St.
- Seree 1 stengel (beetje beurs slaan)
- Citroenblaadjes 3 St.
- Stukje gemberwortel +/- 1 bij 1 cm.
Deze benodigdheden na het bakken toevoegen en een kwartiertje zachtjes laten trekken. Dan de eieren er bij , en ook een paar min. laten trekken .
Klaar en rustig laten staan.
For 6 eggs, softly boiled
- 3 candle nuts (kemiri)
- 1 large red chillie
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 scant tsp trassi (fermented shrimp paste, my oriental grocer calls it “Indonesian cooking paste”)
- 1 generous tsp ground kurkuma
Grind all of the above into a paste with pestle and mortar. Gently fry in a little oil, until fragrant. Then add:
- Coconutmilk (enough to just cover the eggs later- try 1 can in a pan that just holds the eggs)
- 2 salam leaves
- 1 piece of lemongrass, bruised
- 3 kaffir lime leaves
- piece of ginger (about 1 cm by 1 cm).
Simmer for about 15 minutes. Add the peeled eggs and simmer for a few more minutes. Turn off the heat and leave to stand for 15 minutes or so.
Serve, or cool and gently reheat for serving later.