Following, a paragraph taken from the home page of the dazzling blog
“Part of blowing so damn hard on the embers is to bring back the tastes of childhood, my mother’s expatriate Danish cooking, my Father’s Eastern European specialties like his sweet Tzimmes and half sour tomatoes, my Aunt’s traditional Danish farmhouse fair and elegant midsummer night desserts, and the foods of our young childhood spent with our parents on a Greek Island. I will throw in as well the influences of my husband’s Israeli youth and my years spent living with him on kibbutz. As I have learned it is love and connections that makes this tapestry bright.”
If these lines needed a witness to raise one hand and put the other into those bright embers, I volunteer and attest to the sumptuousness of that childhood. You see, I was sometimes a sworn part of the writer’s – Johanne/Hanne’s – childhood. We met on that Greek Island when she was about two-and-a-half years old, a soft, sweet-smelling, wide-eyed, giggling cherub with platinum-blond curls. Hanne, along with her family, me, my son, the feta, the fresh bread, the olives were baked together under that strong sun into a tasty pie. Ever after we’ve re-recipe’d that pie – in Rhode Island, Los Angeles, New York when she was a frisky, irreverent 7 year old i.e. photo below on East 57th Street
then, in Greece again, and all of the above redux. In just under fifty years. She was a guest on this site a few years ago [see “Capitalist Girl”] but now that she’s SunnysideHanne.com, and since she and her husband are here on a visit, I take the moment to quench my curiosity about her intriguing blog whose photos never fail to cause me to salivate. Here’s how she introduces her blog:
Me: How long have you been doing the blog now?
H: I first posted in January 2017. I’d planned to begin before that, but then my mother suddenly died, and life got in the way. By the time I was ready, my direction had changed.
Me: How so?
H: It became more about the link between nostalgia, memory and taste than I’d originally intended. I began trying to re-create links to my childhood, or childhood in general, through taste.
Me: Can you give me an example?
H: For instance, let’s say I’m remembering a moment in a house in Cairo. I can’t really reproduce the look of the hallway or the smell of the mold on the wall. Nor can I re-create the smell of the grandma’s apron when she hugged me. But … I CAN re-create that grandma’s babka … I can bring back the flavor, the smell, the taste of it.
Me: You mean your cooking re-creates the experience?
H: I can re-create the nostalgia with food, can get under the many layers of lacquer that time and distance has applied.
Me: How long have you been a vegan?
H: About eighteen to twenty years … before that I was a crypto-vegan …
Me: A what?
H: I started as a crypto-vegan. I had a cake business once. Wedding cakes, cakes for occasions. You know … English style cakes decorated with roses, sweet peas, lotus flowers, raspberry brambles. I started doing vegan but no one ever knew. Why use two dozen eggs for a buttercream cake when I could culture almond milk into butter? I wanted to cause as little harm as I could. People have prejudices against non-dairy. They don’t find taking breast milk from a cow disgusting yet they’ll wince when milk is made out of a legume.
Me: Did anyone ever guess?
H: Never. If I make it, it has to taste the best. I don’t like to disappoint anyone. That’s why I don’t like people coming to dinner. I like to test and re-test.
Me: What about the mistakes?
H: I eat my mistakes myself, they’re always delicious. Just not perfect yet. My personal weakness has become my strength with the blog.
Me: I couldn’t agree more. Your photos dazzle me.
See what I mean?
Me: What does “Labneh” mean?
H: It’s when you to take a diary product and curdle it and separate the curd from the whey … check out the post that mentions my mother.
Labneh is a tangy, silky Levantine cheese spread that can be served as a dip with pita bread or smeared on a toasted bagel. The cheese can also be rolled into balls, encrusted in herbs, and preserved in golden olive oil.
In winter there was rain that fell for days without end and pulled from the almond trees green fruit so tender that you wanted to cup them with your hands and protect them like the fuzzy heads of newborns.
This seasonal memory is one of the corners where my husband’s and my childhood intersect, he on a kibbutz in Israel and me on an island in Greece.
My mother would mix lemon juice and salt into our leftover yoghurt, wrap it in white linen and hang it from a hook until it had drip, drip, dripped out all of it’s whey and become an impossibly tangy, thick spread. As we had no refrigeration this alchemy was both practical and delicious.