Proust knew it, we all know it. Something eaten at a certain place and time can send us straight back to that place and time when tasted years later and far away.
When I was a child, morning and afternoon teas and suppers marked out the day, the table would feature a variety of baking and the greedy among us would sample something from each plate.
Each family member had a speciality. My mother’s was the Belgian biscuit; spicy, sweet, with just the right thickness of biscuit, amount of jam, swirl of icing and sprinkling of pink jelly crystals on top. Not too much, not too little. They bore no resemblance to the behemoths available in cafes now – those nasty saucer sized thick, dry things.
There were so many others; my grandmother’s specialty was the tan square, my aunt’s the pineapple sponge, my mother-in-law’s shortbread made with icing sugar.
It is a good idea to write them down – I don’t have one single recipe written down. The women in my family relied on their memories. I had good intentions of collecting these recipes but somehow never got around to it and now it’s too late.
A regular feature of NZ Music Month at New Brighton Library, Sophia Bidwell and her partner Jeremy Brownbrooke treated patrons and staff to another fabulous performance of traditional and contemporary folk music for violin, mandolin and piano accordion.
Their repertoire for this performance included a variety of tunes, several composed by Jeremy. As I listened I found myself envisioning a walk in the Scottish highlands; a saucy encounter in a French café, and a quiet Guinness in an Irish seaside village. The latter was further brought to life by the library’s backdrop of sand, waves and seagulls (but not the Guinness, sadly).
Whilst their individual styles appeared to contrast (Jeremy with a look of intense concentration on his face and Sophia seemingly relaxed) they created a harmonious sound which was well settled after eight years performing together. Jeremy casually implied that playing this music on the violin was essentially easy but admitted that the dexterity required to take these tunes at speed … took a little longer to acquire.
When I asked Sophia why she chose the piano accordion she told me that whilst she had learned classical piano, she was unable to haul a piano from flat to flat in her days as a student. So, her father passed on one of his piano accordions – thus providing a more portable, if more complex, solution to Sophia’s need to stay in touch with her passion for playing music.
Music Month is over for another year but you can keep on listening to the kind of music that Jeremy and Sophia play by borrowing from the libraries collection of world music or listening online to the wonderful resources of Smithsonian Global Sounds, Naxos and Contemporary World Music.