Born and bred in London I nevertheless spent every Summer in Italy until my 30s and now go at least a couple of times a year to see family and friends. The name of this blog relates to some of my most evocative smells and aromas which link the cultural influences on my life. When I go back over to my father’s home town of Penne in the Abruzzo in any but the Summer months, woodsmoke is one of the most evocative smells and it can literally move me to tears. It is comforting and desperately nostalgia-invoking, it just opens a window to the soul. The wild strawberries for me are the best example of smell and taste magically converging. These little gems are found both in Poland, my mother’s country, and Italy, my father’s. When we go to Italy, you can often eat casually pick them off a dessert trolley in any average restaurant and my kids – and I – simply explode with delight. In short, the woodsmoke and the wild strawberries capture the seasonal nature of life, the tiny, precious moments, the rhythms and surprises of life, the never-ending pendulum swings of time from Winter to Summer and back again, the dark and the light that give our lives its contours, the sadness and the laughter the diaphanous, evanescent and the tangible. Nostalgia, I know I will never be able to harness you!
Motivation for this blog
They say it takes a village to raise a child. Despite living in the thronged capital city of London I often felt isolated when I first had kids. It took a few years to get to know parents and make friends and form a support-network of wonderful, inspiring people. I often ask my dad who is one of seven kids and turning 80 this year, how my Italian grandmother managed to raise all those kids, single-handed, with my grandfather drawn in to a raging WWII during those important years. His answer is always that things were different then, that they in the village – well more of a town actually – in which they lived others had considerable input and that although she shouldered most of the burden, she was not on her own. There were extra pairs of eyes and hands to help out, and joy of joy, kids weren’t observed and controlled every moment of every day. They were relatively free agents. It was a community based on reciprocity, and duty – as well as on nosiness and interference of course, for there are two sides to every coin. The blogging world is not dissimilar, in that by venturing out in to it means personal exposure, voyeurism, potential criticism and perhaps even Schadenfreude but I hope it will be countered by moral support, encouragement, help and practical advice. My husband used to tease me for reading and making comments on blogs years ago, the unease similar to the way noone used to admit they met online. Now no more lurking for me, I am putting one toe in the water, it’s time for interaction.
I have always cooked and, despite years in office-based jobs, always felt ‘whole’ while creating and using my hands. Any culinary and other creative endeavours (self-taught knitter, crafter, furniture restorer, interior designer) are therapeutic and help me feel I am capturing somehow the intangible, transient, nostalgic, memory-forming moments of life. Whether you have gone down the path of having children or not, doesn’t everyone at some point reel during those vertiginous instances in which you realize how life is hurtling along? And if you are not in full time work and “proving” yourself with promotions and awards and bonuses and garnering respect and adoration, but just keep on keeping on at home, embracing the sometimes tedious, frustrating, demanding but often magical managing of a family, then how do you mark the time? Who prints photos anymore – or writes a diary? I always feel inadequate and somehow beaten into submission by all the expectations to fill in baby books, print and frame pictures, capture milestones. It takes all my energy just to keep the show on the road, let alone document it. So for me cooking and writing and sharing it all, helps punctuate this journey with memories, helps crystallize it all into mental keepsakes if you will.
Another factor is that I lost my mum unexpectedly when my daughter was just 10 months old and I rued the fact that I hadn’t the time to ask all I wanted to ask, learn what I needed to learn from her. I still wish she had left some sort of survival manual for me to refer to or had at least shared her trials and tribulations so I could feel less alone, less like I am fumbling through life without her daily input. This is only the beginning, but this blog helps me assuage the sensation that I am not recording or soaking up experiences for myself or for my nearest and dearest. Preparing and sharing food with those you love, exchanging ideas, and experiences and a smattering of my daily trials and tribulations help me feel like this woman is not an island, that in a virtual way, I am rebuilding that ‘village’.