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Wednesday 9 May 2012

The Nostalgia of Vegetables

A market stall in Sri Lanka
I used to host a radio show called 'Lipstick with Veg'. My motto was 'Eat More Veg!'. Not because I was trying to convert anyone into vegetarianism...I just genuinely love vegetables. At any give time of day I could eat a plate of veg. A bowl of boiled peas is my favourite. Tonight I was looking for crafting inspiration - but flicking through photos taken over the last few years I was surprised to discover that I have lot of images of fruit & veg. I have no idea why I've taken any of them, other than the colours and textures are beautiful. But rather than inspiring me to 'make' I found myself drifting off into memories. Here's what I recalled....
Coming home after school and sucking on the fizzy yellow sacks that can be found inside jackfruits. My sisters and I weren't allowed to throw the seeds away, they are like huge brown nuts, that my mum added to curries.
2. Mango
These days the only mangos I eat are in the form of lassi or pre-chopped cubes in supermarket fruit salads. Deep down I know I am not giving mangos the justice they deserve. My mum used to peel the skin off and then squeeze all the flesh into a bowl. If I was lucky she'd let me suck on the seed before she split the mango pulp into bowls -  which she'd then sprinkle with deep fried crispy rice for dessert. I would give anything to have that incredible taste in my mouth again. But sadly it will never happen as she had a special way of making the aforementioned crispy rice which no one else has ever mastered, despite my sisters and mums friends trying.
3.Sweet potatoes
I've never known a sweet potato not to taste delicious, but the best ones I've ever had are when my parents used to wrap them in foil and pop them in the bonfire. Inside would be hot,sweet, creamy bliss.
4. Marrows
We grew up eating marrow with everything. Marrow and fish, marrow and prawns, marrow as a side and marrow as a main. But these days I never buy them because courgettes are so much more easier to prepare.
5. Ginger (ok....not  veg, a spice, but I liked this photo!)
My mum only ever cooked with six spices - ginger, garlic, coriander, chilli, tumeric and cumin. Where as I have a ridiculous array of jars - garam masala, curry powder, paprika....she kept things simple but amazingly still full of flavour.
6. Bananas
Bananas remind me of my dad as he used have one chopped up with a bowl of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes every day for breakfast and he'd give us strict instructions to only buy short, fat ones as they taste better.
7. Okra
Okra is beautiful. A miracle of nature. Just like mushrooms they aren't supposed to be washed. Ashamedly I buy the frozen variety - but at the same time it's amazing to think it's possible to do that - as when I was growing up, frozen okra was completely unheard of!
8. Ramutan/Lyhees
I photographed these Rambutans in Malaysia last year - they actually represent lychees. Possibly the most fun fruit there is to eat. We only seemed to have them on special occasions as they were so expensive. Everyone in the family (there were 6 of us) would get  two each to savour.
9. Beans
Beans. I don't know what variety these are but they remind me of the humble broad bean - the veg I ate more than anything else when I was younger. They grew in abundance at my parent's allotment and every weekend my sisters and I would be forced to sit indoors shelling them into bowls while the rest of the neighbourhood kids were outside playing. (I'm not even exaggerating here!) Shelling broadbeans was a regular family activity. None of us liked eating them, they were so bland. Yet today I regard broadbeans as a delicacy. They are my bean of choice.
Finally the luw. A type of gourd, similar to a marrow which again we ate regularly because they grew so well - in the back garden and allotment - even though the seeds had been sent over from Bangladesh! My dad could get them to grow to over a metre in length and I used to wish he'd get photographed for the local newspaper with one, but he never did.

I don't know if vegetables have this many personal attachments with anyone else. But thinking about them tonight has been theraputic.


  1. Really enjoyed your memories, thank you for sharing them. My favourite vegetable is Aubergine, for it's colour and flavour. I very much enjoy your blog.

  2. Thanks! I love aubergines too! Especially thinly sliced, coated in spices and fried...yum!