Today’s Prompt: Tell us something about your favorite childhood meal. Today’s twist: Tell the story in your own distinct voice.
When Indonesia was part of the Dutch East Indies, vessels plied back and forth carrying spices and passengers. One of those passengers who left Holland for the Far East was my great grandmother who came out as a Teacher/Nanny to a wealthy Chinese Indonesian tin mine owner. She fell in love, got married and never returned to Holland. She had 2 daughters and taught them to cook like she and her mother did.
That resulted in my Grandma, whom I called Oma, being the best cook ever! Oma brought her four children to Singapore to live because she felt that English, not Dutch, was going to be the future global language.
Sweet Oma would cook Dutch winter dishes for her grandchildren, even though Singapore was 1° north of the Equator and never had any winter. We would stay over at Oma’s ‘resort’ during our school holidays. I’ve often wondered why she chose to make winter dishes and not summer or spring food. Perhaps it was convenience, as everything was thrown in a big pot and left to simmer.
We, the grandkids, had the fun of serving ourselves and were allowed to be as messy as we wanted, with no mothers’ chiding over shoulders. My favorite scoop-&-splatter dish was Erwtensoep ~ Dutch Peasoup. (You scoop out of pot and splatter into bowl.) Oma’s soup-scoop was bigger than my face and sometimes the splatter ended up on my clothes.
We used unbreakable enamel soup bowls and the house rule was: “take as much as you want but make sure you finish it or there’ll be trouble”. We, the goody-kiddies, never found out what the “trouble” was. Children were never allowed to play with food but here we could, without wastage. We would stick our spoons in that thick goop in the bowl and hoped the spoon stayed put. The game continued as the soup level got lower and lower. The winner would be the one whose soup level was lowest, yet not have the spoon hit the bowl. When we finished our soup, it was common to see all of us with patches or soup marks by the sides of our mouths. Then came game number 2, tongue-stretching to clean up messy mouths.
In Oma’s pot we would always find chunks of bacon and smoked sausages (Rookworst). To Dutch readers, I know Rookworst is a common item, but in Singapore at that time unless you paid a fortune, it was not easily obtainable. Ah… but we had Uncle Robin who worked for the Dutch airline (KLM), who flew frequently to Amsterdam, and spoiled us with loads of Dutch goodies.
To this day, each time I have a bowl of Erwtensoep in front of me, I think of Oma. I miss her and her really, really superb homemade Dutch pea soup.