© 2012 Marica


Food is always at the heart of our family gatherings. Over the years we have developed an eclectic cuisine that reflects where we have come from, where we live, who we are as individuals and as a group, and what we value.  The recipe books kept by my mother, my sisters and myself are personal history treasures.

For years now I have wanted to create a family recipe book that captured the story of our family through the food we have cooked and continue to cook so lovingly to nurture and sustain our families and our friends. It was a good idea that has so far gone no further.

Who would have thought that being made redundant from my job could change this situation. Knowing that I wouldn’t be at work my mother asked me if I would help her do some baking for our upcoming Christmas celebrations. This seemed an ideal opportunity to start collecting some of those precious recipes of my mothers that aren’t easily written down – the ones where personal touches or lessons learnt are not recorded.

Today we made rafioli. These are sweet pastries made from a fine thin dough that are filled with a delectable mixture based on ground almonds. I arrived at my parent’s home ready to watch, listen, learn and record this one recipe. I had a camera, paper and pen at the ready. As with every recipe my mother has ever given me over the years a lot of interpretation is required. I am used to getting instructions like, ” add enough until the consistency looks right”. Quantities are based on estimates and guesswork. The most important thing is to know what “right” looks like but how do you document this. Today’s recipe capturing was no different. As you can imagine I had a lot of questions.

I discovered my mother used two different recipes to make her rafioli. The pastry recipe comes from her good friend Dubravka. This recipe had all the details necessary to be able to replicate it – we were off to a good start. For the filling my mother uses a recipe from her trusty Dalmatinska Kuharica – a Dalamtian cookbook. As I was reading the recipe (which by the way is in Croatian) I realised it too gave instructions just like my mother.  For example, in the recipe for “Rafioli Makarski” (the specific recipe my mother uses) it stated, “pune i peki na umjerenoj vatri”. Translated this says, “fill and bake at a moderate heat”. No further explanation is apparently required – no indication of how much filling to place in each pastry, no length of cooking time, no indication of what they consider to be a moderate heat.

Then there were the extras that my mother added to the filling that weren’t recorded anywhere.

As I watched my mother work I realised I cook exactly like her. My recipes form a basis from which I then add my own touches. Replicating things I cook is never easy because often I don’t remember what I added, or ommitted, last time that made it taste so good.

Recipes are living documents that tell the most interesting stories about who we are and the time we lived in. They can be adapted to our personal circumstances and tastes and shared so that they live on long after we do.

Today I made a start on one of my ideas – the Sevelj family recipe book.

35. Every day focus on what matters to you.
39. Every day trust that there is a bigger picture. You are a part of it even if you may not know what it is.
42. Every day celebrate. Who you are. What you have achieved. Things that matter to you.

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