In my last post, which you’ll find here, I mentioned that one of the reasons why I enjoy living in Europe is the abundant availability of various things and the easy proximity to them. When I say ‘various items’ I’m mostly referring to food items. I love food. I mean it. I love food and cooking different kinds of it. Most mornings, when I wake up, my thoughts (after my morning prayers, of course!) turn to what I’ll have for breakfast. If I miss this pre-morning window, then I spend the mid-morning wondering what to have for lunch. If I don’t eat lunch, I proceed to think about dinner, or supper as some of you call it. Now that I think about it, I spend a lot of time thinking about food! [Don’t worry though, I do get my work done. After all, one must work if she wants to continue to eat.]
In my native language, which is Yoruba, the term for someone who loves food that much (or is merely greedy) is ‘wobia’ (wore-bee-ah). However, my best friend says that I’m simply a foodie. Guess which badge I’ll take. Of course, I’ll be a foodie! It sounds so much better than wobia, right? Since moving to ‘over the sea‘, I have to say that my cooking repertoire has broadened and improved considerably. I’ve had opportunities to prepare dishes I used to drool over in cookbooks previously. I’ve eaten fresh strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries. I’ve also eaten berries I didn’t even know existed (here’s looking at you, physalis). There are some foods though that my mind has not yet wrapped itself around, like the Romanesco broccoli, aka Roman cauliflower. Ironically, I have acquired a liking for cauliflower; I know, #shock! #horror! We do have cauliflower in Nigeria, but we never cooked it in my house.) I also like eating muesli in yoghurt, and seeds like chia, sunflower, and pumpkin.
Anyway, to get on with my story, one food item I had never tried, even though I usually saw it at the farmers’ market is rhubarb. I think I knew of rhubarb many years ago from children’s books, such as Enid Blyton. I had read about dishes like rhubarb pie, rhubarb and strawberry crumble, rhubarb jam, and even rhubarb syrup. However, I’d never seen it, much less tasted it. As much as I enjoyed trying new things, I had never considered trying rhubarb. That was until a colleague, knowing how much I liked to bake, brought me some from her garden (thanks, Helena!). Having never cooked it before, I immediately went to Pinterest (my kryptonite!) and started searching for recipes. I discovered that the great thing about rhubarb is that it freezes well, which was fortunate. I didn’t immediately find a recipe that captivated me, so I cut them into 2-inch lengths and froze them for about three weeks. It’s true; rhubarb freezes very well.
I wondered when I would get the opportunity to cook them and more importantly, for whom I would cook them. That’s the weird thing about my cooking. I love to prepare different kinds of dishes, not to eat them myself, but for others. My joy comes from seeing others enjoy what I’ve made; it gives me a nice buzz inside!
My opportunity came when HR announced that we would all meet on the last Friday of the month and have a pow-wow to discuss various projects we had completed. The teams would also share their learnings from the projects. To celebrate the summer, one of our colleagues would make strawberry cakes. Almost immediately, the train lights in my brain came on, and the engine began to rev. I could make a rhubarb dish and add it to the strawberry fiesta! That way, the spotlight would not be on what I prepare, and the promise of cake would ensure a maximum number of people would turn up to eat. I couldn’t have come up with a better setup myself. Allow me to clarify. See, in Nigeria, if you bring a meal to the office, it is guaranteed that you will take an empty dish back home. However, here in Sweden, politeness is a massive part of day-to-day living. So, if most of your colleagues are Swedish, you would need to invite them in person to try your food. Some of them will readily accept, but you have to specifically ask them and offer. There’s also an unspoken rule here that no one takes the last serving of anything.
This is a form of courtesy – to leave the final piece for someone else. Sweden is generally a very polite society, and displays of greed are frowned on, so if you work in an ultra-polite environment where people don’t want to be seen as liking food too much, you’ll likely have a lot of food leftover.
I decided to make a rhubarb and strawberry crisp. I used this particular recipe here. I wanted to make it the night before and bring to work, but as I’d never made any kind of crisp previously, I wasn’t sure if this would work. Also, most recipes I found always ended with ‘allow to cool, and then serve immediately.‘ I, therefore, resolved to make it in the office (we have a fully equipped kitchen), and serve it then.
All went well, only that I timed it too close to the start of the event. The crisp was still steaming hot when I took it out of the oven and wasn’t sufficiently cooled before I served it. The rhubarb/strawberry mixture had a slightly soupy texture, but the crisp on top was on target, and overall, the dish was well received. Not willing to concede defeat, I decided to make the same thing again on Saturday night for church the next day, and it turned out beautifully. It was such a hit that the baking dish was scraped clean. Now, this being Sweden (and I attend a Swedish-speaking church), I consider this as a great success.
Yes (fist pump)!
Practice, in this case, really did make better. Below is the second effort, and the proof of how much church members enjoyed it! 😀