In honour of Mother’s Day on Sunday, I thought I’d take the opportunity to
brag pay tribute to my own mother, particularly as pertains to my food philosophy and thus this blog.
Our childhood was a bit unusual; my sister recently described our Easter celebrations. Think Laura Ingalls Wilder – we were Little House in the Big Woods set the 20th century.
My mom was a real foodie before there was ever such a term. In our house were no refined vegetable oils or refined sugar, but lots of produce from the garden and mountain pastured meat.
She never follows a recipe but gathers ideas and puts her own twist on a dish. A handful of this, a pinch of that. The only time I remember her actually following a recipe, it was inedible. She had clipped a recipe from a magazine for rhubarb lamb stew and followed it to the T. It was so incredibly sour. We attempted to save it with piles of honey, but even that couldn’t rescue the stew, and we gave it to the dog. Even he didn’t want it.
Despite that story, however, she is an amazing cook. Food from her hands tastes like home, like comfort, like happy childhood memories. We’re a family of cooks – my father is also a superb cook and all us four children cook well.
When a real foodie marries a Japanese man, you can end up not eating like everybody else in a small rural town. I remember pleading with Mom as she cooked supper, looking down into a cast iron pot of hijiki (a type of seaweed) and tofu. “Mom? A friend is coming over tomorrow. Can you cook something normal?”
But now I embrace that weirdness. It’s given my siblings and me a sense of culinary adventure and appreciation for different tastes. Even if it shocks others.
Like the time I first slept over at someone’s house. In the morning my friend’s mother asked me what I would like with my oatmeal porridge, expecting a difference of brown sugar vs. honey, or cream vs. butter. “Please,” I asked innocently, “may I have sardines and soy sauce?” (I don’t actually remember this, but it’s become A Family Story.) It’s actually very good, try it sometime!
Mom learned to cook many Japanese foods, one of them being these fermented radish top pickles. Japanese food is famous for having a million little dishes and dozens of condiments. She would sprinkle them with salt, pack it in a bowl with a small plate overtop, and let it sit. Dad would eat it with rice or porridge.
So, in honour of Mother’s Day, here is a recipe. Radish tops are edible but are rather prickly; fermenting them eliminates the prickles and fills them with good for you probiotics. They go well with any grain, if you eat grains, or together with red meat. Maybe in a salad or topping a hamburger? It was a perfect garnish for beef stew.
How did your childhood and/or mom influence your food choices?
Fermented Radish Top Pickles
160g/5.5oz radish tops, from about 10-12 radishes
radishes if desired
3/4 tsp (unrefined) salt
Gently rinse any dirt from radishes and radish tops. Thinly slice radishes. Coursely chop radish tops in 2cm/1inch chunks.
In a bowl, sprinkle radishes and tops with salt, massage with your hands until the juice starts to flow. Pack it into a small jar, top with enough water to make sure the vegetables are submerged.
Put a lid on the jar and let sit at room temperature for two to three days, then transfer to the fridge.