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Growing Roots: A Tale Told Through Food

Author: Taslin Pollock

Every female in the last four generations of my family was born in a different country. My grandmother, the matriarch of our family, was born in India. My mother was born in Uganda, I was born in England and my daughter was born in Scotland. The reasons for each move were different also. My grandfather came to Africa seeking his fortune. My parents came to England as refugees, seeking to escape Idi Amin’s reign and I…well I followed my heart to Scotland. Under such circumstances, it would be understandable to feel that the putting down of roots would not only be very difficult, but also futile too, and yet, I believe that the roots that anchor us, grow regardless. In our fortunate case, the roots have only become stronger for the fact that they have had to adapt and change and absorb. They have benefited from the experiences the family have had, both good and bad and the places we have lived, the places we call home. This is nowhere more obvious than in the food that we make and eat. Indeed, I am not ashamed to admit that my memories of home are linked most profoundly with memories of food, be it sharing food around the table with my family, over a makeshift cloth on the floor, at a religious event, a wedding, or even a funeral. In fact, the food I now make to feed my family is rooted in the strong history our family has experienced and the Countries we have each called home.

One of my most treasured possessions is my ‘Friends and Family Cookbook’. After processing the unexpected and early passing of my father, I was overcome with questions I wish I had asked him about his life. One of those questions would undoubtedly have been to ask for his recipe for Maru ja bhadjas. Similarly, I would love to make the lime pickle my grandmother used to make in huge jars in her shed in the garden of her home, rather than try and describe how good it was. Resolved that I would leave a legacy of recipes that my children could cook in the future should they wish, and remember fondly our shared past, I began writing down my favourite recipes from my mother and my grandmother, such as my grandmother’s recipe for Moong jo Saag (Green Lentil Curry), and my mother’s recipe for Sweetcorn and Peanut Curry and Topra Pak (A sweet Coconut dessert).

But I did not stop there. I began to add recipes for staple dishes, such as spaghetti bolognaise and my Indian twist on the humble cottage pie, that the children eat without complaint (which is always a bonus) as well as recipes of foods that reflect the food culture from Scotland, recipes I make now, that are loved just as much. A recipe for Steak Pie, we make on New Years Day. My Mother in Law’s Bara Birth Tea Loaf is a firm favourite in our home. Haggis, Neeps and Tatties with a Whisky Sauce and my twist on Black Pudding Stovies. I have also asked friends that have passed through our lives here in Scotland to contribute too. A fantastic recipe for brownies made for us by our longest friends. A friend who has now returned home to Australia, contributed a few recipes, including a quick Satay Stir fry recipe. Our friends and neighbours have shared their recipes for Mendazi and Churros too.

As I look through the cookbook now, I realise that a great many recipes have been added by my husband and children themselves, recipes they have made through our last few years in Covid Lockdown: banana bread, pizza dough, flatbreads and chicken wings. When I make the foods from the recipe book, I think of the times I have eaten the food before with fondness, remember the people we have shared food with and feel grateful that a journey through these Countries has been so bountiful. I know that when my children fly the nest, they too, shall do so with a copy of the 'Friends and Family Cookbook', with a copy of our history, to continue its story.