Cooking is one of life’s testimonial activities. Today, I cooked a traditional Jamaican breakfast, because my first grader had requested it last night while we were headed to the movies. The recipe is wonderfully simple. Dumplings: flour dough with baking powder added to make it rise a little when cooked. Salt fish: traditionally, cod, but commonly another white fish, that has been dried and salted. It is soaked overnight to soften and get out some of the saltiness. I then like to put the fish into a fresh batch of water and bring to the boil slowly, before I try to flake it. I then cook the fish with onions (scallion would be good, if you have it) and tomatoes, black pepper, and if so inclined, some fresh hot pepper (like Scotch bonnet). The flour dough is rolled into small balls and then fried slowly, until brown and cooked in the middle. In Jamaica, we call them “Johnny cakes” (a variation on journey cake, I understand, meaning food that could go on a trip). Dumplings, relatively fresh tasting, transport the still salty cooked fish dish to the mouth repeatedly until a state of satisfaction is reached.
We all ate heartily, and found any excuse to have more dumplings. Like so many dishes, it takes a while to prepare–about an hour or so–but mere minutes to demolish.
It is a metaphor, too, for so many things in life. They take a while to build but can come tumbling down in no time at all. The enjoyment of what has been built should be savoured even more, for that reason alone. When we look back to how good a favourite meal tasted, we have only the memories, until we can muster up the ingredients to make it again.