As I anxiously turned the key to my new bedroom, I could barely contain the excitement I felt at the thought that this would be my new home for the next six months of my life. Once we laid our bags down in our individual bedrooms, we all nodded agreeably towards each other that this would undoubtedly be a great place to live in. However, there was one place I still had to check in order for me to be fully content with the new place- the kitchen.
Back at my home in Malta, where I still live with my family, my mother has one fundamental rule that one must not dare breach, and that is to stay away from the kitchen and all the ingredients in it. My mother loves her kitchen and cooking is her passion. Hence, using her kitchen and any ingredients that God forbid, she had planned to use sometime soon, would have catastrophic consequences and lead to a very unhappy mummy! Therefore, this Erasmus experience has given me the golden opportunity to have my own kitchen, with which I could do as I please and cook whatever my heart desires! Thankfully, my roommates are compliant with this arrangement, and so I have cooked here more than I have ever cooked in my lifetime.
Dishes ranged from pasta with bolognaise, carbonara sauce, tuna and mushroom sauce and various other sauces, chicken breast stuffed with ham and cheese with baked potatoes, chicken legs with my famous broccoli and parmesan recipe, lasagna, macaroni cooked in the Italian way (not the American poor excuse for this dish known as their famous macaroni and cheese), marrows stuffed with minced meat and many other dishes, each one, remembered meticulously through thorough observation of my mum’s work back at home, as never did I have the chance to practice my skills. This small kitchen in Germany was my haven for creativity and I enjoyed every minute of it.
Obviously, absent practice at home, some dishes did go wrong. I recall my attempt at cooking a fish pie. This pie consisted of pieces of fish mixed with spinach and other ingredients, which combined produce a heavenly taste. Making the filling of this pie was a breeze; however, the pastry was a quest, a battle with this sticky substance that no matter what, would not achieve the consistency I needed. It took two men and I and about 2 hours of constant kneading to get this pastry to look like a pie. Miraculously, the final result turned out to be great. However I never did make that dish again…
Shopping for the ingredients I needed was another challenge. Many ingredients in Germany differ to the ones we usually purchase in Malta. Hence, the final result was not always what I expected, either in texture or in taste. My method is to keep on adding ingredients or modifying the recipe till it is as close in taste to that of my mum’s cooking, and so far, this method never let me down. Moreover, I had to keep our budget in mind. Usually, when shopping for ingredients, we add up the total amount of expenditure and divide it between the three of us. Consequently, keeping everyone’s desire to spend as little as possible in mind is quite tricky at times. Since I am the one that cooks most often, I tend to lean towards some products that are a bit more pricy as I know that the final result would be better. However, my roommates are not always that keen on spending more for better quality as the cheap no-name products are most often also of good quality. Therefore, we came to a compromise and only buy more expensive products when we know the difference in quality is substantial.
Cooking these dishes has had many positive effects on me. Apart from cooking for my roommates and providing them with a healthy meal as often as possible, it also helped me as I got to create a ‘taste’ of home which kept me from getting homesick, or missing my mum’s cooking and I got to share these recipes with my friends. Erasmus has provided me with the chance to improve my cooking skills and appreciate food on a whole new level.