"Come here, darling!" She would call me with her arms held out, excited to see us as we walked through the door.
"Look what I've made for you."
This was Grandma Claire's way of showing us how much she cared.
Greek avgolemono is a chicken soup that's prepared with a lemon and egg-based sauce by the same name. It's heated until it thickens and becomes silky, slightly sour and creamy.
For many, it's traditional to eat avgolemono on Christmas Eve after church. But my grandmother made the hearty soup for us if it was cold outside or if we were sick. Either way, I looked forward to that soup whenever she made it.
On other occasions, she served spanakopita, another very simple dish of feta, pastry and wild greens.
"I know it's your favourite darling," she would say, proudly seating me at her table.
On the shelves, there were jars of olives, peaches and preserved lemons. On the table were thick slices of white bread and roasted red peppers in a bowl, marinating in olive oil in vinegar.
These were the fruits of her labour of love. It was a time when there was great pride in cooking and caring for your family, which allowed people to build skills to survive hardships and live with less.
As COVID-19 cases continue to rise around the world, and discussions about food security are emerging, I ponder whether I have enough life skills for this pandemic.
During lockdown, I've cooked from scratch a lot. I've taught our two daughters how to bake a loaf of bread, make sauerkraut and make pastry in a snap. We even went through a stage where we made five savoury tarte tartins in a row.
In between the baking, eating and home schooling, I put in a call to Grandma Claire, now 95 years old.
"I come from a lineage of adaptable, strong and resilient women."
As she lives some distance away, we haven't been able to see her, so I'm trying to check in and say hello more than usual. We run through questions about how our family is. We laugh about the hard work that's required to rear kids, and all the cooking and gardening I'm doing during lockdown.
I get off the phone and I'm grateful that we can share our love for cooking.
I come from a lineage of resilient women. Women who have a history of immigration stamped onto their souls.
Perhaps her ability to adapt is something she has also passed on to me.
It's a humble and down-to-earth type of love, which I'm also passing on to my own children.
This is an important time to teach them the ways of our family and to make the recipes of our ancestors so they too can inherit and cherish them.
So they too can survive and thrive.
- 1 whole raw chicken, cut into pieces
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 tomato (grandma says she puts one in if she has one)
- 1 garlic clove, peeled chopped (optional)
- 2 large carrots, cut into generous chunks or even whole
- 3 litres of water
- 250 g or one cup of medium grain rice
- Juice of two lemons
- 2 eggs
- Dill or parsley to garnish (optional)
- Put the tomato, carrot, onion, garlic and water in a large pot.
- Season with salt add the chicken and simmer for approx 30 to 40 minutes. Skim any scum that rises to the surface. You’ll know the chicken is cooked through when the meat starts falling off the bone.
- Remove from the heat and strain the broth into a fresh pot. Reserve the chicken and veggies to be put back into the soup later.
- Add the rice and simmer until it is tender. Approximately 15 minutes.
- When rice is ready, turn broth off the heat. In a separate bowl, whisk the lemon juice and the eggs together until foamy.
- Add a ladle of hot broth slowly to the lemon juice and egg and whisk well. This gradual process stops the eggs from curdling.
- Add another ladleful of the broth to the lemon and egg mixture and mix again.
- Slowly stir the egg, lemon and broth mixture back into the pot and stir through. Your soup will take on a light, white colour.
- Ladle the soup into individual bowls and serve with shredded chicken and veggies. Add dill or parsley if you wish.
Photographs by Nicole Azzopardi and supplied.