Souvenir, masculine noun (un souvenir, le souvenir, des souvenirs) = memory, a thing you remember (pronounced souv-neer, no particular stress)
Un souvenir is a memory, something you remember; la mémoire is your memory, where you store your souvenirs. A precious place, precious contents, not something one would like to be without. Memory is subjective, we don’t all remember the same event in the same way. Memory slips away as we age or possibly become the victim of dementia. Memory can disappear all of a sudden if we have a traumatic accident. Memory is wiped out when we die.
We count on those around us, especially those older than us, to be our memory bank, so that we can consult them, check what we think we remember. And then we realize there may come a time when they are not there and that we’d better get down on paper or sound recording the things we really don’t want to lose.
A lot of memories are food related. Family gatherings, grandma’s special recipes, the smell in the kitchen of our childhood, the things we hated to eat, school dinners, deightful snacks eaten in shacks in Asia, endless Sunday-lunches in French restaurants…
I come from a family in which food is, I think, the main topic of conversation, almost a subject of reverence. I have thousands upon thousands of food-related memories and I am starting to put them on “paper”. I hope that this blog, and whatever results from it, will be of use to my children and grandchildren in reconstructing my personal food culture.
I can remember when I was a child, after a light, very early supper, we would have cocoa before going to bed with fingers of bread and butter to dunk in it; the butter would make golden rings on the surface as it melted.
Do you have powerful food memories?
My recipe today is oeufs cocotte, which my father called “eggs in green buckets” because his mother always did them in thick green ramekins. Oeufs cocotte (eggs in little pots -note there is no s on the cocotte which is invariable) are a simple and satisfying supper dish. Sometimes the simplest things are the best.
For each cocotte or ramekin, you will need:
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 slice of lean ham
- 1-2 tbs fairly liquid cream
- 1/2 tsp of Bovril or Marmite
- 1tbs grated cheese
- freshly ground pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C, and put into it a baking dish half full of water so that it warms up. There should be enough water to come half way up the sides of a ramekin, no more.
- Butter one or two ramekins per person.
- Put 1/2 tsp Bovril in the bottom.
- Add a little liquid cream to cover.
- Chop the ham finely on top and break the egg on top of that.
- Grind a little black pepper.
- Fill to within 1cm of the rim with cream (do this very gently so that it covers the yolk) and finish up with grated cheese.
- Cover each ramekin with tin foil (or baking paper held in place with a piece of string), and put into the oven dish.
- Cook for about 7 minutes. Remove the tinfoil and put under a hot grill briefly until the cheese is golden and bubbling. The egg yolk, which is nestled in the centre, should be soft. The white quite cooked and firm of course.
You can put anything you want into this dish, as long as you keep the egg, the cream and the cheese. A little cold chicken, chopped olives, some cooked white fish and capers… I used to use this dish to entice my daughter to eat her supper when she was very little, by making her guess, mouthful by mouthful, what was in the ramekin!