Smells Like Home

“Distance means nothing when your kitchen smells like home.” – Luisa Weiss, My Berlin Kitchen

I just started reading Luisa Weiss’ book, My Berlin Kitchen, last night and already I am nearly done. Luisa, better known online as The Wednesday Chef, is a Berlin-based food blogger I began following a few years ago after my own visit to the German capital. A combination of a piqued interest in German culture and a desire to find good blogs to read on a regular basis led me to her site. Her posts are thoughtful and honest, and her passion for cooking is apparent in her writing.

As such, it comes as no surprise to me that her book is a joy to read as well. My Berlin Kitchen is a lovely story of Luisa’s life so far, interspersed with recipes that recall specific times or people. It is entirely real and relatable; filled with personal struggles, triumphs, and memories, many of which revolve around her experience in the kitchen. What I identify with the most is the author’s spot-on sentiment that cooking certain foods can make you feel like your loved ones are right there with you, even when they are not. Whether it be a meal shared with friends or a recipe passed down to you by family members, these foods have an extra special something to them: our nostalgia.

I’ve written about this at least once before, but it bears repeating. Food and good meals are inextricably linked with friends and family, with yearly traditions and impromptu get-togethers, with all the care and joy that go into each dish. Each time you make a recipe that has been shared with someone you love, even if you are alone, you are comforted by the familiar aromas and reminders of your shared experiences around it.

As I gear up for our move at the end of the month and prepare to settle into a new space, it’s nice to think back on all of the meals I’ve made in this wonderful kitchen of mine. So many of them were transplants from kitchens past. And of course many of them bring back vivid scent memories. Apple pies fill the apartment with cinnamon and sugar and all of the warmth of Granny’s laughter and hugs. Simple roast chicken calls to mind cozy winter nights at home as a child, doing homework and watching the front windows fog up due to the bitter cold outside. And strawberry rhubarb pie never fails to make me think of my wonderful trip to Maine with Mike and our friends, where we cut our own rhubarb and made multiple pies, and I became smitten with the tangy-sweet dessert.

One meal that my Dad made throughout my childhood is his famous shrimp and rice, which has a distinctive and delicious aroma. It is a dish that makes me think of family dinners around our white tiled kitchen table, of Grandmother coming over for visits, of large trays balanced over sternos to keep it warm at family parties. It is also the first meal my dad made for my mom. I’ll admit I wasn’t keen on it in my younger years due to the shrimp, but I always did love the smell. Thank goodness I realized in early adulthood that I like shrimp so I can enjoy this time capsule of a meal.

Shrimp and Rice
Instead of using the normal liquid to rice ratio to have all of the liquid absorbed, you want to use more liquid so that you end up with a nice sauce.

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 large onion, diced
1 green pepper, finely chopped
1 1/4 cups rice
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 cup dry white wine
3 cups hot chicken stock (or water)
1/4 tsp. thyme
1 bay leaf
2 lbs. raw shrimp, shelled & deveined

  • Saute the onion in the butter until translucent. 
  • Add the rice, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Cook 5-10 minutes until the rice is translucent.
  • Add the white wine and bring to a simmer.
  • Add the chicken broth, mushrooms, green pepper, bay leaf, and thyme.
  • Cook 10-15 minutes until rice is cooked but still firm, adding the shrimp 7-8 minutes before end. The shrimp will not take long to cook. It is done when it turns pink.

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