Name: Jorge Gomez Pascual
Scran: Lasaña Húngara
Mother Language: Spanish
The Journey from Hungary to Manchester: English
“I’m currently volunteering for Cracking Good Food. I don’t know if you have heard about them or not, but they are kind of a… it’s a social enterprise based in Chorlton. Or, initially in Chorlton but… I work in one of the kitchens and I cook. You know I love cooking. It’s something that’s been on the back of my mind always since I was a kid, but… Even now, I’m thinking about the probable career chain and whether I should go into something related to food. Because, I am at that point in my life where I can choose what I do.
Umm… and then I decided to go for this particular recipe. I don’t know if you’ve seen my initial email with my pictures? It’s not very complicated. It’s not extremely exotic. Um, and funnily enough, I thought it was, a kind of a… well-known dish but I went into Google last week, and before committing to the recipe, I started to do a search to see what I could find: the recipe. And, I can’t find it, at least with the name that I’ve given to the recipe, or something like, even going to Hungarian websites, and things like this.
I come from a family where, uh, my Mum passed away a few years ago, but she was a wonderful cook. Everyone says that her Mum, or his Mum, is the best cook in the World. But, in my case, even my cousins said my Mum was the best cook in the World, which really pissed off my Aunty.
I was born in Spain when Franco was still alive in his dictatorship in 1973 so, I mean, he died in 1975. But, it was still a very macho environment. Men in the kitchen was something that, it wasn’t, well, you know… seen. And people didn’t particularly like it, I mean. Some men will know how to cook something but, it wasn’t like the women, who were around the kitchen. So, I had to fight to get in to the kitchen with my Mum. Also, because she was a really good cook, and she was a housewife so… the kitchen was her natural territory really.
In 1992, I enrolled for a summer camp, like a working camp in Switzerland. I thought it was Germany but I discovered it was Switzerland in the Alps, uh… I went to Switzerland the day I became 19, for three weeks to work in the Alps. And, basically fixing walking routes, sign posts and things like this. We had twenty people from… no, it was around twenty five people from around twenty different countries; all living together in a school house in a really beautiful place.
And, we have turns to cook in the kitchen so, every day, a group will go to work and three people will stay in the house and cook. And I had to do my turn, and I just cooked some kind of Spanish dishes and then one day this… and I had a lot of success, people asked me to cook again. In fact, you have to do two turns, and there was a group who did three. And people wanted me to do a third as they really loved my food, and it was a really massive thing for me. It was the first time I was cooking for a big group and I was really proud.
And then this guy came up with this dish. It was called Hungarian Lasagne, which is basically beans, rice and… green beans, rice, and a bit of mince with onions, and some spices and cheese. And you eat with natural yoghurt. I forgot to put that in the recipe I sent you.
And I really liked the dish so, when I went back to Spain, it was probably the first dish that I was able to cook that my Mum couldn’t cook. It’s not that she didn’t have the technique to cook it, but she didn’t know the recipe.
So, it was the first time she had to leave me alone in the kitchen. And I cook it, and my family were really enjoying it, so it became a kind of family staple. It became something that we will eat, especially on Sundays, from time to time. But I will cook it myself, it won’t be my Mum, and then my Mum will be out of the kitchen.
And then I became more confident in the kitchen, and hence I started cooking a lot more. So that, my love for cooking all came from my Mum in a way. It was having to fight with her… it’s a kind of contradiction but uh… I learnt a lot from my Mum but then, the only way I can learn to cook is if she is out of the kitchen because she will micro-manage and do the things I want to do.
Uh, and it’s a bit of a coincidence but I spoke to my brother yesterday. Um, they still live in Spain. They are allowed to meet in groups, and so they live quite close to my Dad and my Sister, so they are making it for lunch tomorrow… and my Brother is cooking that dish.
It’s still part of uh, you know…it’s been, dunno, 20, 30 years almost, and we are still cooking it and eating it. And I, there’s a part of me that doesn’t even… I’m not even 100% sure that the recipe’s as it is, or as it was the way i cook it now. But, it doesn’t really matter, as it’s very flavoursome, and very tasty dish. We just love it so.
And, it’s a big thing in my personal history. It’s a funny thing you actually requested… the more I think about it, how, like a, stupid thing, like a recipe will, you know, push you to, you know, to become a pretty good cook. So… and it’s one of my passions so there’s…
I have loads of pictures of that summer camp and it’s 1992, and they’re really cool pictures. They look a bit kitsch now. So I thought, my story will be around those pictures, and what that summer was meant to be, as it was the first trip that I did on my own. I have very very fond memories of that time, so…”