Well, this is a guest post of sorts... While I have all sorts of foods that remind me of all sorts of people I love, there is one dish that Mr. VE&T always talks about: his Nana's Rižot. Rižot is a Croatian word, and basically it is very similar to "risotto," a word you are probably more familiar with.
Mr.VE&T's paternal side of the family is 100% Croatian/Yugoslav heritage, and they aren't that far removed from it all. Growing up, there was one food that baby Mr.VE&T really identified as super special: rižot (pronounced: riz-ZOOT). It was made on special occasions and the preparation took hours and everyone made a big deal about it.
"This would be great with some rice."
"This would be great with a little cinnamon."
"This would be great with some nutmeg."
Pretty much his favorite food is any tomatoey stew or soup with rice in it. It happens a few times a year that I'll make something and he'll say "this tastes sorta like rižot..." And yet, we never had a recipe (his parents both died before we started dating), so it was just something that existed out there in the ether like a big mystery.
this recipe and that was our starting point. We used Soy Curls instead of chicken, and made a few other small modifications as we went along. It was so fun cooking together - and Mr. VE&T would taste it and say "It needs more nutmeg!" or "It needs more cinnamon!" (ha ha, of course), and then we would add a little more. He still feels the need to tweak our recipe a bit more before we share it... like it needs some rosemary and more tomatoes ... but I definitely promise to follow up with you all on this - it's a really delicious dish!
When it was all done, he sat down to eat and declared "I'm eating rižot!" with great joy!
After all these years... reunited with the long-lost dish from his past!