Re-enchantment, one plum at a time
Written by Maja Milanovic
October is the month that enchants all senses and brings a dose of nostalgia to the table. Growing up in New York, autumn was the time when streets started smelling of spices. Everything turned into a pumpkin: teas, lattes, cakes, soups, candles, soaps, breads, even some women and men. October was the month that invited us into the Kingdom of Children encouraging us to dig deep into the magical places that hid inside of us.
My first October in Stockholm left me longing. Anticipating the change of time and the notorious darkness that creeps into every home, there was no room for much more than to sit next to a fireplace with a cup of tea.
Hungry for a piece of freshly picked apple pie, this year I organised a few friends to pick apples in the beautiful landscape of Ekerö, just outside of Stockholm. Signs “NOT TO PICK BY YOURSELF” welcomed us. Instead of pouting, we jumped into our cars again and drove another 20 minutes to a field full of plum trees. We picked bags and bags of plums just before the rain chased us away.
Apple juice, apple crumble, apple pie, apple sauce …. like its friend, the pumpkin, apple had a lot of potential but what should I do with the plums?
Drinking the sweat nectar as I bit into the yellow and reddish plums, I tapped into something primal, an intuitive memory that brought me back to the shores of the four rivers that surround the small town of Karlovac in Croatia. I saw myself running down the long corridor that connected all the neighbouring apartments on the fourth floor with a breakfast bread called kifla in my hand. What was inside of it?
My grandmother Marica’s infamous plum jam.
My grandmother was born in a village that bore her last name. Her brothers went onto school and became army generals, one even rubbed shoulders with the president and his celebrity friends. However, it took my grandmother many years before she learnt to read and write. Her handwriting remained childish. She was a mother of four children, lost one, and never worked after she married my grandfather.
When I was younger, she was everything that I, a modern young woman chasing my dreams, didn’t want to be. When I sprained my ankle, she put onion on my joints and covered it with gauze, if a tick entered my body, she used oil to take it out, if an ant bit me … you get it, every disease had a complimentary remedy from nature. One summer, I even witnessed when she cut the head off a chicken. The headless chicken proceeded to ran chaotically around the whole garden splatting blood across the green grass.
As a child that brought excitement and horror, probably a belief that my grandmother was a witch even though she was a member of the Communist Party. As a young adult trying to make it in the capitalist world that functioned between 9-5, those were stories that were buried deep into my brain’s memory drawers because I was ashamed.
Maybe as a consequence of this strange year, cooking Marica’s plum jam for the first time felt like an initiation. I dug deep inside of myself and rediscovered the part of me that is feminine, experimental and free. Who said that witches are bad?
This moment of re-enchantment made me realise that I wanted to be more like my grandmother. I wanted to go out there into the autumn forest and harvest hazelnuts and pick mushrooms and cut as many branches and flowers from the linden trees that still make my favourite tea. Linden tea with a small portion of spiced rum that my grandfather used to add to our teas with a secret understanding not to tell the parents is the most amazing companion to my grandmother’s plum jam. Did I mention that the plum jam also has a splash of spiced rum?
My grandma had healing powers that the world could use right now. She nursed wounded soldiers that fought against fascism back to health, she risked her life for her community, preached solidarity and at age of 16 she was as brave as the next man. It was only later in her life that she was reduces to a label of an ordinary housewife. Now we all know that women can not be put in a box.
This October, as the Northern darkness creeps into our homes again, I call all the witches out there to please stand up!
Maja’s Tea Recommendations:
Why not brew your own concoction?
What brews did you come up with? What recipes did you inherit from your grandmothers? Please share with us in the comments. We would love to hear from you!
Maja Milanovic has an international experience in film, theatre and TV as a writer and director as well as writing and proofreading blogs and online content. A truth seeker, she bridges worlds together to remind her readers that we all belong. In her free time you can find her cheering her son’s soccer team, drinking green tea, reading, and hanging upside down in her AG Yoga Hammock. You can follow her on Instagram milamaja12 or reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org