Growing roots

Akka Ballenger Constantin is a dreamer with a camera and a pen.  When she was 6, her father gave her her first 35mm camera.  It was love at first sight.

“Growing roots” first appeared on Akka’s blog (in a modified format) at

Akka - plum dumpling - prep. 2

Many times a day I get these questions: “Where are you from?”, “Where is your accent from?”, or even, put in simpler but more resonating words: “Where’s home for you?”

This last one is my favourite of the three, for it involves a careful introspection, and lots of analysis and reminiscences.  Even then, I am not 100% sure which one of the places I carry in my heart is my home, more than others.

Nowadays, I call The Land Down Under my homeland.  And I am even starting to grow roots here, enjoying every single moment with my little family.  They are the ones who taught me that “freedom” and “belonging” are equally important and that they don’t necessarily have to hinder each other.  They are also teaching me how to grow these roots, in my personal quest to gift them their own.

The trouble with travelling around the world for so long is that many of the places will leave their mark on you and that you will carry pieces of everywhere within your being.

There are a few “home” fractions I carry with me.  They are there to define who I am and it’s important to acknowledge them as “me”.  There is a land far away where I was born and from whose mountains I am still drawing strength.  There is a village where I learned freedom, roaming the hills and mountains; where life seemed simple and timeless; where making bread was the existence centre of every household.

I learned meanwhile that “home” is made by more and more layers added on through one’s life journey.  So, if I had only a single question to ask, it would be this: “What is the taste of ‘home’ for you?”

My home is definitely made of dough and baking.

It is now only a memory, clouded by the passing years, but there are few pleasures more satisfying to me than those brought on by the baking day, back in my village.  Time and time again I have been writing about what the making of the bread truly meant in those days; about the work it took to feed the whole house on homemade bread.  There were no bread makers; no mixers, blenders or kitchen aids.  Just your palms, one big wooden trough and lots and lots of flour waiting to be turned into wonders.

No doubt, that little village gave me great values too; for I have learned that labour is the price for any of life’s pleasures.  Wild strawberry mousse meant that we had to spend hours in the forest to pick the tiny little red dots – there was no supermarket to sell them.

Much like Proust’s little madeleine, the taste of the wild strawberry mousse will bring up vividly so many of my lost memories – the sounds of the woods; the mossy, earthy smells of the land… that delicious tiredness accompanying the happiness of bringing home a bucketful of fruit… the contentment of a job well done…

Beside the fresh bread and wild strawberry mousse, there is another particular taste of my childhood that I consider “home”.  Whenever my Nana and my Mom used to make this delicious traditional dessert, it was a great day.  The village was in a mountain area where plum trees and potatoes were plenty; so plum dumplings were a logical choice.  Along the years, it has grown to be one of our staples.  I didn’t realise how much I missed it until yesterday, when I asked my mother to make some.

I made it myself before, but it didn’t taste the same.  I followed the same recipe, but somehow, only my mother’s hands brought back that magic taste.

And just in case you wonder how the dumplings look when they are ready to eat, here is a picture:

Akka - plum dumpling - served

As for the taste, you’ll really just have to try it.

© Akka Ballenger Constantin, 2017