I am joining in with the remembrance project launched by Penny at the Alexander Residence blog.
Do go and visit her lovely blog and read her heart-warming and poignant posts along with others who want to pay tribute to some very special people.
I think if anyone was asked to sum up my mum and her life in 10 words, they would all feature the words “cook” or “baking”. So what do I remember of my mam and her kitchen.
Christmas seems a good place to start where months before preparations would start. I loved the day she made her Christmas cakes. The list of ingredients was immense and costly too as I recall. There was booze a plenty including stout and copious amounts of brandy. We all had to give it a stir and make a wish. I found this all very magical. You were not allowed to tell anyone the wish or it would not come true. I remember it was really tough to stir the mixture with all the fruit in it. I remember the bowl and the spoon she used. In fact, I use the bowl myself now.
My favourite part of the Christmas meal was the Heinz tomato soup we had in little brown bowls for starters. I wonder why such an accomplished cook did not make her own soup but I can’t ever remember her doing so. Stews yes, soups no.
She used to make dozens of mince pies and they went down so well that she would still have to make more.
Mum taught me how to make Yorkshire Puddings. She used to call the round ones Top Hats but she would also do a big rectangular pudding too. When I went to France on an exchange visit, I made them and was shocked to see the family putting sugar on them. When I returned home and told Mum this, she said that as a little girl, she had sugar on hers too.
Mum defined herself as a good pastry chef and she made steak and kidney puddings every week. She always told me how she used to make a separate one for my brother because he would not eat kidney. I thought this was ridiculous but when you become a Mum, you realise that you will make 75 separate dishes if it keeps your little ones happy.
We used to watch Farmhouse Kitchen together with Dorothy Sleighthome. Mum would copy recipes from that and was always cutting cookery ideas out from magazines especially Woman and Woman’s Own. My favourite of these was a Tuna Plait. I think it was the plaiting of the pastry that I loved more than the actual taste.
Mum did not really let me get involved much in cooking. She liked things done right and that did not make her into a patient teacher. I remember how irritated she used to get with me when i struggled with little jobs like making custard. “Give it ‘ere! I’m better off doing it meself” would be the constant cry.
Our family teas (dinner was lunch in Yorkshire) were the same every week I think. Sausages, lamb chops, stew, pork chops, fish and chips on a Friday as we were Catholics, steak and kidney pudding and then the Sunday roast. She used to go to a freezer shop and admitted to me as she was dying that she always spent a lot on meat even when money was tight.
Mum was great at cooking for the family but she came into her own when she was entertaining. If my adult brothers brought visitors, there would be a party buffet put on with a dressed salmon and stuff like you might see on an episode of Downton Abbey. The tablecloths would be embroidered by her too.
Mum’s baking raised loads of money over the years for the church and other good causes. Our house was always full of tins with her name label on them so that her scones did not get mixed up with those of other people.
I remember Mum being at her happiest when she ran a restaurant at the local squash club. She bought the food, devised the menus, cooked the food, served the food and washed up afterwards. She was brilliant at the front of house stuff too. Another gift I did not inherit.
I like to think I am a good cook. It is clear to me that I must have learned by watching my Mum at work.
A couple of weeks ago, I came across her file of recipes. I am really looking forward to trying them out and it was lovely to see Mum’s handwriting again too. The recipe is for Feather Cake and she always said it was the only thing my Auntie Margaret made better than her.