7 February 2010

Food of my Childhood

I thank my friend Mark for raising this subject and provoking a copycat blog entry!

Unlike Mark’s Mom, my Mom was a decent plain cook. Nothing fancy or complicated, just simple family meals produced from a limited budget. One of my favourite midweek meals was belly draft cooked slowly in the oven accompanied by sage and onion stuffing and the ubiquitous potatoes and two veg. It smelt like a meal fit for a king and yet it was a cheap piece of meat that went a long way. Puddings consisted of bread and butter pudding, egg custard, tinned fruit and evaporated milk or my favourite, rice pudding cooked in the oven and with a beautiful thick skin on top. I always wanted that skin and would do anything to get it. The thought of that thick, creamy rice is driving me mad now!

I loved my Mom’s chips cooked in lard in an old fashioned fryer. We didn’t get them often but when we knew they were being cooked, we made sure we were ready at the table waiting for the moment when they were placed before us, all fat and juicy and golden.

Saturday lunch times were a treat and the same whether I was at home or at my Nan’s house; a big enormous, cholesterol filled fry up! Bacon, sausages, egg, black pudding, baked beans and lashings of HP sauce, made just down the road in Aston. To think that as a teenager I would eat all that and then go swimming in the afternoon! It’s a wonder I didn’t sink.

My favourite meal though was Sunday lunch. Nothing beats my Mom’s Sunday roasts and it was always a roast. All through Sunday morning I would risk a slap by entering the kitchen and asking when dinner would be ready. The smells emanating from the oven would drive me half insane with longing and hunger. Her gravy made from the juices of the meat was to die for and when I moved down to London, weekends home were crowned by my Mom’s Sunday lunch. My only problem with Sunday lunch was it was usually the only meal where we sat down and Dad was present. We had to eat in silence and if we dared to utter a word, he would tell us that we were missing a bite whilst we were chatting! I recall one time when I had become a very cheeky teenager as opposed to just a cheeky child, he came out with this line as usual and I retorted that how could I be missing a bite as I would eat the bite as soon as I had finished speaking! That didn’t go down well.

Following lunch on a Sunday Dad would drive us to my Nan and Granddad’s home for the afternoon and more importantly for Sunday tea. I would run up the steps to my Nan’s house and press the wind up doorbell until it didn’t ring anymore. My Nan, who had a beautiful touch when it came to baking, would open the door and a wonderful smell of fresh baking would hit you. Nan did us proud with home made cakes and pastries galore but it was sheer torture to sit throughout the afternoon, even after an enormous Sunday lunch, not being allowed to eat the rock cakes, fairy cakes, Victoria Sandwich, jam tarts and so on until tea time! Let’s face it every child has an additional stomach, known as the pudding stomach! Those Sunday afternoons were either spent in the garden if the weather was warm, well except my Dad who would make himself comfortable in one of the armchairs and snooze the afternoon away or in the lounge watching old black and white westerns. I was well acquainted with the likes of Randolph Scott, John Wayne, Audie Murphey and how the west was won.

School meals were divine whilst at Primary school. In the Infants the whole class sat at one long table with the teacher at the head. No packed lunches back then and everyone stayed for dinner. She for it was always a she, would ask if you wanted a big or a little dinner and then proceeded to put a little of everything on your plate. You had to eat everything on the plate whether you liked it or not because you were not allowed to start the pudding course until everyone had cleared their plates from the main course. If liver was on the menu my handkerchief came in handy for storing it, uneaten. I would surreptitiously wrap the liver in the hanky and then stuff it down my socks. I can’t believe that nobody ever noticed that lump sticking out of my socks as I walked to the toilets in order to dispose of the revolting offal! Looking back on that now it was a wonderful experience learning the art of communal dining at five and six years old and learning to eat what was laid in front of you. No fussy or faddy eaters (well except me and the liver, still can’t eat it now and it did call for emergency measures!) you learned how to use your utensils correctly too. It amazes me now how so few young people know how to hold a knife and fork properly!

Once in junior school we all sat at tables of eight with two fourth formers at the head who were responsible for serving the table. At least here you could refuse something you really didn’t like but I have to say that I loved school dinners, apart from liver and never refused anything. Puddings were divine, rice pudding, tapioca, sago, sponges, spotted dick, upside down cake and custard, yum yum school custard was the best and came in a variety of colours (not really flavours) including vanilla, pink, chocolate and the one I always refused because it looked like nuclear snot; green. We all waited those four years until we became the head of the table and could therefore serve ourselves more of our favourite things!

At secondary school I stopped having school dinners because the queues were horrendous and if you were on last sitting you would have no choice as to what you got from the canteen, it was what was left or nothing and you would have precisely two minutes to eat it before the bell rang for the end of lunch. That was when I started with packed lunches although in those days lunch was a bit of a misnomer; it was a paste sandwich of some sort and a wafer! The beauty of a packed lunch was you could eat it whenever you liked and then get outside to go and torment the older boys who you fancied like mad but whom thought you were stupid little girls not worth bothering with.

On the whole my food memories are good. Totally different diet to the one I have now but I still love all those teatime favourites such as cheese on toast and beans on toast and remember fondly so called invalid food; you got this when recovering from illness or an operation and my favourite invalid food was poached eggs on toast. It was almost worth getting ill for because it was the only time I got it!


  1. Well it has taken me a while to catch up with you 2010 writings.. glad to see you are back in the saddle as it where. I'm glad my food blog, written after reading the book Toast, bought these memories to you. I well remember the cakes and scones my Nan always made too... as for school meals I used to run down the chippie at lunch time!


  2. You know Mark, I would never have dreamed of running to the chippy for lunch. That would have been naughty! I may have been a wilful and mischievous child but I don't think I ever did stuff which I knew would create a problem, or if I did I made sure I didn't get caught. Too many eyes would have noticed the chippy run and would have reported back to the relevant authorities!