My grandmother died yesterday. She was 98. Born in 1913 she lived through two world wars and chunks of history that we as kids read about in books. Born in Stainforth, Northumberland, she was sent to London when she was 16 to work as a ladies maid, something that is almost unimaginable somehow.
Anyway, after a disastrous marriage to a violent alcoholic she ends up living in Birmingham with her two kids, bringing them up the best way she can, at one point breeding dogs as a sideline to supplement her income. My mom was a sickly kid and had TB when she was young which meant she had to go away to a sanatorium for a year to recover. My uncle, despite -or maybe because of - a fierce intelligence and quixotic spirit was always in some kind of trouble or another so its fair to say that she had a difficult life. She was of the generation that always had to work hard and her house was always immaculate, cleaning being her stock in trade. She was a cleaner for some ‘posh’ families in Edgbaston and I well remember going with her some days so I could play in the gardens with the toys that were always there, a far cry from the two up-two- down-outside-toilet that was my parents first house. She actually worked past her normal retirement age as a home help, often looking after people much younger than she was. Always frail I used to think she was held together by willpower, determination and sheer bloody mindedness.
My mother met a Brummie bloke from a similar background and as is always the way brought him home to meet her mother and brother. It was a Sunday and there was a roast…with Yorkshire Pudding. He’d never had it before and fell in love with it. Of course, it was always a family joke thereafter that he only married my Mom so he could have more of gran’s Yorkshire pudding.
Flash forward 50 odd years and I’m watching ‘The Baker Boys’ on TV on Tuesday night when they do ‘Toad in the hole’. I have never cooked that in over 20 years of marriage so enthused by their recipe I decide to do it on Friday.
Then of course, I get the sad news early on Friday morning. Life goes on so I find myself in the kitchen at 1830 browning sausages, frying onions and making a batter…and I remember the family joke and it seemed such a fitting thing to be doing.
It turned out ok, Anne loved it anyway. My Dad died a long time ago and Gran was never too critical of anyone’s cooking so I guess they would both have approved.
Funny how food has always been so important in my family.
I think food is what holds a lot of families together (specially when times are bad), my happiest memories of my Mum are baking with her & when we all get together (my kids & us) these days, its all about food first & only then do we get pissed .Like when the Missus isent too well I always try to make something she really likes to get her eating & feeling a bit better, its a instinctive reaction.
You get these arseholes today boasting how they have never cooked a meal but to me its like saying you cant dress yourself, its that fundamental a part of being a fucking adult.