On one occasion, we’d been to London for the day, leaving him at home and he spent the day cooking. I don’t remember the first two courses, to be honest, but the pudding has lingered in my memory for well over forty years. He peeled and cored pears, made puff pastry, encased the pears in the pastry and baked them. The cavity of the pears was stuffed with jam – redcurrant jelly, I think – and the pastry was cut in strips and carefully wrapped around, like a bandage. It must have been incredibly fiddly on slippery, peeled pears but it was absolutely delicious.
He was the marmalade maker in the family. My mother avoided bread, on the whole – way before the Atkins diet, her method of keeping her weight in check was to avoid starch (as carbohydrates were known in those days) and sugar. And since she didn’t eat marmalade, she didn’t see much point in making it. But it was the sort of occasional great deal of effort that he thoroughly enjoyed. He made loads and, once he’d run out of jam jars, used glasses and attractive dishes. To add to the visual appeal, he’d thinly slice some of the oranges and put a slice or two in each jar, and add glacé cherries and whole blanched and peeled almonds for the last few minutes of cooking.
He was also the one who made fish and chips, once in a while. Again, it wasn’t something my mother would have bothered with, she wasn’t big on potatoes (starchy, again, too fattening). I never set foot in a chippy until I was 16 years old, after my father died. If we wanted chips, we started by digging up the potatoes. They were peeled, washed to remove the excess starch, cooked twice.
You can see, perhaps, why I believe I’m lazy. Possibly I’m not, but it’s all comparative.
You’d think that my mother would have welcomed his cooking, but she had her reservations. He left the clearing up to her and was a messy cook. She used to say that he wasn’t happy if there was a single utensil or pan left unused. And he wouldn’t have enjoyed the obligation of everyday cooking, a meal that he prepared was always an event.
I think this post is going to be at least a three-parter. But I may be distracted for the rest of the week and have to come back to it.