I’ve just been out in the kitchen preparing tonight’s dinner – smoked haddock fishcakes, sprouting broccoli and spinach – and thought of my mother. I always think of her when we’re having purple sprouting – “it’s my favourite veg,” she was bound to say, happily, a few times during the winter and early spring, and she always said it the first time we ate it in a season. The season has stretched over the past few years, it used only to be available between about February and May but now they seem to have varieties that head up earlier. I’ve cut off the long stalks and eaten them. I do the same thing with summer broccoli, the calabrese type, where I actually prefer the stalks to the heads. And cauliflower, come to that.
Who am I kidding? I eat a lot of the bits of vegetables I cut off and some that are intended for the table. It’s well known in the family that too much has to be prepared and left in the pan, because I’ll graze every time I go past. “They’re counted!” was another thing my mother used to say. Subtract a couple had to be my reply. I can’t resist raw vegetables.
Dilly called round with the children this morning, to pick up the family Christmas presents. We won’t see them on the day, as they will be with her parents and sisters. She was talking about young Hadrian, who is now six and a half and was really not easy to feed until recently. He tended to be suspicious of all food – he’s not a thin lad but we were never sure where he got his nourishment. Things have improved as he’s grown up, but Dilly was particularly pleased the other evening, when a schoolfriend came home with them to play and he stayed for tea. She’d done dishes of raw carrot, cucumber and so on to eat while the sausages were cooking and the boy was very pleased, taking several at a time and exclaiming how good they were. And Hadrian did the same, tucking in to his full share, which was probably the first time in his life he’d willingly eaten a raw carrot. And now he’s eaten them, he’ll know they actually taste nice.
We didn’t make the fishcakes, I bought them from the fishmonger at the market. He’s such a nice man, he’s been coming along with his refrigerated van for years. He and his brother(s) run the business, I think and they go around all the small town’s market days. He’s been recovering from treatment from a brain tumour and, today, he was saying he’s had good news; that his most recent scan shows it hasn’t grown again and so the planned extra chemo- and radio-therapies weren’t going to start in January after all and they’d be kept in reserve for the future. Which is good news and he’s taking it as such, but it makes me sad too, in a way I’m sure you’ll understand.
The fishcakes were good – an hour later, when I’ve returned – and I ate more than my share of the cooked broccoli too. I might encourage LT to share his early Christmas present later, the brandied cherries in chocolate that, it transpired, were not around long enough to be wrapped.