Tidying up files today, I came across a little memoir piece from a few years ago. It’s a reflection on how our approach to life can be shaped by food, cooking and eating. If this triggers food memories for you, about yourself or others in your life, I’d love you to share them here.
Food and anxiety have often gone together in my world. I remember my grandmother, on my mother’s side, hovering in the corner of the room, a safe distance away, as my eager-to-please grandfather doused the Christmas pudding liberally with brandy, and assailed it with matches. She would almost will it not to flambé. It suited her story better, to have her cooking fail, rather than to succeed.
Her culinary life was not without glorious successes though. She made meringues that would almost float like clouds, and every holiday we would devour thick slabs of her date and ginger cake. It was moist, nearly black, and laced with glace ginger that almost burst in your mouth. Heavenly. I’ve baked this cake since, and not yet captured the rich, gooey perfection of my childhood memories. But I’ll keep trying. If there’s one thing I learnt from Llan, it’s that a kick-ass cake is worth working hard to perfect.
Llan’s cooking repertoire was a funny menagerie. There were the old faithful recipes handwritten on stained pages in her pasted-together recipe book, and then there were the interlopers. New recipes she’d found, or was given, that tried to infiltrate their way in to our hearts and stomachs. The one I remember best was clipped from a magazine by a family friend. They were called chocolate spiders, an odd concoction of melted chocolate, peanut butter and…wait for it…crushed two minute noodles. Without the flavouring sachet, thankfully, but strange nonetheless.
When you live life expecting everything to be pretty awful, things tend to conspire to make that a reality. My grandma taught me that lesson early, and thanks to her I’ve learned to do the very opposite. I know my pudding will flambé, I trust that life conspires to be bountiful, and I know that a perfected cake recipe is better than most anything else in the kitchen.