Alexandra's Notebook

For Love & Food

Inspired by Lou's recent post, Food Memories Are The Best, we got talking about our favourite memories of food and how we both love reading other people's trips down memory lane.

Unlike Lou, I never really knew either of my grandmothers so I couldn't tell you if they even knew how to cook. I met my dad's mum when I was little but, by then, she was in her late 60s and seem to live off Tunnock's Tea Cakes and tea she brewed on a paraffin stove she kept next to her chair. A small kettle sat atop continually on the boil. So my mother definitely didn't learn how to cook from Mary Anne.

And, as a teenager (17) when she left home to escape her family life, she joined the WAAFs, and was an MT driver. So I'm sure she didn't acquire her skill and knowledge there either. But, as a married women looking after and bringing up 6 kids, she had ample time to learn and hone her skill set over the intervening decades.

Her stews and bakes were legendary, as was her pastry. It was second to none and won awards at bake-offs when we were in the military. She had ribbons and medals to prove it. So most of my later memories of food were of flavour and diversity. By the time I was a teenager, our meals could be anything from a spicy Indian curry, to a Chinese stir fry, to a Scottish stew, to a simple rabbit pie. Whatever was in season was used, never frozen dinners in our house.

My mother's cooking became so popular, our friends would ask to stay for dinner. So that my mother always ended up cooking several pound of potatoes and vegetables, stews that could feed 12 or more, and went through endless loaves of bread.

I was especially fond of her version of what she called, corned beef hash. Not your American version. But a big pot of vegetables (mostly carrots, onion and potatoes) in a thick rich gravy in which she tossed a tin of diced corned beef (it had to be Argentinian). Which always salted the stew. This thick molasses of a hash was done the night before so it could meld. And then, heated up just before eating. People fought over seconds.

The key to the variety here was the fact that we travelled extensively, so not only were we all exposed to different countries, cultures, and diverse peoples, we ate some of the most amazing food on the planet before the rest of the planet even knew about it. We're talking the 60s here.

But, as my mum would be the first to tell you. She wasn't always the greatest cook, but she took the time to learn from others every time we moved. Whatever the country, she acquired the know how either from fellow wives on camp, or locals who she befriended.

I know by the time we arrived in Hong Kong, my mother's skill set was extensive, but still, she invited people into our home and took lessons. But she also gave back. That's one thing I remember fondly about my mother, was her love of teaching others.

In Hong Kong, she taught our Ah Ma how to cook and bake European style to help her with her next job. And ended up running something of a school for young women so they too could secure better jobs on military based working for families. I don't know how many people's lives she changed by doing this, but I'm sure it was considerable.

Through food she found her community, gave a foot up to others, help us as kids feeding us a healthy happy steady diet of good food, and countless other kids in the process. Through food alone, I couldn't have asked for a better childhood. It was food perfection.

And you, what are your memories of food when growing up?

Thanks for reading, Alex

#Memory Lane