Friday, 2 September 2011

Food Memories

It wasn't always ready-made mash, I just got lazy and into bad habits.

I have happy memories of food from childhood, and that is why it was so important for me to get into the kitchen and get cooking good food for my own child (and eventually, children, when my son came along too!)

Actually, I was a nightmare fussy eater as a child.

Not a created fussy eater, as those who have never parented a fussy eater seem to believe- a bona fide born fussy eater. I wouldn't eat cheese, butter (or anything with butter on or in), I wouldn't drink milk (I used to often secretly give my carton of free milk at school to a boy called Ian who loved milk- thanks Ian!). Perhaps this can be explained by the fact I have since had a child with a proper intolerance to dairy (more about this in a later blog), and I have since been told be dieticians/ consultants that there is probably a hereditary element- I avoided it because it didn't agree with me. I also didn't like chips (what child will not eat chips?), Roasted veg, mushrooms, certain types of bread, anything oily, and many others I can't even remember.

I would, however, happily eat raw cauliflower, brocolli, raw potato (?), sit and munch half a cucumber, a whole giant tomato, and a whole range of herbs and pickles.

My Polish Grandfather (my Dzadzio) had a big influence on my food preferences, and I recall from a young age watching him make pickled herrings, bigos (bacon and cabbage stew basically), various jams, things like pigs trotter jelly (to be eaten with vinegar, I must admit that is one I didn't try), and this really clever thing with boiled eggs which involved halving the shell, mashing the egg in a bowl with parsley I think?, Pressing the mixture back into the halves of the shell, covering with breadcrumbs and frying. And numerous other things- he used to tend to the herbs and vegetables in his garden, and I recall picking and eating parsley, dill, lemon mint and chives to our hearts content.

My Nana also had a way of getting me to try foods- and I use some of her recipes which have been handed down. I have happy memories of staying at Nana and Dzadzio's house, and lots of them involve yummy food. Nana or Dzadzio would give us some money to buy penny sweets from the shop across the road. One day my cousin and I bought £1 of strawberry bootlaces (at 1p each) and tied them up and trailed them all around their bungalow!

I remember going to visit my Nanny and Grandad, and the house always smelled of cooking, delicious smells. Sunday roast was legendary. There were always treats to be had and one Christmas, the advent calendar had a mini chocolate bar in each window, which as you can imagine, was magical!

Dad always liked to cook, and he showed me how to make a good fry-up (which he learnt from his Nan who had a cafe for the lorry drivers). I remember dad cooking steak on a saturday, and it was delicious. Dad would  enjoy cooking and make the sunday roast, or often do the food shopping. Mum was not so interested in cooking- she was more into baking when she had the chance- someone who could turn out a good fudge cake or mince pies at Christmas. Funnily enough, I really struggle with baking, and have had many a flat-cake disaster.

As a young teen, I recall experimenting in the kitchen, and I would often cook for the others in the house. I did a Mother's Day menu once for my Mum and Nana and it was 3-courses. I was really proud of it and wrote up a special menu.

My late teens were not a good time with food, body anxieties and fads took over, and then I rolled into my 20's with far too many socialising and work commitments, and suddenly food took a back seat, probably up until the year or so before I became pregnant with my daughter.

That was when I really started to think about what I was preparing in the kitchen. Add to this the fact that once I had given birth, and it was clear that I would not be returning to work, there was a budget to consider. That's where food economy came in- making a chicken last for 2 or 3 meals, but never compromising on taste. I learnt a lot and felt like I was stepping back in time, away from the processed foods so popular in the 1980's when I was a child, and from the fancy ready-meals of the late 1990's and beyond, and the takeaways of the early 00's, and back to how it was a long time ago.

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