Today’s Writing 101 challenge – to be inspired by a childhood meal and the occasion it might have celebrated, with the twist of telling the story in your own voice…
There are probably two meals that compete for “head of the table” in my childhood memories, both located in the little village of Five Ash Down – how evocative is that name, even now after more than half a century has passed? – in Sussex. And they were both eagerly eaten around my grandmother’s table. They are not associated with specific celebrations, other than perhaps school holidays because it was then that I spent most time there. It was the perfect rural retreat from my home in suburban Croydon. I often claim a rural heritage to justify listening to The Archers on BBC Radio 4, an “everyday story of country folk”. Oh, and I claim a Cockney heritage – genuinely so, me old blogging chinas – to justify watching East Enders on BBC television.
The eponymous meal was the first that came to mind. When you cut into the soft suet pudding, your senses would be overwhelmed by the sight and smell of a steaming, bubbling brown concoction of meat and gravy. However, the icing on the cake – obviously a completely inappropriate metaphor, but this is supposed to be in my own voice – was the crispy edges of the suet pudding, a beautiful contrast to the softness of the rest of the dish.
In second place, but not for seconds, we have beautiful meaty and herby sausages made at the local butcher’s – “Thurston’s”, if I remember correctly [If I don’t remember correctly. it could of course be anything] – in nearby Uckfield. These were always known as “nanny’s sausages”, and at the end of the holidays my mother would take a batch home to Croydon so we could at try to recapture the joy of being in Five Ash Down. Environmental factors play a large part in our perception and enjoyment of food – it is a bi-directional process, the food evoking a sense of place and the place adding its own flavour to the food. Never did a KFC taste so good as when I sat with my children on the ground at St Pancras Station after a long day of exploring London together.
And while I am reminiscing, Huntley and Palmer’s Ginger Nuts were thick and tasty, the perfect dunking biscuits that also formed part of my rural heritage. And don’t start me on brown sugar sandwiches…!