Thursday, 21 August 2008

Down memory lane

Mum never baked cookies.

We had biscuits in England, and we bought them at the shop. “Custard Creams”, “Ginger Biscuits”, “Jammy Dodgers, “Digestives” (always called “Disgustives”) and “Chocolate Digestives” were amongst our favourites, as well as “Jaffa Cakes”, a biscuit with a chocolate coating and an soft orangey centre.

Mum baked cakes on Saturdays. She make a mean fruit cake, and muffin sized cakes with raisons, currants and sultanas.

She’d make little jam tarts and also my favourite, a pastry shell (maybe 2 ½” across) filled with jam that had been mixed with desiccated coconut.

She’d bake wonderful pies: apple, rhubarb, gooseberry, or blackberry and apple, always served with hot “Bird’s” custard, or with evaporated milk.

She also would make a fine meat pie for Saturday lunch.

Dessert on Sundays would be apple pie, and/or wonderful rice pudding. In the days when milk was not homogenised, the cream would rise to the top, and form a slightly burned crust which was much to be desired.

My oldest sister Maureen still bakes a great apple pie with the greatest pastry (“crust” in America) which will melt in your mouth.

When we had an ear-ache Mum or Dad would pour warmed olive oil into the ear, and seal it with cotton wool (“cotton” in America). If there was no oil in the house, then salt would be heated and placed in a child’s cotton sock, to be held against the ear.

If we were not feeling unwell, then an egg beaten up in milk would be prepared. The modern health-nuts would freak out over this, but I always enjoyed it so much.

Castor Oil was a dreaded cure for constipation. So was the “tonic” prescribed by the Doctor, for sickly children. It was filled with iron.

(My “Nanny” was a teetotaller, but she would nip on “Sanatogen”, a so-called “tonic wine”, for reasons of ill-health! [It was a port type wine reinforced with iron.] I once stole a swig, and was duly punished after Nanny “turned me in” to Dad).


In winter our home was always cold. No-one had central heating in the England of my youth. We had an open coal fire in the “front room” – wonderful for toasting bread on a long fork when the coals glowed.

In due course Dad installed an enclosed anthracite burning stove in the kitchen (which is what we called our dining room – food was cooked in the “scullery”). That small room could become quite cosy.

Then there were hot water bottles: filled with boiling water, and placed in our beds to take the chill-off. Nanny had a stone one which was considered old fashioned. You could also purchase hot water bottles made of aluminium (aluminum in the USA) but these were always too hot for the feet.

The top of the line hot water bottles were made of rubber.

I always hated them and would toss them out of my bed. I loved to get into a cold bed and allow my body heat to do its work. In the mornings only my nose would be cold!

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