Further the post I wrote here, my younger sister reminded me of a story that I had forgotten to include, and although it is pretty stomach-churning, it did make me laugh so here it is….
Mum had made a corned-beef hash, which although we didn’t have very often we were looking forward to. Anyway she had left it to cool off on the worktop for a little while. As she was about to dish up she suddenly screeched,
“Where’s me teeth”? She had this little plastic plate with 4 or 5 false teeth on which she used to take out now and again when they started to chafe, and they would sit on the table or window sill, wrapped in a tissue until she needed them to eat! My sister and I searched the kitchen without success, We couldn’t understand where they had gone As a last resort we decided to check the corned-beef hash, as it was not unusual for a bit of fag ash to land up in the food so why not a denture!
As it happened, the teeth were not in the hash, but the obligatory ants were! Yes, they had found their way into the hash that had been left uncovered, and had dived on in! Yuk! That was yet another meal that had no takers, fussy as we all were! Oh, and Mum’s teeth turned up in the kitchen rubbish bin! As a last resort we went through it, and there they were in a soggy filthy tissue, buried beneath tea bags, potato peelings and other assorted nasties. Mum was thrilled, a quick rinse under the tap, and she popped them back into place!
My nephew when he was young, also shared my mum’s casual attitude to dirt and used to love grubbing about in the mud as most kids do, However he liked to pick up slugs and worms as I think he liked their slimy feel. He wanted to share his treasures with the rest of us and would very often come up with us, hand outstretched grasping a writhing creature and say,
” Lug!” he hadn’t mastered how to pronounce his ‘S’s yet, bless him. Myself and my sisters would recoil when he brought the slugs to us for inspection, and would try to swallow the scream, force a smile and tell him how lovely it was. He would amuse himself for some time playing in the dirt, making mud pies, and decorating them with the slugs and worms, singing away happily.
After a while he came up to us again
“Lug!” Only this time there was only a little bit of slug in this podgy little hand; not only that but he looked a bit mucky around the mouth. Yep, he had decided to taste his mud pies, but must have found them rather filling as he couldn’t manage a whole slug! It’s nice to know he has inherited the strong family constitution!
A bit of reminiscing….
I received a phone call from my daughter one day during her lunch break at school to let me know that there was a Craft Fair on Friday at school and “you have got to make some gingerbread men biscuits”. Oh great! Well, I have to give her credit for telling me a little in advance, normally it is at bedtime the night before she has to take something home-made into school. (I know some supermarkets do a lovely range of ‘home-made’ cakes etc. but it does seem a bit naughty to do that; however needs must, and I have done it in the past)!
Anyway, as it was my day off today, and not only did I have the ingredients (and more importantly the recipe) for the gingers, but I enjoy making them (along with mince pies, that is about my festive repartee). I had already made the dough, and while that was ‘chilling’ in the fridge, I had a bit of time to myself to reflect on how different I am from my mum in the kitchen. I was thinking about Mum and what a fantastic cook she is, although nowadays she doesn’t bake so much. However, in her baking heyday, some of her practices in the kitchen left a little to be desired.
Two funny stories come to mind. The first one was when mum was making her famous ‘rock cakes’. Now, they were not ALWAYS as hard as a rock as the name implies, and she put currants or something in them as well, so they were quite tasty for a Sunday afternoon tea. This particular day she made the cakes with her usual method, chucking a bit of this in, sprinkling in a pinch of that, then a dollop of something else for good measure. Once cooked they looked lovely and golden brown and she turned them out onto the wire rack to cool for a bit.
My younger sister and I were there when she decided to have a little ‘taster’, and she bit off a huge chunk from a cake.
“Mmmm these are lovely” (Self-recommendation is no praise, but Mum was proud of her cooking). As I looked up at Mum I was horrified; there were loads of ants crawling around her mouth, my sister had noticed as well. We were screeching and pointing, but Mum had realised something was not right, and she rushed over to the sink to spit out the cake and brush away the ants that she had not ingested! It transpired that Mum’s wire rack kept in the little alcove under the kitchen sink hadn’t been washed it (how the hell she didn’t notice the ants all over it is anybody’s guess)! Well, we went cakeless, and had something else!
The other occasion was a dinner Mum was cooking for the family. She had made a gorgeous stew and was preparing the dumplings to go with it, which she cooked in the pot with the stew. She went to one of the cupboards and got out her little box where she kept, her margarine, butter and lard. Anyway, she made the dumplings, but as I watched her, I said that they didn’t look right (Mrs Expert Chef poking her nose in)! She took no notice of me, and half an hour later we all sat down for our lovely dinner.
I took one mouthful of dumpling, and the rank taste hit me; the dumpling was expelled straight away as I retched and heaved. Some of the others followed suit, but the slow starters sat there stunned; dinner was ruined. That fat she used had been sitting opened in the packet for God knows how long, and was well and truly off! Mum told us to eat the stew anyway just leave the dumplings, but everyone’s appetite had suddenly disappeared!
I remember those two occasions so well, as my Mum never understood why we all made such a fuss about everything being clean, or that food was not past its ‘sell-by date’! I and some of my brothers and sisters used to go through the fridge and cupboards, and sure enough, there were tins there from 5 years previously. (‘tins last forever’), bottles where the date had rubbed off, or perhaps even before they dated foods, unwrapped food in the fridge, cooked and raw meat stored next to each other, and condiments that must have come from the Ark! Anything that was in the refrigerator was edible according to mum regardless of how long it had been in there!
I suppose growing up when food was rationed, they were not so picky about what they ate, being grateful to have anything. Also, I have seen her trying to sneak an errant spud in the roasting tin that had fallen on the floor when she strained them in the pan. Again, anything that went on the ground got either rinsed or brushed off and put on the plate! After all,
“A little bit of dirt never killed anyone.”
and my siblings and I have the cast iron stomachs to prove it!