Home Comforts and the Things that Matter the Most….

I don’t think I was the only one watching the final of The Great British Bake Off last night! It was rumoured  that there were 14.5 million viewers.

Over the last twelve weeks we have watched the ups and downs in the baking tent. We have sympathised with the poor quivering bakers when things went horribly wrong; collapsing gingerbread houses,’informally’ iced biscuits, Genoise sponge that could be ‘wrung out like a flannel’ and  cakes that would ‘bounce back if thrown at a wall’ were displayed for all to see. We have marvelled too, at the triumphs; glorious displays of intricate bread structures; towering and utterly scrumptious looking chocolate cakes; an imperious blue peacock cake; regal tea-party delicacies; brilliantly puffy, squidgy, billowing meringues; glossy eclairs….I could go on and on…….

I love to cook and I love food, but what is it that attracts us so much to programs about baking? I think it is about much more than food alone. A lot of the time we are attracted to food because of the memories certain dishes evoke and the relationship we may have had with the person who first prepared them for us. No matter how I try, I cannot replicate the way my Devonshire Grandfather prepared bread and butter! Wafer thin slices of bread were buttered with the best butter and laid on a china plate like the most exquisite lace;,and I have never been able to make porridge quite like my Cornish grandmother which simmered over-night on the Aga and was served with lashings of fresh unpasturised milk, (or sometimes clotted cream!) Of course, these dishes were never Michelin starred, but I never forget those memories, and I have such fond memories of all the meals I watched being prepared as I was a child. I think it is about pleasing our friends and loved ones too; how long do our children take before they look in the fridge when they come home? Not long whatever their ages! And as a mother, there is nothing more satisfying than seeing your children, or grandchildren, eating and enjoying nutritious food that you have prepared for them.

My nephew is now a talented chef, and I look back at the time he spent cooking with my mother, sister, and me, and I now take delight in his success.

Cooking evokes such passion. Shortly before my Mum died she sat up in bed and discussed the merits of putting parsley in Cornish pasties, and butter in the pastry. As I look back at the times she was happiest in her later years, it was when she was in the kitchen following new recipes and preparing for family gatherings.

As we sit around a table with family and friends, whatever the conversations or discussions, how can the mood not be lifted by the arrival of a steaming bowl of pasta or a lovingly prepared roast dinner? And after a long, hard day and with winter approaching, how about a bowl of chicken soup to beat the unwelcome chill wind?

                 To quote a favourite Jewish proverb:

                                          ‘Worries go down better with soup.’

There is something intangible in the process of cooking – a need to do one’s best, to create something delicious; an emotion that wells inside us that is more than just about serving up the best cake, it’s about connecting to our primeval instinct and the need to provide food for everyone.

We welcomed a new beloved granddaughter into our family this week! She is truly a blessing and already very much loved. We now have nine grandchildren; each and every one of them is a star in our family universe. After some very hectic days of work demands and a possible house move to think about, I was definitely feeling frazzled, but looking at my new granddaughter ( she was born in America but I could see her thanks to modern technology!) put everything into perspective. Safe in her mother and father’s loving care, and with adoring brothers and sisters waiting for her at home, she has a wonderful world waiting for her. These occasions are momentous and put everyday cares completely to one side.

I put some time aside and took my six year old granddaughter to visit the Roald Dahl museum yesterday which was another enjoyable interlude. I love the fact she  has become fascinated with this author and all his wonderful stories, especially as when her own dad was young, the house we lived in backed onto Roald Dahl’s garden, and we could glimpse his writing shed. After looking around we spent an enjoyable time making up a recipe for a potion to get rid of witches! We have high hopes of winning that competition with our Sticky Sicky Witch Shrinking Potion! I am afraid to say I cannot give you the recipe as it is top secret!

One recipe I will give you is the granola recipe I made up for my granddaughter who loves cooking. Enjoy!

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Thinking about home and frazzled days, here are some lines that resonated with me this week:

‘Even tho’ we walk the diamond studded highways, It’s the country lanes and byways that makes us long for home.’    from  Old Photographs and Memories by Jim Capaldi.

‘If the notes we play are wrong, Let it be our favourite song.’  from ‘Even More Mine’ by Rita Wilson.

I’d love to hear your about your favourite memories of the foods you loved as a child!

Blessings to you.