Thursday, 5 March 2009

Food for thoughts

As some of you will already know, I had been going through photos the other week, and came across many which brought back smelly memories, many of them connected with food. I'd been discussing this with a couple of friends, and they suggested I write my next posting on here about this very subject, food memories from childhood. I wasn't too sure about it, but having enjoyed reading my friends' memories, and knowing how much pleasure they'd got from reliving their past this way, I thought it would be interesting to read about other people and their food memories from childhood and teenage years possibly.

I don't have many memories connected with food much before the age of ten or so, the main one is of being five or six years old, going into Hull with my Welsh Nanna, and to a shop called JACKSONS, where they sold the most marvellous blackcurrant slices.. a slice of rich shortcrust topped with blackcurrant jam and then fartyhishal cream as I used to call it, embarrasingly for those around me at the time!

But I then jump to ten or eleven, and you find me across the Pennines and living in a small fishing town on the Lancashire coast. Every Saturday Mum and I used to walk into town, to go to the library, do some shopping, and we always had lunch in THE MOROCCAN, a cafe near the Pharos Lighthouse. I vaguely remember murals of palm trees, and that's about it, other than the beans and chips, or the Kunzle Cakes they served, with glass cups of tea or coffee.

When I was 13, my mother returned to work and I was left on my own during the long school holidays, but I had lots of friends I used to spend my time with, though even then, preferred my own company as a rule. One, Stephen, lived next door and his mother used to make us bowls of Heinz Oxtail soup for lunch... with chips in! Sounds awful, wasn't something I had ever had before, but I loved it. As I did the real 'scouse', made by another friend, a lady who was about ten years older than me, with a husband away with the fishing fleet a lot of the time. I remember her beehive hairdo, her strong accent, her passion for PJ Proby.. and please, don't tell me I am the only one who remembers him and his trouser-splitting antics!

At 15 I went to work in a carpet showroom, one of a national chain of such shops, as a clerk.. though I ended up doing lots of other things and very little clerking. One of my first jobs of the day, before walking my boss's dog Nelson, was to go round the corner to the bakers and collect two freshly baked, still warm, almond slices, while said boss made coffee. Again in glass cups, this must have been the 'in thing' to drink tea and coffee out of in those days, though we didn't have them at home, where best china was considered the only suitable container for hot beverages!

By the time I was 17 I had left this job, and one other, and was working in Blackpool, for a firm of stockbrokers. Before meeting my first real, serious, love of my life at the time, boyfriend, one of the other junior secretaries and I used to go to the local bakers, PRICE'S, where they did cream of asparagus soup in styrofoam containers, gorgeous meat and potato pies, lovely salmon sandwiches, and a little tart which consisted of a pastry case, filled with apple puree, topped with hard icing. You had to walk past the McFisheries to get there, and the smell of smoked haddock always reminds me of this shop. And it was on one such day we bumped, literally, into DON PARTRIDGE, who I think had one hit only, called ROSIE. (Anyone remember him, a bit Donovan-esque in looks). Then I met HIM, and our lunchtimes were shared as a rule... we sometimes frequented an American-style coffee bar, long counters with stools either side and a space in the middle for the waitress to come and take your order. (HE will be raising his eyebrows at the ability to remember this no doubt!) This was the first time I had ever heard of toasted sandwiches, and whenever I make one for my lunch, I am momentarily taken back to this place, and remember it most often as it was on windy and wet days, with few visitors braving the promenade outside, the windows steaming up from hot drinks and wet coats, the North Pier looking enticing all lit up on a grey day.

A couple of years later, working as a PA in a fabulous job (until it all went horribly wrong for everyone concerned), and the only downside was that my office window overlooked the building next door, where they used to start roasting chickens at some ridiculous hour of the morning.. or so it seemed to me. I would walk past and the smell wouldn't be too bad, but open the office window and in it would come, and now with these rotisserie ovens in most of the large supermarkets, spit-roasting chickens, it brings back memories of those days.

Chips and curry sauce.. now there's a delicacy for you, fine dining at it's best!! This was the treat my girlfriend and I used to have after a night out at our local.. no wonder we were on our own!!! Crisp packets with proper little twists of blue paper containing salt, not a small packet like nowadays. Parched Peas.. now is this a Lancashire delicacy I wonder, because nobody I know has ever heard of them. They were some sort of dried pea, soaked overnight and then cooked, a darkish brown colour skin, slightly lighter colour inside, and they were made by an old lady where I lived in my early teens, and every Sunday morning she cooked up a batch, and sold them hot, salted, in small paper cones. They were delicious, and try as I might, I have never been able to replicate them.

School dinners.. well, you can't have memories of food without mentioning them can you, but unlike most people I know, my memories are all good. I went to a small private school, and the food was made in the convent kitchen since there were only about fifteen or twenty of us who stayed for dinner. Mondays was always leftovers from the Sunday roast the nuns had shared, and we had it with mashed potatoes, salad, and salad cream. It was always fish and chips on Friday, meatballs featured sometime during the week as well, and puddings like jam sponge with coconut on the top and real custard. I didn't much care for tapioca, but just about everything else went down a treat!


Suffolkmum said...

Chips and curry sauce - one of my favourites. Being a northern girl at heart, I'm ashamed to say I introduced my children to chip butties at a young age too. Food memories are so incredibly evocative. My husband and I were remembering Vesta curries the other night.

Pondside said...

I have to ask - what on earth could fartyhishal cream be? Please explain!
This was a delightful post. Those memories attached to food are so powerful.

pinkfairygran said...

OK, so FARTYHISHAL is a spoonerism kind of word, ARTIFICIAL pronounced wrongly. And Vesta Prawn Curry was always my favourite, in the days when I ate such 'stuff'! I am a Northerner too, so see absolutely nothing wrong with chip butties!!

Calico Kate said...

Oh PFG, my Nan had a local Prices (don't think the same people though, a bakers on the square in Ludlow. Warm tissue wrapped 'tin loaf' and 'butter buns'. And for morning coffee with her friends in D'Grays it was neopoltian icecream for us, while she would have milky coffee - no lattes in those days.
Thank you PFG for a delicious walk down your memories.

Jude said...

Food memories.... Angel Delight, yuk, my mother giving me the job of whipping the b..... stuff every day!!! Little individual custard tarts....yum! Walnut Whips... school bus!
Thank you for visiting.

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