Ok, before you start… I apologise for the length of this post. I got a bit carried away 🙂
Even so, there’s really nothing quite like a big bowl full of pea and ham soup to warm the cockles of your heart of a cold winters day. As a matter of fact, I was virtually brought up on the stuff in my early years. Luckily for me, when I was at primary level (specifically Twyn Infants School, and later Twyn Junior School, both in Caerffili) I used to go to my grandmothers house for lunch… there were no school dinners for me matey boy!! 🙂
My grandmother would never have made a classic chef, nor did she ever go in for cordon bleu cookery as my mother did. What she *did* do, and do extraordinarily well, was to produce wholesome, filling and above all tasty meals for her family for almost 75 years until she was simply too old to manage! Bear in mind by the way, that a large portion of this period was ‘post-war’ when both food and money were still tight over most of the country, and perhaps especially so in South Wales.
Some of the dishes she’d serve up were standards in the family for years. She’d make pies and tarts with fruit my grandfather grew in their tiny garden. We’d have apple, rhubarb, gooseberry, blackcurrant etc. as the seasons dictated. She’d even walk the hedgerows when she could collecting natures gifts of blackberries, wild strawberries and the like, and when nothing else was available, would happily produce tarts and pies made with lemon curd, or mincemeat! She didn’t just cook by the way, her elderberry and elderflower wine was like nectar!
Getting back on topic, one of the most memorable things my grandmother cooked regularly, were her cakes. She’d make Welsh cakes by the bucket and as fast as she would throw them off the bake-stone we’d grab them and gobble them down at speed, totally ignoring the possibility of indigestion from the uncooled delicacies in favour of the certainty of enjoying those warm tasty sugar sprinkled confections…mmm.
She could also make a *mean* fruit cake. I have never tasted fruit cakes like them before or since. My mother bless her tried and tried but she could never manage to replicate whatever it was my grandmother did… and I’m embarrassed to say we told her so many times… awww. Unfair really because she *did* try over and over again.
The thing about my grandmothers version was that it was exceptionally moist, yet firm… in texture perhaps something like a fruity banana or carrot cake (hard to imagine I know) but with the sort of flavour combinations from the fruit mixture that could make your taste buds revolve and burst with joy. I’ve tried many times to make fruit cakes but as nice as they’ve been, *I* can’t replicate that flavour and texture. Maybe my grandmothers old gas cooker was less efficient and so cooked better.. who knows? I don’t, but I wish I did! Ahh… those memories and tastes come flooding back as I type… and I still love fruit cake!!
Strangely, I really don’t know what meals she cooked during summer. I suppose this is because I was so young at the time and maybe because most of summer was spent at home being fed by my mother. By the time I went back to school it was September and we were getting towards the ‘stick-to-your-ribs’ food time again. 🙂
Still I especially remember with affection her stews, the lamb chops, the mashed potatoes, the over boiled cabbage, and the rest even down to the piece of cod and threepenn’orth of chips I had each Fridays, because Friday was washing day and she had no time to cook.
Yet above all, it was her pea and ham soup that defines my memory of her cooking. I would arrive at her door at lunchtime and on the table, waiting for me, would be a plate of soup with a big piece of ham sitting in the middle. Next to the plate, would be a big mug… of soup. After the soup and the soup, I’d have… more soup. I used to drink it by the bucket. No wonder I had no friends… I doubt I was fit to sit next to for days afterwards!! 🙂
I loved my grandmother, tho I can’t ever remember telling her so. I’m not sure I ever even told her how grateful I was that she cooked for me for all those years or how much I enjoyed the meals she provided. But maybe, if she’s up above glowering down at me typing (she was a world class glowerer my gran… she could have glowered for Wales if they’d let it into the Olympics as a sport!!) she’ll catch a flavour of it from this… and know that I still produce pea and ham soup in her honour… and if the kids don’t like it well hard luck. All the more for me 🙂
Miss ya nanna.