One of the prompts from Cricket’s Slice Of Life this week is – a cooking experience.
When I was a child my mother and grandmother used to bake in my grandmother’s spacious kitchen. There was an enormous oak table in the middle of the kitchen that contained all the ingredients needed for baking. My cousin and I made a game of asking where everything came from.
‘Where does cinnamon come from?’ we would ask.
‘From the far, far East,’ said my grandmother. ‘Where men wear long, flowing robes made of the finest silk and rings as beautiful as that of any King. The cinnamon flavours their tea and their puddings and maybe, just maybe, it is flown to Ireland on a magic carpet threaded with real gold.’
‘Where do apricots come from?’ we asked.
‘From sunny glades in Italy where entire fields are full of trees bearing dark orange fruit so that when you look out of your window in the morning you think the fairies have cut tiny orange circles out of the sun and placed them amongst the green leaves.’
‘Where do walnuts come from?’ we asked.
‘From a place called California where people rejoice in the sunlight and the land is full of richness and plenty and smiles are wide and warm. And sometimes, people say, the streets are paved with gold.’
This game would go on for hours. We would seek out more and more exotic ingredients to add to our stable of stories. Allspice, ginger, star anise, saffron, tamarind, juniper berries.
Our hands smelled of brown sugar and currants. We lived for days on the taste of the stories rather than on anything that was baked. There was a power in adding milk to batter and sifting flour. We laughed and talked and laughed some more. We were safe. We were busy. We were euphoric.
As the smell of scones, bread and tea cake wafted under the doors, the sparrows and robins gathered, watching us from window sills. We couldn’t be sure if they had arrived to taste the baking or to hear the stories. My grandmother shook the crumbs from plates and aprons onto the ground and the birds feasted as we had.
As we fell sticky and full into bed the scent of the day’s cooking lingered, and we dreamed with delight of a bigger world.