Cooking Stories

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.

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17 thoughts on “Cooking Stories

  1. What a lovely wise woman your grandmother was. I fear the answer Grandma would give to modern kids to all these questions is ‘Sainsbury’s’ or ‘ASDA’ !!

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  2. “‘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.’”

    and that is exactly why I want to move and live there forever.

    (sigh)

    you are simply incredible. I feel so lucky to be able to read your words like this.

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  3. It’s no wonder that I love to stop by here to enjoy your newest post!

    So lovely Selma, brought back wonderful memories of visiting my grandma who btw, made ‘the best bread you ever tasted’ I even featured the recipe and variations in my cookbook, NJFV. This was just marvelous. I agree with Nectar, I love you too!

    Huggs, G

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  4. KAREN – you will be the best Grandmother ever. What fun those kids will have with you. It will be a magical time for them.

    TRAVELRAT – hahaha. I’m only laughing cause it’s true. When my niece was 3 we asked her where milk came from. ‘From the shops,’ she replied.

    BEC – oh, my dear, likewise. You know I like the stories from the old days. Good times.

    MELEAH – you have no idea how much I would love to live in Italy too. It is a place of magic. I travelled there in my 20s and fell in love with the country. I would go back in a flash. Maybe one day…..

    NECTARFIZZ – you are such a sweetie. Love you too.

    GERALDINE – typical. Just when I was getting used to the quilt squares. Grandmas have a habit of coming up with fabulous recipes, don’t they? That bread sounds fantastic. Awww, I love you too.

    NAT – what a stunning poem. Michael Ondaatje is such a wordsmith. I’m going to print that out and pin it above my desk. I agree with you about kitchens. That’s where you’ll always find me when I’m visiting someone. Oh, and thank you for likening my humble blog to the warmth of the kitchen. You don’t know what that means.

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  5. What a wonderful childhood memory for you. My grandmother also had a huge table in the center of her kitchen. It was always the gathering place. These days the kitchen table has been replaced by a television. So sad for kids of today to miss out on memories like yours.

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  6. PAISLEY – life is an adventure. Sometimes I have to force myself to remember it, especially when the dark days hit; but when I do remember it, good things seem to flow.

    CRICKET – I know. Those tables are long gone. It’s not quite the same anymore. Bring back the big table, I say!

    KATE – even now I still remember the stories surrounding the ingredients. It makes shopping a bit of an experience. I’m sure that sometimes I look a little crazy smiling away at the Allspice.

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  7. This was delightful, and very imaginative. I recall an incident years ago when I was shelling peas in the garden. The young boy from next door saw me and looked puzzled. He asked: ‘what are they?’ I answered: ‘Peas.’ To which he replied: ‘Couldn’t you get some proper ones?’
    How things change.

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  8. Ah, once again–magic in the kitchen, and with words, dear Selma…
    and shelling fresh peas? I did that with Mam-Maw(Esther Walker), my great-grandmother, in her tiny kitchen. We rolled a jar full of cream, between our hands, to make butter(!), too…when I was VERY young (like 5), visiting relatives, in Trafalgar, Indiana….

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  9. LISA – what magical moments. We never forget those special times, do we? They seem so commonplace at the time yet their memory stays with us always. How lovely!

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