I saw my Dad this past weekend and he gave me my mother’s dinner service, which has been in storage since she passed away.
It’s the set they got given for their wedding, which was in 1972, and not one plate is missing. From dessert bowels to side plates, all eight pieces are in mint condition and were obviously taken great care of.
Seeing this retro pattern from my youth got me thinking about all the plates of food I ate as child and all the food memories that came along with that. Food is so laced with nostalgia, with emotion, and all families have traditions and meals that only they share.
I wanted to take a trip back and try and remember the taste of my childhood. This is it:
- A big blue ceramic jug filled with milk, heavy with cream, sitting on the breakfast table. Often the milk was still warm from the cow and we always had to use those lace doilies to cover it, so the flies didn’t get in.
- Giant scones, dripping with butter and covered in honey. No one makes scones like my Grandma or Mom did and I think it’s because they used a gas oven, which cooked differently to more modern ovens.
- Biltong sandwiches. I haven’t seen one of these since I was about ten. They used to serve them at the local tennis club and they involved finely grated biltong sprinkled over margarine on thick white bread.
- Bacon. My Dad used to buy the pork and smoke it himself in a big drum. He always used to place the drum in the most inconvenient places (like our driveway), which used to cause much swearing from my mother.
- Slush puppies. All of us three kids inherited our Mom’s big teeth and our Dad’s small mouth which meant hours at the orthodontist. After we’d had a couple of teeth ripped out, we were rewarded with a Slush Puppy. I remember the taste of the artificial cherry flavouring mixing with the iron taste of blood in my mouth and how the coldness helped with the pain.
- Lamb. I grew up on a sheep farm so lamb was ever present on our table, from succulent chops to a steaming Sunday roast. But store-bought lamb never tastes like ours did, so I avoid eating it because it nearly always disappoints.
- Potatoes. My father grew a crop of potatoes once and I remember the excitement of digging up the spuds and then taking them home and washing them. He got a little obsessed with cooking “the perfect chip” and we spent many hours trying out different methods (I think double frying them eventually did the trick).
- Carrots. Crunchy, sweet and still covered in grit, even though we rinsed them under the tap first.
Those are just some of my food memories – some things I haven’t eaten for years and other recipes I cook up all the time. I love eating off my Mom’s plates now. Like I’m eating off a bit of history, eating a lot of love and creating new food memories for my kids as I go.