Though I have always made nearly all our meals and snacks from scratch anyhow, these new restrictions to stay home have stretched my creativity in the kitchen just a smidgen. The new normal does not lend itself to an evening out or brunch at a favourite cafe with Mr E. It's very truly home-focused and most especially time heavy in the kitchen. I admit to missing those lazy Sunday brunches which someone else made for us. And Mr E misses hot chips and grilled fish down on the beach.
But today those thoughts, those longings for what we once took for granted, made me think of Nana and the way she would soldier on with a cooked breakfast, simple lunch, hearty dinner and dessert, seven days a week without a murmur - because this had always been her normal.
This epiphany came with a little nudge from God to be thankful I can cook, bake and create in the comfort of my own home as Nana never had her own home, they lived in small low-income rented flats all her married life, and she never complained. After all these years I am still learning lessons from her character...how blessed I am.
So I thought I'd share one of my Nana stories today as I think it's been a month or so since the last one.
The Kitchen Table
When I was growing up and living at Nana’s, we only ever drank tea as our hot beverage. Coffee was something you drank when you were out, and cocoa just never appeared in her kitchen.
Each morning, upon waking, I would take my place at Nana’s simply set table, and await my first cup of tea. Always in china tea cups, and always white with two sugars.
Nana religiously set her breakfast table before bedtime and on a full-moon night when I needed to make a midnight visit to the outside toilet, I would creep past my sleeping grand-parents, and step into the softly illuminated kitchen that led off their bedroom, into a magical world.
Atop a freshly laundered and pressed tablecloth, a delicate square of lace covered the cups, saucers, tea pot, plates and cutlery. The moonlight reflected through that lace cloth would cast a shimmering web over everything, and a starlike twinkling would dance across the silverware adding to the ethereal atmosphere. Often I’d pause by the table on my way back inside, and try to guess what breakfast nana had planned for the morning. She never, ever, served a cold breakfast. It could be leftovers from the evening meal the night before, eggs and sausages with thickly cut grilled toast, butter fried kidneys and bacon, or if Pop was coming home after night shift at the wharf he’d hopefully make fresh chips in lamb fat. Nobody made freshly chipped potatoes like my dear old Pop, and Nana never set her hat to take that crown from him because it was such a blessing for her to sit and be the one served for a change.
Our teapot was large and metal, leftover from Nana’s days as cook in a pub after WW2, and she only ever used loose tea leaves. Nana made a point of teaching me her recipe for a good brew – before the water, add to the pot one teaspoon of tea for each person, and another for the pot. Once the boiling water was in the pot, and an oversized hand-knitted tea cosy in place, her next instruction was to turn the tea pot around and around, using a different calculation – one for each person and one for the pot, and halve your total. I still do this today, even when using (shudder!) tea bags.
Morning-tea on weekends offered the delights of tea cake, buns, or biscuits to accompany our pot of tea, as did afternoon-tea on weekdays when I’d arrive home from school.
Nana religiously served a baked dinner, usually a leg of lamb, for lunch on Sunday’s, but Sunday night it was her custom to take the evening off, baking a fluffy batch of scones to have with thick lashings of butter and her homemade jam. On Sunday nights it was also usual for us to linger longer at the table and finish a second pot of tea whilst playing cards!
As I think back on my childhood days and the nurturing of my love for tea, a favourite memory is when Pop would be working afternoon shifts, and it was just Nana and I for dinner. Every so often she’d have a cheeky twinkle in her eye and ask me, “How about we skip dinner tonight and share a loaf of fresh baked bread between ourselves? I have a pot of strawberry jam, plenty of butter, and we can drink all the tea we like. Just me and you and we won’t tell Pop I didn’t cook a meal…”
Now, Pop knew all about this, but he never let on. It was a little game they played with me to create a special ‘Nana and Jennifer’ occasion, and it lasted until I was into my teens and let slip I knew exactly what they were up to.
I cannot brew a pot of tea today without remembering the taste of fresh bread, butter and jam, and seeing Nana’s clear blue eyes smiling across at me over her teapot. Such a lovely legacy.
A pumpkin vine popped up in the front garden recently and if you know my husband you're aware he does not like pumpkin and would normally have pulled it out without a second thought, but three months into our vegan lifestyle change he's become a rather different fellow. Now, he's not going to embrace cauliflower or broccoli in the near or distant future, but he does accept that pumpkin can be used in many ways, many delicious ways. And he loves me. And I love pumpkin and have always dreamed of growing a nice productive patch so it's staying put and we're all smiles.
No idea what type of pumpkin this is but it will be either a Butternut or Kent as they are the only type I've bought in the past year and this plant has self seeded from our compost.
It rained very hard here yesterday afternoon which was most welcome as the mid autumn weather is still very hot and humid and not at all pleasant to be gardening in between 10am and 4pm.
I captured this photo as the sun came out again just as the last drops of rain passed by.
I imagine you're wondering what a toilet is doing in our backyard?
One of the teachers at Mr E's school had five to get rid of and for some odd reason my husband thought I'd have some creative way of using it in the yard. It's a Royal Doulton, very good condition, but...well...I'm still pondering what it can become. Perhaps I'll add a large plate to the top and turn it into a bird feeder? And then plant something pretty around it.
The chooks love the rain too, and on the many days we have no rain but ghastly heat my husband turns the sprinkler on lightly for them for about fifteen minutes mid afternoon. They dance around, cooling themselves and almost crowing with delight.
This was the only rain we'd had in a while, but there's been cloud cover and high humidity for about a week now (which triggered a 24-hour migraine the other day). The birds gather as usual each morning for their feast and the longer we sit and watch them the more arrive to take their turn at the feeder...
In the kitchen there's been a lot of different meals made including vegetable lasagne, vegetable pad thai, dhal and rice, loaded baked potatoes with guacamole and coleslaw, and assorted leftovers.
Fresh bread is high on the weekly menu rotation every couple of days. In the past week I've made a multigrain loaf, focaccia two ways (which made the most delicious sandwiches the next day) and today's new loaf, a light rye...
Dessert at the tail end of last week was a lemon yoghurt cake baked in a baba tin which I served each night with a raspberry coulis and coconut yoghurt. (I used coconut yoghurt in the cake, not dairy)...
Today was a big day in the kitchen because hubby was off working on a new/old car he's repairing so that he can finally sell that trouble-ridden Jeep (which will bring an end to the almost five year saga of endless repairs) and I find it's always easier to get a lot of food prepared for the week ahead when he's occupied elsewhere. Monday just seems to be my best day for baking every week.
Last week I baked jam drops because Mr E 'loves' a biscuit or three (cookie to my US friends) with his cuppa...
...but now that he's finished them it was time to bake again so I chose choc-chip biscuits this time.
You know, I've not made choc-chip biscuits in many years, no idea why.
As well as the bread and the choc-chip biscuits I looked for ways to use up what was left in the fridge to avoid wastage. The offerings below show the blueberry crumble cake (our dessert for the next few nights), coleslaw (without the dressing, which will be added later), quick pickled radishes (the pickling liquid had just been poured over), marinated green beans, and thrice cooked chips which at the time of the photo had only been cooked twice so far (boiled then deep fried quickly before letting them go cold) as the 'thrice' cooking is just before serving.
I am hopeful that this thrice cooked technique gives my husband's chips a nice crunch as he's truly missing his chip-fix right now.
I made them last week but they more like wedges and I peeled the potatoes, whereas this batch were small potatoes which were about to start sprouting so I cut out the little eyes only and kept the skin on. Less wastage.
On Saturday I unpacked all the stored seed packs that Woolworths gave away last year and divided them into zip lock bags so that I can save some space and also plan out what to prepare for planting first. With Mr E home on school holidays we are aiming to get a bit further with garden bed preparation out the back as winter is our growing season in the tropics...
This week my big task will be to pull everything out of the linen cupboard and sort through it.
Then I will re-organise our small linen space so that it functions better for my daily and weekly needs. At the moment there's stuff being pushed in wherever I find space and that's making it difficult to keep ordered. And I do love order.
Will you take up this week's task with me?
Is your linen cupboard in need of a makeover or reorganisation?
Well, dear friends, I must away to dress the coleslaw and prepare spicy koftas using a bean mix. I'm salivating thinking of that!
God bless you and may He keep your heart hopeful, your countenance joyful and your spirit in total peace...
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