Fallen damsons & blackberries squashed by unwitting feet but if plucked in time add sweetness & memories of summer to any crumble or jam.
The regal cock pheasant with his proud plumage ‘strutting his stuff’, an unwitting kamikaze pilot with his own set of wings. Shallots fried in butter ‘til golden, the succulent game flambéed in brandy, returned to the pot to be poached in cider until it falls off the bone the iridescent rust & purple of his feathers somehow mirrored in the shimmering juices.
Having been a chef or just plain food obsessed I just cannot help myself, food is just a part of me, always thinking of the next dish….. and the next and what I can do with that, and what works well with this, perhaps that’s why I associate many of the people that I love or know well with a different food, one very rarely pops into my head without the other.
My father for example, who I love very much, was a farmer for many years and therefore should have a plethora of fruit and vegetables that he could be remembered by, but it is pigeon that comes to mind, to be more specific, pigeon pie. A wonderful rustic dish, cooked by my Stepmother, who was an incredibly good cook I’d like to point out, but probably due to a naive pallet, it was devil’s food! Father being father insisted I sat at the table until I had eaten it all, even if it meant I had it for breakfast! So gagging involuntarily, sobbing uncontrollably I got through the worst, but that was that, now indelibly imprinted on my brain is father, Pigeon pie and being forced to eat it.
I have tried pigeon since, in many guises, and have twenty or more different recipes in my collection that I have cooked again and again for returning customers, but unfortunately pigeon and I are not to be.
Uncle Tom, is a far better memory. I used to sit on his shoulders while he walked around the cherry orchards, and he hooked black red cherries on their stalks over my ears like earrings. Next was always collecting the eggs from his chickens, I loved lifting up the wooden flaps and seizing the prize of an egg or two from the dented straw, still warm with that musty burnt summer smell. With Aunty Vera, it was sweet peas picked and popped in a glass vase placed on the wooden table outside the kitchen door to showcase her strawberries & homemade cream.
With Nana, my mum’s grandma, it was tuc biscuits & unsalted butter, my grandma, evaporated milk always out of the tin with two pierced holes one opposite the other, mum it has to be ‘lemon stuff’, not sure what it’s really called, but a wonderfully indulgent lemon mousse that I still make today, but any dessert makes me think of my mum, as she is undoubtedly the queen of desserts.
And so my list would go on, I even have a food that makes me think of me…..salted peanuts, love ‘em!
I am definitely not a fussy eater, (other than pigeon!), the perfect Autumn/Winter meal is a proper casserole, filled with dumplings and pearl barley, bubbling to the brim with rich red wine and tender chunks of beef, plump dumplings that soak up the oozing gravy, butter orange swede nestling into the soft doughyness, and the blackened casserole dish being taken reverently from the dark depths of the ray burn, absolute & utter unadulterated heaven!