Sunday, 25 August 2013

Food for thought

I love how the garden smells after the rain; how everything looks so much greener and fresher. It's the best time to gather tomatoes, when the cool of the rain has released that scent of earth and promise, and the warmth of the sun has coloured the skins just enough to be seen amidst the tangle of leaves and vines. My small harvest is added to the mixture of tomatoes, chillies and peppers that have already found their way into the bowl on the side to finish ripening at their leisure; ready to be transformed into something delicious, or simply rubbed onto ciabatta with a drizzle of oil and sprinkling of salt. The simple act of eating something home grown, an echo of childhood.

When I was young I used to long for neat sandwiches made from shop brought bread, with pale crusts and uniform slices; filled with pink processed ham or squares of rubbery cheese and cut into even triangles; dainty and precise. I wanted so much to belong to the 'pristine lunchbox brigade' with their plastic bread and hermetically sealed cakes.

 Instead we ate 'real food' - home grown vegetables, freshly baked bread, cakes, biscuits and jams. No pre packed 'mothers pride' for us; rather the soft feel of dough beneath our hands, the ritual pull and push of the kneading  and  tang of yeast in the air; then later the first slice, still warm from the oven, spread with butter and the sweet amber promise of homemade jam.
The kitchen was ours (if we so chose)to chop, whisk, mix, stir and sprinkle; to fight over the last scrapings in the mixing bowl and to argue over whose turn it was to wash, and whose to dry.  The only rule being to clean up after ourselves.

My packed lunch sandwiches; crumbly and delicious, filled with last night's cold meat loaf and a dollop of ketchup, or slathered with marmite and stuffed with lettuce; used to be infused with the slight tinge of shame I felt upon comparing them with the pristine white squares and triangles of my fellow diners.....but this was secondary school, where standing out, even in small ways such as this, triggered a maelstrom of teenage angst.

Nowadays I find myself repeating  the rituals of childhood,  making my own raggedy sandwiches bursting with the fillings that taste of home.... jealously guarding jars of jam and marmalade from my mother's pantry shelves, and longing for a slice of warm fruit cake. Real food, prepared with love, with a taste that lingers in the memory long after it has been consumed.

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