Friday, October 3, 2008

Woe Betide you

I have always been a very quick learner.

Back in the 70’s when money was tight, my mother would spend an entire weekend cooking and baking. Sumptuous smells would waft up our three story, narrow Victorian terrace. It was so familiar and deliciously enticing.

It meant that my mother would be harassed. It meant that the kitchen would be an impassable road block full of dirty pans and dishes. It meant sandwiches for two days running. Sandwiches with margarine because all the butter had been cooked. Sandwiches with crusty jam of some obscure flavour that had grown fur at the back of the cupboard, like gooseberry or damson. A wicked combination of sensual torture. By the middle of the first day we would recognize the look. We would peek around the kitchen door, “when’s lunch mum?” A harried woman would look up, brush a lock of flour powdered hair behind her ear, pursed lips and furrowed brow, “food! You’ve only just had breakfast!”
“That was ages ago. I’m starving!”
“If you’re hungry…….eat some fruit.” She might just as well have said ‘eat a house brick.’ Any further protest would be met with ‘if you don’t want fruit you can’t be very hungry then.’ It was a scripted exchanged that soon fizzled out. We’d be reduced to searching the sofas and chairs for half eaten sweets and other fluffy rejects.

The oven took precedence. To save money on gas, the tiny oven had to be permanently full, fed with tray after tray, sheet after sheet, casserole after casserole in a never ending conveyor belt of food. The oxygen content of the fetid atmosphere would fall as the squirts of lemon fought with tomato juice, onion breath and hot air.

By Sunday evening, order and cleanliness would have been restored. Whilst my mother soaked in a bath of steamy Skin so Soft, we would sneak into the kitchen to steal. The counter would be laden with boxes, tins and Tupperware, each neatly labeled with indecipherable handwriting, code and dates. Miraculous. The condensation on the black window panes contained more nutritious molecules than anything less accessible. Should anyone be brave enough to lift a lid they would be rewarded with a vision of symmetry. Everything would be 24 or 12 with the occasional six. We were all thieves but none of us were conjurers. It was an impossible pattern to defeat.

I have time to remember these things as I finish up the fourth load of washing up. Remember, as I tidy away the pen and labels with different codes. Reflect, as I push all the boxes that cool to the back of the counter and reach for a carton of Goldfish Crackers to feed my own starving. Maybe I can squeeze in a quick shower in the next 24 hours? But first I have to find the child that hides from the stench of cooking.


Jayne said...

I, too, shall be attacking the stove tomorrow with bread, bread, bread and some more bread!

Marita said...

I adore and dread those days of cooking many meals all at once. I love the feeling of creation, the sensation of satisfaction at the end of the day when you have all those meals neatly stacked away in the fridge/ freezer. But I dread the juggling of many different meals all cooking at once, the mess, the dishes.

And yes the starving children who are starving yet not hungry enough to eat fruit. I've had that exact same conversation with my mother as a child and now I repeat it with my daughters.

chelle said...

It is amazing how different our lives feel to those of our mothers. Times have changed so much.

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