I looked on top of my bookshelf this morning, the one I walk past numerous times a day, every day. There it was: nestled inbetween timeworn copies of French Provincial Cooking and Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book, a little blue Feint notebook with ‘Recipes – Aug ’77’ written on the spine. My mother’s handwritten cookbook that – somewhat ironically for a food blogger – I had almost forgotten even existed.
That’s the trouble with living in a house full of relics from one’s past. Half the time you barely see these objects, let alone use them. Perhaps that’s a good thing, because when you finally do take a moment to pause and look, to draw something from a shelf or out of a box, with it pours emotion: the joy and sadness of a colourful burst of recollection that otherwise lies silently in your mind like muscle memory.
I have been trying to think of the recipes I learnt as a child. I know I did a lot of cooking and eating with my mum and my maternal grandmother, but trying to pinpoint exact dishes is difficult. As a foodie my list is probably longer than most peoples’, but it is still frustratingly short. This is partly why I was so delighted to have finally registered this small collection of my mother’s recipes.
Among the few dishes that Mum took time to note down in this book are variations on meals I had already put on my list: paprika chicken being one, Danish fruit cake, another. Most surprising for me, however, is the simple recipe pictured above for The Local Loaf: a simple wholewheat loaf that is remarkably similar to the spelt bread I have been baking regularly since my daughter came along. I don’t remember my mum baking bread. I certainly don’t remember learning to make bread with her, and yet here is an almost identical recipe to a favourite of mine, that she was making when I was nothing more than a future worry.
I find this thought beautiful, that memories of food can penetrate so deeply into the subconscious that they almost magically influence one’s taste preferences. And like CPR, while you might not recall who taught you to knead dough or when, once learnt, the rhythm cannot be forgotten.
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About Chloe King
I'm a freelance writer, designer and webby type. I live with my husband and daughter in the south of England. I like to cook and can throw a good party.
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