My father’s mother, Constance Daisy King, or ‘Tiny Ma Ma’ as I knew her, was in many ways unlike my maternal grandmother, but I will focus on the fact she was not a cook. Connie didn’t care much for eating food, and she cared even less about preparing it. It’s sad to say, but when I helped Dad clear out the kitchen cupboards after she died they were filled with tins of Campbell’s Condensed and processed meat that had lain undisturbed for years. So long, in fact, that some of the cans had oxidised and expanded so that they exploded on contact and showered the kitchen in putrefying frankfurters.
Connie’s kitchen was geared towards the preparation of little more than a good cup of tea accompanied by something sweet from Mr Kipling. A bottle of lemon barley water was always kept on a little tray confusingly near to the washing up liquid, to be served in heavy cut glass tumblers. My grandma appreciated dainty place settings and, writing this, I could almost be sitting with her, cradling a cup and saucer from her ‘Black Velvet’ tea service: delicate, straight-sided and printed with a design of brown spots nestled in slim black frames.
The heart of Connie’s home was her living room where I would always be surprised by the quantity of greetings cards she would have on display. I now find her brief 1984 diary of perhaps her only tour of Western Europe is lit up by her enjoyment at joining in ‘The Birdie’ and a good sing song, proving Connie to be far more outgoing than I ever witnessed. She loved dressing up and, ever generous, she took pride in giving me her favourite ‘paste’ to wear to my school prom: a chunky, single strand diamante necklace and four-stand cuff that she had once worn to a dinner dance. Some of Connie’s fondest memories, that I would ask her to relay again and again, were of the smart London events she attended with my grandfather Leonard, a ‘man from the Pru’.
I never knew my grandfather because he died from lung cancer when my dad was still a boy. Dad, an only child, rarely spoke of his loss and so Leonard became a mysterious figure for me as a child. On visits, he would look over handsomely from a photo frame on top of Connie’s television, near to an unending bowl of Cadbury’s Chocolate Eclairs. I have a hunch that Connie’s disinterest in all things culinary was exacerbated by the premature loss of her beloved husband. Food, after all, is best enjoyed in company, and, as a widow, Connie felt terribly lonely for much of her long life.
Although she passed away years ago, I can still recall Connie talking about her and my grandfather’s escapades with a cheeky grin and a giggle. Her photo albums, much diminished in quantity after Leonard’s death, are bursting with happy snapshots taken on holidays in Worthing, Broadstairs and Bournemouth. My grandfather is forever preserved as a smiling, strapping man not averse to wearing a silly hat or short shorts. It’s hard to glimpse at this small family unit, my own, that I never knew in its completeness, and not feel a lump in my throat.
For this blog I have started, albeit haphazardly, to publish the recipes left to me by my family. I’m sorry to say I have no heirloom recipes from Connie, in fact, I can’t recall her ever cooking me a meal that might warrant one. What I do have, however, is this collection of five menus that represent some of the more notable events she attended in her married life. Perhaps, if I can decipher the French, these dishes can be her contribution to my heirloom recipe collection.
The Prudential Assurance Co District Managers’ Association Dinner & Dance at The Mayfair Hotel, London W1, 4th April 1957. My grandfather L.J. King is listed as Honorable Assistant Secretary of the Committee. The back page is signed by a number of people I presume to be my grandfather’s colleagues
A buffet menu comprising: Melon de Saison Rafraichi; Blanc de Turbot Grimaldi; Poulet Nouveau de Kent Bonne Maman, Petits Pois a la Francais, Pommes Fondantes; Peche Glacé Alma, Biscuit Glacé Napolitaine, Mignardises; Cafe. Music by Bill Savill and his Orchestra and Gordon Turner ‘will drop in during the evening with his piano’
Rotary Club of Brixton ‘Ladies’ Night’, St Ermin’s Hotel, London SW1, 6th April 1959. My grandfather L.J. King is featured on the menu cover as then President of the Rotary Club of Brixton
On the menu: Cocktail Florida; Scampi Frite, Sauce Tartare; Dinde Roti, Chipolatas, Cranberry Sauce, Pommes Parmentier, Petits Pois au Beurre; Savarin Glace aux Fruits; Café
Empress Club Sports Society ‘Snooker Club Presentation Dinner’, London W1, 1st May 1958
A personal message congratulating my father on his exam results is written on the back page, signed by cricketer Len Hutton and comedian Tommy Trinder, whose catchphrase was ‘you lucky people’
On the menu: Hors D’Oeuvres Parisienne; Delice de Sole Veronique; Contrefilet de Boeuf Richelleu, Pommes Cocotte, Haricots Verts Frais; Poire Dame Blanche; Petit Fours; Café
Rotary International District Youth Service Committee Dinner & Rally, Overseas League House, London W1, 21st January 1959. Signed by Sir John Hunt, army officer and leader of the 1953 British Expedition to Mount Everest
On the menu: Creme Sevigne; Supreme de Sole Nantua; Carre d’Agneau Borgeois, Pommes au Gratin, Haricots Verts au Beurre; Quiche Lorraine (curiously positioned in place of dessert); Café
Lambeth Chamber of Commerce and Trade Annual Dinner & Dance, Wingfield House SW8, 18th March 1959
On the menu: Hors d’Oeuvres; Tomato Soup; Roast Turkey with Ham and Chipolatas, Roast Potatoes, Garden Peas; Ice Cream Sundae, Rolls and Butter, Petit Fours, Coffee. Cabaret from Jean Belmont’s ‘Gaytimers’ and music from Len Hempshaw and his band
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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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