Monday, February 1, 2016

One cannot THINK well. LOVE well or SLEEP well unless one has DINED well

I am not sure who coined that phrase but I love it!  I have set myself a challenge for the month of February- the month of love - to tell stories about the different aspects of love. Here is my first one.
My Nan Westwell (1899 – 1979) was the inspiration for my love of cooking and baking and food. Her tiny kitchen at Queen Street in St Helens, was Spartan and held a gas stove, only cold running water, no fridge and not even a food mixer, a fork and an energetic wrist produced the same result! Yet she produced the most amazing dishes in that kitchen. She shopped daily for the freshest of ingredients and used Fitzpatrick’s Butchers at the meat market and Morton’s Bakery in North Road for her daily bread her whole life. Money was hard earned and tight so she demanded the best for her shillings.
Braised pork steak and onions with mash potato and carrots and turnips was her favourite dinner dish and she could create a feast with a pound of steak to feed an army. She doted on her grandchildren and we loved being 'only' children when we slept at her house - in her creaky double bed - and the rustling of chocolate paper in the dark was the norm as she secretly enjoyed a sweet treat. She had been hungry as a child living through two world wars.
 Nan loved to bake. Savoury and fruit pies were a staple and her pastry was spoken about in reverent terms, her apple pie was legendary – made with apples from our garden in Eccleston. The tree that they came from was grown from an apple pip by my brother and nurtured by him with the belief that one day it would be a tree. It was a bit of a family joke but still he poured his love into the care of it, and  for many years was just a twig till eventually took off and shot heavenwards to produce a bounty of baking apples each September. These apples were rationed amongst the women in the family who baked and were treasured as they made the best apple pies. 
A simple existence revolving around meal times and based on hard work, honest food, counting the pennies to save the pounds. Nan Westwell taught me that you can make a feast from nothing and that LOVE is the most important ingredient when making food.

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