I made the mistake of buying my mother a soup-maker for Christmas, and the two months since have been hell.
You can’t turn up at her house without getting a Tupperware box thrust into your hand labelled ‘asparagus and bacon, made on 24 Jan – must eat soon as vegetables used were past best before date’.
As she hands it you, she’ll say: “It’s not the finest I’ve ever made – gave me chronic wind if I’m being honest – but I thought you could have it for your dinner at work tomorrow.”
My mum is great at doing this – putting you off your grub before you’ve even started eating it.
You’ll go to her house for tea and sit down to what looks like a lovely meal, and just as you’re about to gobble down the first mouthful, she’ll casually remark ‘the carrots had a lot of mould on them. I’ve cut most of it out, but if they’ve got a funny taste, don’t eat them’.
I think it must be something to do with the era she grew up in – the 1940s, just after the Second World War.
About 70 per cent of what we ate was imported at the start of the war, so one of the Germans’ key strategies was to attack ships bound for Britain containing food – with the aim of starving the nation into submission.
The effect of this was that everything from meat to jam, breakfast cereal to butter, was rationed. By 1944, people were allowed one egg a week.
Some things disappeared completely – bananas and lemons were unobtainable for most of the war (there was a popular music hall song at the time called ‘Yes! We Have No Bananas’ ... it was as bad as the title suggests), while oranges continued to be sold, but only to children and pregnant women.
Times were tough, and as Britain took time to recover after the war, rationing continued into the late 40s; the general election of 1950 was fought mainly on the issue of rationing and which party would do most to solve it.
So this is the era my mother grew up in, and it clearly shaped her for life because she wouldn’t dream of throwing away any food – and my father was exactly the same.
I once saw my dad, for instance, slicing some cheese which slipped off the kitchen surface and landed in the dog bowl. Instead of cursing and throwing said cheese away – as I, or indeed, any sane person would do – he bent down, smelt it, then shoved it in his mouth.
And to be fair to him, it never did him any harm. Aside from spending the next two months sleeping outside in a kennel and trying to mount next door’s border collie, he was absolutely fine.
Any food left on our plates growing up was carefully placed in tin foil and put in the fridge, to be eaten at some indeterminable point in the future.
Often I would rummage in the fridge, hunting for a late-night snack to devour, and suffer the crushing disappointment of opening a tin foil parcel containing seven peas, one sprout, and half a rasher of cooked bacon that had been there since god only knows when. Even the dog declined to eat it, though my dad probably did.
Nothing was thrown away, and to this day my dear mother is the same.
Last week she drove from Manchester to St Annes to visit me, and bought with her two yoghurts that had gone out of date and needed eating.
When she’d gone I chucked them straight in the bin. So the soup-maker I purchased for her has been a godsend, as it now gives her the ideal opportunity to chuck in any rotting vegetables and meat, blend it together, and, hey presto, the result is a delicious, succulent, hearty meal.
Granted it gives her a violent stomach upset for two days after, but that’s a small price to pay for the knowledge she is sticking to her roots and being thrifty.
What a real battering
looks like in St Annes
Bit wild the other day, wasn’t it?
I’d read in the papers that the Fylde coast was to be battered by waves due to the high tides, and how we should all stay inside, lock all doors and windows, and not leave the house under any account unless we ran out of red wine and needed to pop to the local shop to stock up. And even then, it was risky.
But as someone who lives in St Annes, I didn’t worry.
Unlike central Blackpool or the north end of town, St Annes doesn’t get battered by the sea because we have no sea.
When I first moved here I ran on to the beach eager to frolic in the waves (while dodging any stray dog muck) and discovered to my disappointment that the sea was several miles away.
To reach it is a good two-day trek that involves camping half-way.
Yet, on Monday, the waves were actually crashing against the pier and the sea wall – unheard of.
Here’s a picture I took. It’s not quite surfing conditions but hey, we don’t get much excitement here in St Annes, so let us enjoy it when we can.