Yet another very busy weekend, I have the sort of life at the moment that when I look at my seven days to two pages diary you know the sort where quite a lot of space is given over to Monday to Friday and hardly any to Saturday and Sunday, I wish my diary was the other way round, with most of the space given to Saturday and Sunday, where I can scribble all the vastly convoluted miltaresque operations I have to do at the weekends. My weekdays in comparison are quite simple and hardly need any space.
Today for example was trying to combine yet another ballet rehearsal with it’s lengthy timetable print outs literally shoe horned into my diary, the weekly changing list of requirements and responsibilities with a stint on the coconut shy. Now I wasn’t going to do the coconut shy but no one else was going to do this particular slot and as a nursery rep, well I had to do it. So me and Boy Lacer had to escort Girl Lacer and her pillowcase full of costume, hair accessories and make-up (which I discovered when putting the lip gloss on Girl Lacer today for the first time, just as I was about to leave her at the rehearsals, that the lip gloss smelled of strawberries, she’s allergic to strawberries, so I had to leave her hoping that the lip gloss had never actually seen a real strawberry in it’s life), anyway me and Boy Lacer had to escort Girl Lacer and her pillowcase across the other side of town by foot in increasingly un-summery weather. We then had to squelch back through town again back home to look after a coconut stall on our own for three-quarters of an hour in the increasingly torrential rain at the school summer fair. So three-quarters of an hour of getting drenched, scrabbling around the floor for wooden balls, narrowly avoiding being hit by aforementioned wooden balls and dealing with an increasingly unhappy and upset Boy Lacer later, we then had to head back across town to pick up Girl Lacer.
So (I’m getting to a book in a minute honestly), after a day like that I of course needed a good book and nothing could contrast 21st century family life more than a book talking about food in children’s literature past. A life where the weather would have been reliably good and sunny for a summer fair and a ballet show would have been an impromptu performance on a make-shift stage in the back garden. Where children could escape on their own to find wonderful adventures, safe in the knowledge that they could come home to a good plate of homemade cakes and no parents worrying whether they were getting their 5-a-days or eating too much sugar.
Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer by Jane Brocket of Yarnstorm fame, is a cookery book come loving stroll through food in ‘old-fashioned’ children’s books. With plenty of text, the original, beautiful line drawn drawings from the original stories, as well as the recipes, it’s the sort of book you can just as happily read from as well as use in the kitchen. I’ve already made one recipe, jam puffs from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (here– scroll down a bit) and it was delicious and there are so many more I want to try and so many books I want to re-read! My memories of childhood reads have obviously faded a bit but this volume has reawakened so many literary memories. Enid Blyton was obviously up there as the queen, I remembered devouring Famous Five, wasn’t quite as keen on the Secret Seven, that was more my sister’s thing, I still think about The Folk of the Faraway Tree with slightly psychedelic leanings, I don’t know if it actually was psychedelic. Then there’s the Malory Towers series, Pippi Longstocking (which I’ve noticed is now in a wonderful illustrated by Lauren Child of Charlie and Lola fame, edition which I would rather like for myself), The Secret Garden, I could go on, all featuring glorious descriptions of food. Brocket has also featured my favourite children’s literary description of a meal which I had completely forgotten about, how could I, I loved this line as a child and would read it over and over again, from The Wind In the Willows (my first ever proper hardback ‘grown up’ book, I still remember going to the little newsagent come village shop to buy it), in this line Mole has just asked Rat what’s inside his hamper;
“There’s cold chicken inside,” replied the Rat briefly; “coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinsaladfrenchrolls-cressandwidgespottedmeatgingerbeerlemonadesodawater-“
“O stop, stop,” cried the Mole in ecstasies: “This is too much!”
As for the actual recipes, oh my waistline, I may be firmly rooted in the 21st century and completely lacking in a cosy kitchen complete with wood burning fire and checked table cloth but I can close my eyes and imagine. Coming to my kitchen soon will be;
- Ma’s Pancake Men from Little House in the Big Woods
- Awfully Good New-Made Bread from Famous Five
- Pursey’s Surprise Hot Cross Buns from Dancing Shoes
- Marmalade Buns from Paddington look and sound divine
- Fresh and Gooey Macaroons, another Famous Five dish, I’ve been thinking about all day
- Milly-Molly-Mandy’s Muffin Man Muffins, proper english muffins which have been playing on my mind to
- Aunt Fanny’s Treacly, Sticky Ginger Cake
- Smashing Match Tea Jammy Buns from Malory Towers
- The Swallows’ Squashed-Fly Biscuits (Garibaldi’s)
- Mary Poppin’s Strike-Me-Pink Raspberry Jam Cakes
- Mrs Corry’s Gilt Gingerbread from a quite gory bit of Mary Poppin’s that not that surprisingly was missed from the movie
- Warming Currant Bun’s from A Little Princess, I could have eaten from the page
- Bruce Bogtrotter’s Heroic Chocolate Cake which sounds like an incredibly chocolaty cake yet Boy Lacer can still eat it as I can make it cow dairy free and
- Parkin from The Little White House.
One final point, as someone who (at least tries to) write, what a perfect lesson in how to describe food.