For my mother's love

Sunday, May 11, 2014

I suppose it was a natural progression to go from the garden with my father, to the kitchen with my mother. Eating things raw in the garden was one thing however putting the produce together for a meal was another.

My mother was an intuitive cook, so you had to watch her carefully if you wanted to learn anything.  I was fascinated at how she never measured anything.  She just knew how much to add to things she was making to get the texture just right.  I remember thinking I'm never going to be able to do that and would constantly ask questions as I watched her work.  Nothing showed off her skill better than a batch of scones.

We always had visitors popping in for morning tea unexpectedly so scones were a clear favourite.  It didn't matter if it was a last minute arrangement or not, the oven would be turned on and mum would get to work quickly putting ingredients into a mixing bowl, rubbing the butter ever so lightly only using the very tips of her fingers as it is important not to over work the dough.  Milk was then added and a butter knife was used with skill to bring the dough together.

Before you knew it the dough was on a floured bench being carefully rolled out then cut into squares with the same butter knife.  They were handled with care as if they were hot to touch as the more you work the mix the tougher it becomes.  The aim is light and airy. A milk wash was brushed on then straight into the oven they went.  Cleaning up took place with the same speed so by the time the scones were cooked the table for morning tea was set, home made jam would come out of the pantry, there was always more than one variety.  I preferred the plum jam because of its tartness.  The cream was whipped, the kettle on and the tea pot warmed.  It was an exercise conducted with military precision.  Scones would come out of the oven and placed in a basket with a linen tea towel lightly covering them to keep them warm.

Let's face it, having a young person under your feet asking questions incessantly is not always convenient although she did appreciate my help.  I remember she was particular about how things had to be done.  The vegetables had to be cut and stirred a certain way.  I was allowed to do specific tasks and they had to be done exactly her way otherwise she would do it herself.

There was none of this standing on a stool with a shower of flour, coco and sugar everywhere while I wielded a wooden spoon with batter all over my face, which was frustrating as I was young and impatient and this was exactly what I wanted to do.  You can forget eating raw cake mixture or licking the bowl, that was out of the question as,

"it is dangerous to eat raw egg," or "you will spoil your appetite for dinner," she would say.

I so badly wanted to try it, but before there was a chance it was placed in the sink and rinsed out.  This was another habit of my mother's that took a bit of getting used to, namely cleaning up as she went so that by the time you had finished cooking you had hardly any tidying up to do at all.  I was eager to learn.  You want to touch and taste everything but neither were allowed before we sat down to eat.  These were the rules and we, my brother, sister and I abided by them.

As much as I found these habits frustrating I came to appreciate her methods and much later I find myself doing things in exactly the same way.  What I find so interesting is that I now have a child of my own with him wanting to learn to cook.  Apparently I am just like my mother, actually worse, she told me recently.  In spite of this it never put us off nor has it stopped my son from mastering the ability to cook.

There was method in her madness as at a very young age we all became competent cooks.  It was only natural that we learnt to cook the things we liked most.  Mine was desserts which meant I took care of one course entirely.   A clear favourite of mine was cheesecake and lemon meringue pie.  My sister loved to bake, she was very good at it and still is.  I have fond memories of her poppyseed cake with lemon icing.  My brother was younger than both of us however he managed to make his favourite banana cake also iced with lemon icing.  He is a good cook and to this day a really good baker.  We always felt rather special when called upon to make the recipes that we had practised.  We entertained often and became confident cooking for others at an early age.

It is nice to take time occasionally and remember our mothers and what we learnt from them.  To this day my friends know that they can always pop in for tea, I suppose that this is something else I have my mother to thank for.


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