Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Dumplings, left over’s and the odder things I ate as a child

What goes round comes round, will be pretty familiar to anyone who was born in the first half of the last century.

And it pretty much extends to everything.

I have seen the remakes of umpteen films and TV series, pondered on whether | like the reissue of 60s hits from Dusty Springfield and have been amused at how the humble baseball boot of my youth has been reinvented as the "converse."

Such is how it is.

All of which I was reminded of yesterday morning as I took the remains of the Sunday roast and made soup.

Now that is a bit of a challenge given that I am a vegetarian and I don't like soup.

Leaving those two very big facts to one side there are a few in the house who like their roasts and soups.

So on a Sunday I make the dinner and just enjoy everything except the meat and on Monday evenings am quite content to watch others have the soup.

Of course using up the left over’s not rocket science and has gone on for centuries.

I still remember the metal mincer which attached to the kitchen table and came out regularly to turn yesterdays lamb, beef or pork into something which could be used for another meal.

But somewhere along the way I lost the habit of saving money and using up what there was.

I suppose it was a lot of things not least the reaction to the way mum did things and that for a big chunk of the 80s and 90s we had a dog who would eat anything when mixed with Wilsons that old standby and  favourite cereal for dogs.

Now with time on my hands and a nod to economy and the scandal of wasting food I am in the kitchen with the soup.

And bit by bit a whole shed full of recopies are surfacing from mother’s Dr Who’s which were thick slices of corn beef covered in batter and dropped into the deep fryer, to Nana’s potato pancakes which we then turned into a sandwich.

But it was also how my family cooked.

Nana would use cloves when she cooked peas and also used them in apple sauce and apple pies.

And when it came to that weekly dish of mince there were always two possible versions depending on whether Dad or mother made it.

Dad added corn flour which made it far heavier than mother’s which was just the meat with Bisto and occasionally an onion.

I guess there was an element of bulking out the meat so it went further which is why we always had plenty of dumplings in the strew and in turn reminded me of a conversation with a miner who had spent a lifetime working at Bradford colliery in east Manchester.

He vividly remembers as a child in the 1930s being offered stews full of dumplings and potatoes and being told to eat them all up to get to the meat at the bottom of the dish.

It would only be years later that it occurred to him that there had been very little meat at the bottom but by then he was full.

But memories of childhood meals can work in other ways like the adamant rejection of Sunday left over’s by the foreman at the factory I worked at in the 1960s.

It wasn’t just a vague disapproval but a very clear rejection of the idea.

I didn’t ask why and to this day I can only assume that with the growing prosperity of the decade and the cheapness and variety of food it was something to be left behind.

I on the other hand will now go back to the soup, secure in the knowledge that it will feed a few but not me.

Pictures from Ministry of Food publications, 1946-9 courtesy of Mrs Piggott

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