In the springtime, when we flew north to that place where the land starts to rise up into purple hills and the clouds hang in the valleys, I found myself in the larder, distracted from the food cooking on the temperamental old stove, flicking through recipe cards.
This small cold room hasn’t changed much in the eleven years since my Granny passed away. The huge deep freeze still takes up most of the space (and if we forget to remind Grandpa to take the ice cream out before dinner to warm to a scoopable consistency, we’re still in trouble). There are stacks of old biscuit tins on the top shelf, rusting a little around the edges. And the plastic Winnie the Pooh apron still hangs in the corner. The shelves are a little more bare (less food needed these days, when children and grandchildren are kind enough to stock up the freezer with leftovers on each visit) but standing here I could be seventeen again.
This little larder is the room that most reminds me of my Granny. I don’t know why, but when I remember her the first memory is always here. Maybe because she was so often baking and cooking when we came to visit. I was fascinated by the can opener attached to the wall in there that she taught me how to use. We’d be sent in here for ingredients, sneak in here to steal biscuits. We’d grab the big wicker basket and march off down the steep drive to fetch the milk each morning while our parents enjoyed a rare lie in.
This spring I grabbed that recipe box and started skimming through them, enjoying seeing her handwriting again, so very familiar. I love how my mum’s handwriting looks like Granny’s, and mine looks like my mum’s. Something handed down, something remaining of her in the way I curve my vowels.
Here, tucked between the cards, was a folded slip of old paper, with a handwritten recipe in a strange writing. “Favourite Recipe Club” was written at the top. The recipe for Cherry Buns is meticulously written out in old fashioned slanted letters, and signed from Mrs Stoker, of Liverpool.
This little paper connecting women across the miles, bringing kitchens together with shared ingredients, copied methods, new familiar smells.
And this letter, it makes me feel closer to my Granny. It gives me a glimpse into her life, this woman who signed up to be a part of a country-wide favourite recipe swap, her own recipe perhaps still hidden between the pages of someone else’s ageing recipe book.
I spent Saturday morning baking these cherry buns. I added ingredients, rubbed flour, beat an egg in Granny’s old mug that Grandpa gave me when I was a mug-less poor student. I dug out my old bun tin, a hand-me-down from my Nan, my dad’s mother, bringing a barrage more memories of kitchen time with these women I adored.
The buns stuck in the tin when I removed them from the oven and I sighed and teased them out with a spoon, crumbs going everywhere. And then I laughed, wondering if this had happened to Granny too when she first tried this recipe. Or whether she had greased her tins more expertly.
And then I had an idea. I thought of my Granny and I thought of Mrs Stoker and their recipes written out, slid into envelopes, addressed and stamped, their walk to the post box one morning, waiting for something to arrive from there with a light thump on the doormat.
And I thought we should do it too. Create a Favourite Recipe Club just this once. And not one of those email chain kind, but one where we write it out on paper, find an envelope, dig a stamp out of the bottom of our purse and try and remember where the nearest post box is…
And then wait for that exciting light thump of an envelope in an unfamiliar handwriting hitting the doormat.
Are you in? Details coming tomorrow!
////Update: This fun recipe swap happened in 2012. It was really enjoyable for everyone who took part. I’m not running it any more but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it! Find some friends, and agree to swap recipes, the old fashioned way! ////