Wednesday, 24 October 2012

#Once upon a time - Cheese Straws

Once upon a time .....

I baked cheese straws with Grandma. I can still see the way they crumbled, like flaky earth, between my fingers, and taste the salty cheddar on my tongue.

Some memories are immortal, unbreakable, clung onto like the last ever embrace, the last ever Spring, never relinquished nor forsaken by present concerns or future dreams. These memories, I believe, are the ones that dance on the surface, that shine like a long lost friend, before two eyelids seal, concluding their life's work at the final breath.

And so during my last moments - toes crossed these won't befall me for a long, long time to come - I hope it's Sundays with my Grandparents, as well as sublime recollections of Little A and Younger Dad, that fill the dying cells with warmth and love and reassuring familiarity, until the dark voyage takes me who knows where...

Until I was about fourteen years old - and all I cared about was boys, clothes and music - my Dad offloaded my brother and I at our Grandparent's home every Sunday afternoon, sometime, I think, between the hours of two and six thirty. I can't remember when I started going, I might have been five, all I recall is that Sundays were about Grandma and Grandad. And I longed for those afternoons with my two adored relatives.

Grandad put 'gentle' into gentleman; warm, kind, generous of his time. Grandma had a mind sharper than a lemon tree; wily, observant, precise. Never a day passed when her nails weren't painted, or her hair immaculately arranged.

Sunday afternoon's were the reserve of treasure hunts; hide and seek; clothes horse dens; pulling stubborn weeds from flowerbeds that flanked the lawn; smelling plump tomatoes in the humid greenhouse; leafing through the musty pages of copious volumes of Readers Digest and The National Geographic, piled so high in the secret cupboard, they obscured the oval window at the rear - my imagination cultivated, ripened, harvested, before enjoying pancakes soaked in butter and golden syrup in front of Bonanza and the Muppet Show.

Sometimes, Grandma and Grandad glided across their dining room floor, swirling, dancing their ballroom waltz for us. Grandad taught me his graceful one-two-three, one-two-three, while I stood atop his polished shoes. Meanwhile, Grandma's bedroom was a study in feminine mystery; a mirror, a comb and a brush aligned perfectly on the dressing table; brightly coloured lipsticks that drew irregular lines over my small puckered mouth; a wardrobe full of kitten healed shoes, and a special golden pair that dwarfed my dainty feet whilst stumbling with a silver handbag dangling inches from the floor.

And while Grandad and my brother tinkered with Meccano, Lego and Airfix models, Grandma and I got to grips with wooden spoons and pre-greased baking sheets. Our time was lovingly spent stirring the ingredients for meringues or vanilla sponges, Grandma instructing me on the correct appearance of whisked egg white peaks, on the exact stiffness of a cake batter as it dolloped from the spoon into the bowl. And we experimented, often floundering, with homemade toffee, chocolate and ice cream.

But it was making cheese straws I remember with particular fondness...

On with the pinafore aprons, mine double knotted, hands washed, then Grandma fetches the brown mixing bowl from the light blue cupboard full of orange Tupperware, stacked foil containers, and the not so secret stash of grandchild treats. Together four hands crumble the butter and flour. Cheese and water added, Grandma rolls out the pastry, while I cut strips off and twist them on the oven tray. Grandma carefully places the straws using heavily padded gloves with a bright flowery print onto the shelf of the stand alone cooker. Then the smell... that savoury smell, the smell of melting cheese, of comfort and cuddles and generational tenderness, the smell that could only spill from a grandmother's kitchen.    

Grandad, sadly passed away when I was fifteen years old. The day of my wedding, Grandma was trapped - her joints crumpling - in a nursing home, unable to attend the happy day. In my heart, the wedding cake was a fitting tribute to all those years, all those afternoons spent blending, infusing, whisking, rolling. And the wedding desert, it wasn't a traditional cake, was a layered tower of sweet toothed fancies; passion fruit meringue pies, white chocolate cheese cake tarts, mini cup cakes, and crowned with one of my favourites, a vanilla sponge lavished in lemon icing.



My love of food, especially those cosseting savouries and sweets, can be traced solely to Grandma. When I bite into a buttery slice of Madeira cake or jammy almond slice or crunch on a cheesy bread stick, I always think of her. And my Grandma's culinary legacy? Well I love creating her signature dishes, Yorkshire pudding, strawberry crumble, tiffin... And in my kitchen today, Little A and I enjoy nothing more than the simple pleasures of baking banana muffins, whipping cream, and dunking fingers in smooth, melted chocolate.

In loving memory of my Grandma and Grandad.


So once upon a time, what did you enjoy (or dislike) doing, seeing or creating? It could be anything. What were you like many moons ago? Do you have a once upon a time story to tell or picture to share? It could be a happy, sad or humorous tale. The skies the limit. So do link up below and grab the badge code ... and don't forget to tweet #onceuponatime. This is a monthly meme.

You can read my other once upon a time stories here.

Once Upon A Time
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24 comments:

  1. Brought tears to my eyes this did. Got me thinking about my lovely Nana and Grandpa who lived with us until they emigrated to Australia 1978 think it was. Very very fond memories also of food and games and watching tv with them on their new 'colour' tv! xx

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    1. It brought tears to mine writing it! Grandparents are so special aren't they? And so many memories associated with food. X.

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  2. A beautiful post evoking memories of your childhood. It stirred memories for me too,the secret cupboard and Readers Digest, dressing up and learning the waltz.I love reminiscing about time spent with grandparents, such special days. I am going to join in this link soon. I promise. x

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    1. Thank you! I think many a Grandparents home has a secret cupboard. Would be great if you are able to join in! X.

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  3. I'd happily bake every day, love the wedding cake(s). My nana was very special too, TC named after her - a promise I made her if I ever had a girl, hope I'm a special nana one day xx

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    1. Yes, those wedding cakes were particularly scrummy. I was very close to my Grandma - Little A has Grandma's first name as her middle name. X.

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  4. What a lovely, but emotional post for me anyway, it brought a tear to my eye. Grandparents are so special. I wish I still had mine, but I have the memories x

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    1. It was an emotional post to write, but very glad that I did it - Grandparents are very special, I feel very lucky I got to spend so much time with mine. X.

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  5. Oh wow, your post brought a tear to my eye too. So beautifully written. I have very happy memories of my Grandparents too, and I hope our Granddaughter will feel the same about me & Hubby. Lovely post x

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    1. Thank you! Oh, I am very sure your Granddaughter will feel the same way about you - Grandparents are all the best bits of being a parent with added cake and chocolate! :o). X.

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  6. You write beautifully! I can almost smell and taste the cooking,

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    1. Thank you very much - that's very kind. :o).

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  7. This is such a gorgeous post. Absolutely lovely, so evocative and really wonderful writing. Your Grandparents sound like the best. What a lovely passion to have passed on to you.

    Also a bit spooked because I've got a post scheduled for tomorrow about my Mum, and how so many of my memories of her as a child revolve around food and the kitchen. It's not as good as this one though!

    xx

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    1. Thank you - that is very kind! My Grandparents were fab. Your post is fabulous and not comparable to this post - as yours is in a league of its own. X. Funny how we both had the same post in mind.

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  8. What beautiful rich memories you have of yr grandparents, they sound like special people x

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    1. Thank you, yes, they were both rather wonderful. X.

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  9. Lovely, lovely post. Memory lane can be such a wonderful place to wander. My Mum makes cakes/ pies etc with Pip alot. I wonder if he will feel the same way. I hope so.

    I have very fond memories of my Grandmother, in fact, have been planning a post about her too. Maybe I will get around to it now you have inspired me.

    Will you make cheese straws with Little A one day? x

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    1. Thank you :o). Oh, I'm sure Pip will remember the same way - I think cooking and baking are some the strongest childhood memories. I very much look forward to your post about your Grandmother. Little A and I will be making plenty of cheese straws! X.

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  10. Such beautiful memories, such a beautiful post and what a beautiful Wedding cake!

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    1. Thank you! And all aspects of the Wedding cake tasted fabulous!

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  11. I missed this the first time round - stunning writing as always. Truly beautiful stories xx

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    1. Thank you lovely! I really enjoyed writing this one! X.

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  12. I appear to have something in my eye... And a sudden craving for Ribena. Beautiful writing, thank you.

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    1. Bless you! Oh yes - the Ribena! Thank you :o).

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