Kitchen Nostalgia

Nostalgia, insinuating itself into every sense but especially taste and smell. You must have a dish that whacks you back to childhood before you even walk into the kitchen. Mine would be roast potatoes and gravy. My Gran taught me to make real gravy, and that was my specialist subject every Sunday at noon for a decade in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

Nice to know some things don’t change. I stumbled across one of our Chefs, Paul, reading his Nan’s handwritten (and sometimes typed on wafer-thin paper as carbon copies for her friends) recipes. Paul wants to bring some these dishes alive, as he explains:

“The link between grandparents and food is not something new, whether it’s tea and biscuits or the most amazing homemade cakes. The way we eat and cook now is linked back to childhood memories and nostalgia, and I’m the same.

Remembering now how my own Nan always seemed to be in the kitchen, surrounded by bubbling pots of potatoes and vegetables and the smell of a joint in the oven makes me feel warm and cosy, as does the smell of liver and onions cooking, using every last bit of the beast, being the war time way, always with her little book of handwritten recipes.

I can trace my love of food back to those days, helping Nan in the kitchen making sausage rolls and mince pies at Christmas, stood on my own little kitchen stool, watching everything. Granddad had a vegetable patch in the back garden and the most incredible beetroots, onions, carrots and tomatoes would come into the kitchen for me and Nan to peel, pickle and most importantly eat. I can’t smell a fresh tomato now without being transported back to the greenhouse with my Granddad. I think my love affair with food started there, on that little stool.

The best part for me (aged 7) was the cakes and biscuits, a homemade trifle always in the fridge, next to an open tin of coronation milk, waiting for my arrival. The date loaf with the slightly grainy top was always a winner and everything served with pouring cream and always enough for seconds (and thirds…). I inherited Nan’s recipes on her death and I carry them with me (and re-read them) like a talisman in my career. I only need to see the words “golden syrup” or “rum and sherry” to feel the super-power of Nan at my back.

For my grandparents foods wasn’t just food, it was the love and family time that came with it.

The idea of cooking being hereditary isn’t one that’s lost on me. I come from a long line of chefs; Nan was a dinner lady, my uncle was an RAF chef (I briefly followed in his footsteps) and my Dad a Naval chef. I wasn’t bought up on the most elaborate dishes, but they were cooked with love, something everyone needs in their food.

I can see my Grandparents’ integrity in my cooking today: easy, simple plates of food using every fresh ingredients down to the last little bit, creating not just great flavors but great memories for our guests.”

Have you got any recipes you have inherited from your grandparents? Or any stories of childhood magic in the kitchen? Share them with us and we’ll post them here…