When I was a child, my mother was always looking for opportunities to educate us (and get us out of the house so she could have peace and quiet playing the piano). We went to tennis lessons and I did lots of running enthusiastically after balls until Mr Fancuttt told my mum to save her money. Next, we went to ballet. Mum was appalled at my knack of fitting 10 polka steps to 8 beats. It was something of a relief when she discovered brownies. At Brownies, you didn’t have to be perfect and graceful or win everything. You just had to do your best. If your tried your best and achieved a basic proficiency at a skill you got a badge. Being the middle child of a large family there were lots of things I could do. I quickly got a shoe cleaning badge, bed making badge, a housekeeping badge, and a clothes folding badge before moving on to knot tying and fire lighting. There were so many different proficiency badges everyone could earn one.
About this time my mother started teaching piano lessons each afternoon after school. She taught until about six o’clock and then rushed into the kitchen to start cooking tea. Often the main meal – meat and three veg – was cooked but she ran out of time to make dessert. My brothers were happy to fill up on bread and jam but my sweet tooth craved pudding. I had just got my cooks badge at brownies making apple crumble so I was qualified to become the self-appointed pudding cook in my family. I started off with simple fruit set in jelly with custard, progressed to packet mix steam puddings and then to following a recipe to make lemon delicious and self-saucing chocolate pudding. I did my best and my family was happy to eat the results.
Today we rarely eat the food of my childhood and dessert these days is usually yoghurt, fresh fruit and a good dollop of jam. It’s quick, tasty and healthy but on chilly winter nights after a warming curry or stir-fry, my thoughts turn to warm sticky puddings with lashings of custard. So last week I gave in to my cravings and made a steamed jam pudding. I put a good dollop of Fig jam in the bottom of each tin and topped with a basic bbatter. The of the pudding tins ticking away in the pot of simmering water brought so many memories back. I made six individual puddings and the baby puddings looked so sweet. They tasted sweet but, sad to say, a bit stodgy and boring. Except for the fig jam of course. Sigh. Sometimes you have to visit the past to appreciate the present.