In my mother’s kitchen I made chips. I made them by peeling the potatoes with a sharp knife, slicing them into shapes like the hulls of little ships and dropping them into boiling fat. Even then, I knew that too much water from the rinsing or from the starchy stuff that came out was dangerous and would spit at me. I also knew to run the cold tap on my arms when the fat spat on them.
In my mother’s kitchen I fried mince and ate it just before the point when it turned brown. It tasted like a million miniscule rare steaks. I lifted it out with my fingers, scooping it straight into my mouth. Once, the bone-handled knife I had been using to stir the mince caught fire but it went out quite quickly.
In my mother’s kitchen, I licked countless bowls of cake mixture. I loved butter and sugar mixed together, a remedy my Gran used for sore throats. I ate cooking apple peelings dipped in a saucer of sugar. I loved banana and sugar sandwiches with lots of butter. We had Vesta Chow Mein once a week and it was salty and the noodles popped as they dissolved in your mouth. Later, when takeaways arrived in town, we had number 23; Chicken Fried Rice but nothing else. Still, it seemed the height of sophistication. We even had curried mince.
In my mother’s kitchen, there was usually a pot of soup on the cooker. It would stay there and be boiled up each day until it was gone. There was usually some tablet – a Scottish fudge-type sweet made from sweetened condensed milk and sugar - in a metal tray scored into rectangles but which went so quickly never made it anywhere else. It was always covered up by just a tea towel. A tea towel would be used to wrap the huge clooty dumpling whilst it simmered away tied up with string. When it was undone, the wrinkles of the cloth where it had been gathered at the top were ingrained on its spicy, fruity flesh and it would be sliced like a loaf and eaten smeared with butter. My mother would fry hers with streaky bacon for breakfast.
In my kitchen, we eat oven chips, red meat once a week, never eat raw eggs, refrigerate practically everything and restrict our intake of dairy products and salt. It’s a wonder I’m still alive.